The principle that indicates the acceptance of the decisions of government leaders and officials by (most of) the public on the grounds that these leaders' acquisition and exercise of power has been in accordance with the society's generally accepted procedures and political or moral values. Legitimacy may be conferred upon power holders in a variety of ways in different societies, usually involving solemn formal rituals of a religious or quasi-religious nature -- royal birth and coronation in monarchies, popular election and "swearing in" in democracies and so on. "Legitimate" rulers typically require less use of physical coercion to enforce their decisions than rulers lacking in legitimacy, because most of the people are apt to feel a moral obligation to obey the former but not the latter. Consequently, people who gain or hold power by illegitimate means tend to work very hard to discover or create ways of endowing themselves with legitimacy after the fact, often by inventing a new ideology or religion and attempting to indoctrinate the people with its legitimating formulas through various forms of propaganda, thus creating moral incentives for the citizenry to obey their government.

[See also: ideology, propaganda, state]