A PUBLIC LECTURE BY PROF. JENS BECKERT
(MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF SOCIETIES, COLOGNE)
15 FEBRUARY 2018,17:30
PAŁAC STASZICA (NOWY ŚWIAT 72), SALA LUSTRZANA
The distinction between input oriented legitimacy and output oriented legitimacy (Scharpf 1997) has been one of the most influential distinctions in political science. In my talk I introduce a third arrangement supporting the legitimacy of political processes which I call promise-oriented legitimacy. With this term, I refer to the support that political processes can gain from the credibility of promises with regard to future states of the world that political (or economic) leaders make when justifying decisions and persuading others (the electorate) to follow them in their proposed course of action.I argue that indeed promissory legitimacy not only is crucial for understanding decision making on the micro level, but also has wide-reaching consequences for economic and political macro development that are triggered through promissory acts. Promissory legitimacy explains how decisions gain support through claims on future development that are communicated effectively and enjoy credibility. Legitimacy crises are likewise triggered if promises made and found credible by others suddenly become discredited and fail to convince. By introducing the notion of promissory legitimacy, I would like to shift attention in the analyses of political decision making to actors’ perceptions of the future. Decisions are directed towards the future. This future is not predetermined and cannot be foreseen, not even probabilistically – the future is open. This openness of the future is the ground for the competing claims of various actors that the future will or should develop in a certain way. Since the future cannot be known in advance, assessments of the future are stories told by actors that reflect knowledge as much as political or economic interests, hope, social norms, anxieties, and desires. Promissory legitimacy is anchored in the accepted cognitive superiority of the “logic” of the story told, but also – and not unrelated – in the assessment of the distribution of power in the field. In the talk I develop the concept of promissory legitimacy based on a discussion of what I would consider the most wide-reaching current political case of it, one that shaped the world during the last forty years: neoliberalism.