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

Meghan Alexander*, Neelke Doorn, Sally Priest

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
66 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. Four 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 ‘signposts’ 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)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalRegional Environmental Change: natural and social aspects
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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


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