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Waiting for dignity: legitimacy and authority in Afghanistan

Weigand, Florian (2017) Waiting for dignity: legitimacy and authority in Afghanistan. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.6geds071n92p


This thesis investigates the composition of legitimacy and authority in Afghanistan, confronting common assumptions of how to ‘build legitimacy’ in conflict zones by delivering services, holding elections or adopting traditional institutions. After adjusting the static understanding of legitimacy, which evolved in the context of western nation states in the early 20th century, to the dynamics of today’s conflict zones, the thesis examines how people in Afghanistan perceive different authorities. The analysis rests on more than 250 interviews with ordinary people as well as various authorities in Afghanistan, including insurgents, warlords and government officials. The interviews were conducted in the course of extensive field research in the country. The thesis suggests that in Afghanistan’s volatile political order, people are suspicious of all authorities and the claims they make. Instead, people judge authorities on the basis of personal experiences when interacting with them, waiting for dignity and hoping for interactions which show that authorities want to serve the public instead of exploiting it. The extent to which people perceive interactions to be fair, inclusive and respectful is vital for the construction of lasting legitimacy and matters more than how an authority gained power, the ideology it advocates, or the scale of service delivery.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Florian Weigand
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Kaldor, Mary

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