Maksim Kokushkin

DOI Number
First page
Last page


Abstract: In standard Habermasian terms, legitimacy is the recognized worthiness of a political order that justifies and solidifies that order’s domination. It may thus appear that the concept of legitimation can only be applied to the political sphere, for instance to analyze the emergence of a political system such as Western Democracy. However, the growing political influence of neoliberal economic thought and policies allows the application of the concept of legitimacy to the knowledge underlying neo-liberalization. This article investigates the delegitimation of normative positivism, the epistemological premise of dominant analyses of economic action. The decontextualizing logic of those analyses continues guiding neo-liberal policies despite the evidence that these policies do not produce the promised results. At the same time, the marriage between political capitalism and positivist economic analyses presents both the knowledge and the resulting policies as the only possible solutions to the multiple crises of capitalism. Hence, I advocate for an increased reliance on institutionalist epistemologies that emphasize historical and cultural contextuality. In doing that, I highlight promising examples of institutionalist thought that can help accelerate the delegitimation of normative positivism and thus create openings for studying the alternatives to capitalism.

Key words: legitimation, delegitimation, normative positivism, institutional epistemology

Full Text:



Abbott, Andrew. 1988. "Transcending General Linear Reality." Sociological Theory 6 (2):169-186. doi: 10.2307/202114.

Abbott, Andrew. 2001. Time Matters : On Theory and Method. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Adriani, Pierpaolo, and Bill McKelvey. 2011. "From Skew Distributions to Power-Law Science." In The Sage Handbook of Complexity and Management, edited by Peter Allen, Steve Maguire and Bill McKelvey, 254-274. London: SAGE.

Bates, Robert H. 1981. Markets and States in Tropical Africa : The Political Basis of Agricultural Policies. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Beckert, Jens. 2013. "Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations in the Economy." Theory and Society 42 (3):219-240. doi: 10.1007/s11186-013-9191-2.

Berger, Joseph, Cecilia L. Ridgeway, M. Hamit Fisek, and Robert Z. Norman. 1998. "The Legitimation and Delegitimation of Power and Prestige Orders." American Sociological Review 63 (3):379-405.

Bernstein, Richard J. 1978. The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Bluedorn, Allen C. 2002. The Human Organization of Time : Temporal Realities and Experience. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Business Books.

Blyth, Mark. 2013a. "Austerity as Ideology: A Reply to My Critics." Comparative European Politics 11 (6):737-751. doi: 10.1057/cep.2013.25.

Blyth, Mark. 2013b. Austerity the History of a Dangerous Idea. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Brenner, Neil, Jamie Peck, and N. I. K. Theodore. 2010. "Variegated Neoliberalization: Geographies, Modalities, Pathways." Global Networks 10 (2):182-222. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0374.2009.00277.x.

Campione, Joanna. 2015. "History of Economic Forecasts "a Complete Failure" Says Nate Silver." Yahoo! Finance, February 2. Accessed April 16, 2015.

Celikates, Robin, Regina Kreide, and Tilo Wesche. 2015. Transformations of Democracy : Crisis, Protest and Legitimation. London: Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd.

Connolly, William E. 1984. "Introduction: Legitimacy and Modernity." In Legitimacy and the State, edited by William E. Connolly, 1-19. New York: New York University Press.

Crowe, Portia. 2015. "Wall Street Pay Just Hit a Record High.", October 6. Accessed October 15, 2015.

DiMaggio, Paul J., and Walter W. Powell. 1983. "The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields." American Sociological Review 48 (2):147-160.

Dobbin, Frank. 1994. Forging Industrial Policy : The United States, Britain, and France in the Railway Age. Cambridge [England] ; New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Dugger, William M., and Howard J. Sherman. 1994. "Comparison of Marxism and Institutionalism." Journal of Economic Issues 28 (1):101-127.

Foucault, Michel. 1990. Les Mots Et Les Choses Une Archéologie Des Sciences Humaines. Paris: Gallimard.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1970. Toward a Rational Society; Student Protest, Science, and Politics. Boston: Beacon Press.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1979. Communication and the Evolution of Society. Boston: Beacon Press.

Hall, Peter A., and Rosemary C. R. Taylor. 1996. "Political Science and the Three New Institutionalisms." Political Studies 44 (5):936-957. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.1996.tb00343.x.

Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Holcombe, Randall. 2015. "Political Capitalism." Cato Journal 35 (1):41-66.

