Monday, September 24, 2007

For Sale to the Highest Bidder: The Commodification of Legitimacy

"Is legitimacy to be found in consensus obtained through discussion?" (Intro, xxv)

This question, posed by Lyotard in the Introduction, brought me back to our discussion of imagined communities, and the idea that imagined communities might come into being through the performative recognition of the community by an external observer. In the same way that I believe communities may be realized by external forces or by internal ones, I believe legitimacy can be reached either through consensus (internal forces) or by imposition (external forces).

Lyotard goes on to discuss the development of "knowledge in the form of an informational commodity" (5), and the power of those who have achieved competence within the various forms of language games (18). This brings up several interesting points. If the prior question of legitimacy as formed by consensus can be answered in the affirmative, and knowledge--the basis for discussion leading to consensus--has become a commodity to be bought and sold, can legitimacy itself, then, be bought and sold? If consensus, reached through sharing (or buying/selling) knowledge between members of a community, is indeed the basis for legitimacy, the commodification of legitimacy must not be far off. However, if the basis for legitimacy is imposition of regulations by an external force, does this make the commodification of legitimacy more or less likely? I'm not sure what I think about this possibility either, but thought I would open up the floor for discussion.

What are the implications of a tradeable legitimacy?

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