Legitimacy and collective action

George Thomas, Henry A. Walker, Morris Zelditch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


In this paper we explore the constitutive effects of a legitimate order on the mobilization of collective action. We distinguish between validity (the collective orientation to a binding rule) and propriety (an individual's approval of the rule). Legitimacy theory suggests that validity has direct effects on attempts to mobilize which are independent of propriety, power, and social control. A laboratory study is used to isolate these direct effects: when change in a communication network would damage collective purpose, fewer attempts at change are made. Further results reveal that validity also affects nonmobilizing alternatives. Moreover, validity indirectly influences propriety: individuals act out commitment to the constitutive rules and then bring propriety into line with that action. We conclude by noting implications of the structural effects of legitimacy on collective action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)378-404
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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