Was Tocqueville Wrong?
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Was Tocqueville Wrong?

Adding Context to Social Capital:

Charisma, creativity, and glamour as new sources of political legitimacy*


Terry Nichols Clark

University of Chicago


Filipe Carreira da Silva

Cambridge University

ICS, University of Lisbon


*For presentation to Findings on the New Political Culture, 27-28 March 2008, Institute of Social Sciences, Lisbon, Portugal.  Revised from presentation to 4th meeting of  European Conference on Political Research, Pisa, Italy, 6-8 September 2007.


This paper revolves around the idea that political legitimacy can be attained by other means than voting or citizen participation. In addition to these conventional methods of guaranteeing legitimacy, we contend that alternative modes of political legitimacy are emerging all over the world. Among these emergent forms of legitimacy one finds material and symbolic activities connecting to citizens’ values: China’s ongoing economic growth or Bogotá’s late 1990s civic culture program can be seen as examples of these new alternative forms of political legitimacy. Instead of relying on citizens embracing the rules of political participation of representative democracy, many political leaders at local and national levels are achieving political legitimacy by fulfilling citizens’ material and symbolic demands.