Pluralising Political Legitimacy

Postcolonial Studies 20 (1):118-130 (2018)


Does the Australian state exercise legitimate power over the indigenous peoples within its borders? To say that the state’s political decisions are legitimate is to say that it has the right to impose those decisions on indigenous peoples and that they have a (at least a prima facie) duty to obey. In this paper, I consider the general normative frameworks within which these questions are often grasped in contemporary political theory. Two dominant modes of dealing with political legitimacy are through the politics of ‘recognition’ and ‘justification’. I argue that in order to address the fundamental challenges posed by indigenous peoples to liberal settler states today we need to pluralise our conceptions of political legitimacy.

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