Myths of membership: The politics of legitimation in UN Security Council reform

Ian Hurd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The need to expand the UN Security Council is usually justified as necessary to update Council membership in light of changes in world politics. The mismatch between the existing membership and the increasingly diverse population of states is said to delegitimatize the Council. This rests on an implicit hypothesis about the source of institutional legitimacy. This article surveys reform proposals and finds five distinct claims about the connection between membership and legitimacy, each of which is either logically inconsistent or empirically implausible. If formal membership is indeed the key to institutional legitimacy, the causal link remains at best indeterminate, and we may have to look elsewhere for a theory of legitimation. We must also look for explanations for why the language of legitimation is so prevalent in the rhetoric of Council reform.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-217
Number of pages19
JournalGlobal Governance
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2008


  • Diversity
  • Inequality
  • Legitimacy
  • Security council reform
  • United nations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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