ISBN: 978-0-231-20049-3

Kristian Berg Harpviken

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

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This is an ambitious book that theorizes legitimacy in areas hosting armed conflict, building on insights from comprehensive fieldwork in Afghanistan. As stated in the introduction, this is a book that 'redirects the focus of attention from external assumptions on legitimacy to the people of Afghanistan' (p. 4). The second chapter develops an understanding of legitimacy, extending on Weber and Bourdieu, concluding that 'interactive dignity' – which in essence privileges the nature of direct interaction and its outcomes, rather than the 'claims' or procedural approach to legitimacy – is at the heart of the matter. The following four chapters, building on a total of 498 interviews conducted in 2014–15 and 2019, discuss legitimacy with reference to four distinct types of actors: the [post-2001 Republican] state; strongmen and warlords; the Taliban; and local community authorities. For each chapter, Weigand juxtaposes the self-perceptions of legitimacy held by those in positions of authority with the views of citizens. A concluding chapter revisits the concept of interactive dignity, not only drawing attention to the importance of everyday modes of interaction, but also underlining the situational and fluid character of legitimacy itself, ending with an insightful discussion on legitimacy challenges for the Taliban as it shifts from armed resistance to responsible state authority. As the author implies (p. 288), it is a challenge to operationalize and empirically apply a sophisticated and complex theoretical apparatus, and herein lies also the book's possible weakness. Overall, however, this is a highly valuable contribution, whether your main interest is in legitimacy in contexts of conflict generally, or in legitimacy and authority in Afghanistan specifically.