Jabko, Nicolas. 2013. "The Political Appeal of Austerity." Comparative European Politics 11 (6):705-712. doi: 10.1057/cep.2013.21.

Jessop, Bob. 2013. "Revisiting the Regulation Approach: Critical Reflections on the Contradictions, Dilemmas, Fixes and Crisis Dynamics of Growth Regimes." Capital & Class 37 (1):5-24. doi: 10.1177/0309816812472968.

Kellner, Douglas. 1989. Critical Theory, Marxism, and Modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Kokushkin, Maksim, and Alicia M. Pettys. 2015. "‘Shock Therapy’ as a Neo-Liberal Response to an Economic Crisis." Territory, Politics, Governance:1-19. doi: 10.1080/21622671.2015.1036914.

Krugman, Paul. 2013. "What Killed Theory? (Wonkish)." The Opinion Pages, August 5. Accessed May 3, 2015.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1996. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 3rd ed. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Lapavitsas, Costas. 2011. "Theorizing Financialization." Work, Employment & Society 25 (4):611-626. doi: 10.1177/0950017011419708.

Lawson, Tony. 2006. "The Nature of Heterodox Economics." Cambridge Journal of Economics 30 (4):483-505. doi: 10.1093/cje/bei093.

Lawson, Tony. 2009. "The Current Economic Crisis: Its Nature and the Course of Academic Economics." Cambridge Journal of Economics 33 (4):759-777. doi: 10.1093/cje/bep035.

Mannheim, Karl. 1985. Ideology and Utopia : An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

March, James G., and Johan P. Olsen. 1984. "The New Institutionalism: Organizational Factors in Political Life." The American Political Science Review 78 (3):734-749.

McCarthy, Thomas. 1984. "Legitimation Problems in Advanced Capitalism." In Legitimacy and the State, edited by William E. Connolly, 156-179. New York: New York University Press.

North, Douglass Cecil. 1990. Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Outhwaite, William. 2009. Habermas : A Critical Introduction / William Outhwaite. 2nd ed. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Peck, Jamie. 2013. "Explaining (with) Neoliberalism." Territory, Politics, Governance 1 (2):132-157. doi: 10.1080/21622671.2013.785365.

Prechel, Harland N. 2000. Big Business and the State : Historical Transitions and Corporate Transformation, 1880s-1990s. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Prechel, Harland. 2012. "Political Capitalism, Markets, and the Global Financial Crisis." In The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Prechel, Harland, and Theresa Morris. 2010. "The Effects of Organizational and Political Embeddedness on Financial Malfeasance in the Largest U.S. Corporations: Dependence, Incentives, and Opportunities." American Sociological Review 75 (3):331-354. doi: 10.1177/0003122410372229.

Sayer, Andrew. 1998. "Abstraction: A Realist Interpretation." In Critical Realism : Essential Readings, edited by Margaret Archer, Roy Bhaskar, Andrew Collier, Tony Lawson and Alan Norrie, xxiv, 756 p. London ; New York: Routledge.

Scott, W. Richard. 2001. Institutions and Organizations. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

Shermer, Michael. 2012. "Wrong Again: Why Experts' Predictions Fail, Especially About the Future." The Blog, January 5. Accessed April 20, 2015.

Silver, Nate. 2012. The Signal and the Noise : Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't. New York: Penguin Press.

Smith, Noah. 2015. "Economists' Biggest Failure." Bloomberg View, March 5. Accessed April 12, 2015.

Streeck, Wolfgang. 2010. "E Pluribus Unum? Varieties and Commonalities of Capitalism." MPIfG Discussion Paper No. 10/12. doi:

Sum, Ngai-Ling, and Bob Jessop. 2013. Towards a Cultural Political Economy : Putting Culture in Its Place in Political Economy. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Swedberg, Richard. 1998. Max Weber and the Idea of Economic Sociology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Thoma, Mark. 2014. "Why Are Economic Forecasts Wrong So Often?" CBS Moneywatch, September 29. Accessed April 15, 2015.

Tinker, Anthony M., Barbara D. Merino, and Marilyn Dale Neimark. 1982. "The Normative Origins of Positive Theories: Ideology and Accounting Thought." Accounting, Organizations and Society 7 (2):167-200. doi:

Wieland, Volker , and Maik Wolters. 2010. The Diversity of Forecasts from Macroeconomic Models of the U.S. Economy. In CFS Working Papers, edited by Center for Financial Studies.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 1820-8495 (Print)

ISSN 1820-8509 (Online)