|In this working paper, we treat legitimacy and legitimation as interactive, discursive and relational concepts: Legitimacy is socially constructed in the public spheres of (democratic) political regimes, that is, in discursive exchanges of political elites and citizens about the acceptability of these regimes. Legitimacy claims and assessments establish a link between regimes and their institutions on the one hand, and normative benchmarks on the other. Hence they may be examined with the help of discourse network analysis – a novel application of network analysis whose rationale and potential are illustrated on the basis of a corpus of legitimation statements gleaned from German and US quality newspapers. Our method enables us to discover and visualize the structures of legitimation discourses – prominent speaker types, privileged legitimation criteria and discourse coalitions – and to offer some conjectures on the link between discourses and the institutional arrangements of the German and US polities.
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