Civil Society Organizations: The Site of Legitimizing the Common Good - a Literature Review

Liv Egholm, Liesbet Heyse, Damien Mourey

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    The concept of legitimacy—i.e., being regarded as “lawful, admissible, and justified” (Edwards in NGO rights and responsibilities: a new deal for global governance, The Foreign Policy Center, London, 2000)—is pivotal within civil society research. Recently, the concept has applied to wider notions concerning the civil sphere and civic action. The introductory article of this special issue aims to provide an overview of conceptualizations of legitimacy within civil society research and to point at new avenues for future research. We depart from Suddaby et al.’s (Acad Manag Ann 11(1):451–478, 2017) configurations of legitimacy within management literature: as property, perception, and process. While these configurations are also reflected in civil society literature, with legitimacy as property being prominent, they do not capture the full scope of civil society literature on legitimacy, given its multidisciplinary nature, its inclusion of multiple levels of analysis, and the presence of complementary conceptualizations of legitimacy. We posit that the legitimacy-as-relations-in-processes perspective is valuable for advancing research in civil society organizations.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalVOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)1-18
    Number of pages18
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Published online: 10. October 2019


    • Civil society
    • Legitimacy
    • Literature review
    • Non profit sector
    • Accountability

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