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date: 08 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Regional institutions exercise influence and impact constituent states and citizens both inside and outside their respective regions. As a consequence, regional institutions are increasingly confronted with concerns that the power wielded is deemed legitimate. This chapter uses the distinction between normative and empirical conceptions of legitimacy to discuss and compare strands of scholarship on the legitimacy of regional institutions. It contends that existing work assessing the legitimacy of regional institutions by employing normative legitimacy standards has proven to be a dead end in research on comparative regionalism. A shift in focus to explore how political actors in regional institutions define and address legitimacy gaps provides new insights to the study of the empirical legitimacy of regional institutions. The authors develop a typology and a set of preliminary conjectures to analyze the conditions and processes through which the institutional architecture of regional institutions is designed and transformed to confront legitimacy challenges.

Keywords: normative legitimacy, empirical legitimacy, regional institutions, legitimacy standards, political actors, institutional architecture

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