Legitimacy After Violence: Evidence from Two Lab-in-the-Field Experiments in Liberia

82 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2013 Last revised: 23 Jan 2018

Robert Blair

Brown University

Date Written: January 23, 2018


Despite its importance, legitimacy remains notoriously difficult to measure. I posit conditions under which legitimacy can be distinguished from other forms of political suasion and control, then develop two lab-in-the-field experiments to isolate those conditions in Liberia, one of the world’s weakest states. I show that when an authority instructs them to do so, citizens will make costly contributions to a public good even in the absence of incentives or sanctions, and even when they know others will not do the same. I also show that the de-legitimizing consequences of abuse of power are more severe for “alien” authorities (like UN peacekeepers) than for their “native” counterparts. Finally, consistent with Hobbesian conceptions of legitimacy, I show that exposure to wartime violence is strongly correlated with compliance with government and, to a lesser extent, peacekeepers. More “everyday” forms of violence, in contrast, are not. I discuss potential explanations and implications.

Keywords: peacebuilding, peacekeeping, statebuilding, legitimacy, civil war, sub-Saharan Africa, Liberia, behavioral games, lab-in-the-field experiments

Suggested Citation

Blair, Robert, Legitimacy After Violence: Evidence from Two Lab-in-the-Field Experiments in Liberia (January 23, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2326671 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2326671

Robert Blair (Contact Author)

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

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