Legitimation is legalization. This means that what is legal is what is legitimate, and conversely what is not legal, i.e., what is not in accordance with law, established rules, recognized norms, is not legitimate. It is in this sense that legitimation is related to what is lawful. Literally, legitimation means, “to make lawful”.
To understand legitimation within the framework of the legal system is to know it in a very narrow sense of the term. Infact, legitimation goes beyond legalistic connotation and includes a host of process by which an action is deemed “legitimate”. These processes, indeed, are fundamental not only to the power relations in a society, but to its economic, social and belief systems. That the state’s power is legitimate does not merely mean that it is lawful for the state to exercise power, it also means that its power is recognized by those on whom it is exercised.
Legitimation is, thus, the power of the state rightfully exercised and is the acceptance so by those on whom it exercises its control. The structure of power, and the exercise of it would be legitimate if the idea of law and justice, including ethical values, social beliefs, existing productive/ economic relations which underlie these, coincide with those present in the given society, over which the state exercises power, and are generally recognized by the given society as universal.
So understood, the concept of legitimation includes, if one attempts to identify its inherent implications, in the first instance (i) the legalized patterns of state activities, (ii) the value-systems of society in which the state exercises control and (iii) the citizens’ body recognizes the state’s power legitimately-based.