The political legitimation (or de-legitimation) of the European Union (EU) has been the object of much empirical research. This paper argues that this research holds lessons that can inform debates about the legitimation of global governance more generally. After some conceptual clarifications, the paper presents a critical review of the literature on the EU’s legitimation, focusing on six crucial aspects – (1) the emergence and change of legitimation debates; (2) the arenas where legitimation occurs; (3) the role of the state as a reference point in legitimacy assessments; (4) the difference between various objects of legitimation; (5) the actors that trigger legitimation change; as well as (6) the relationship between legitimation and polity development. In each of these respects, the paper identifies important insights that can be gained from EU Studies, but also conceptual and methodological weaknesses in the EU-related literature that researchers working on other aspects of global governance should avoid. The paper closes by formulating a set of general desiderata for empirical legitimation research in International Relations.

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Keywords European Union, International Relations, Legitimacy, legitimation
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Journal Contemporary Politics
Hurrelmann, A. (2017). Empirical legitimation analysis in International Relations: how to learn from the insights – and avoid the mistakes – of research in EU studies. Contemporary Politics, 23(1), 63–80. doi:10.1080/13569775.2016.1213077