Bridging the legitimacy gap—translating theory into practical signposts for legitimate flood risk governance

Meghan Alexander (Lead Author), Neelke Doorn, Sally Priest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Legitimacy is widely regarded as a founding principle of ‘good’ and effective governance, yet despite intense academic debate and policy discourse, the concept remains conceptually confusing and poorly articulated in practice. To bridge this gap, this research performed an interpretive thematic analysis of academic scholarship across public administration, public policy, law, political science and geography. Three core themes were identified in relation to representative deliberation, procedural and distributive equity and justice, and socio-political acceptability, with numerous sub-themes therein. In an attempt to clarify conceptual confusion, this paper grounds these theoretical debates in the context of flood risk governance where numerous legitimacy dilemmas exist. A number of questions are presented as conceptual ‘sign posts’ to encourage reflexive governance in the future. Thus, more broadly, we assert the importance of bringing legitimacy to the forefront of contemporary flood risk governance discourse and practice, moving beyond the realm of academic reflection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-408
Number of pages12
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number2
Early online date21 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Flood risk governance
  • Legitimacy
  • Justice
  • Equity
  • Participation
  • Representative deliberation

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