Legitimation Work: A Social Theory

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: 304
Oral Presentation
Håkon LARSEN , University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Due to processes of globalization, digitalization and cultural democratization, publicly funded organizations in the culture sector are in need of legitimizing their own existence towards three publics. The publics provide different forms of support, that the organizations are dependent on: The producers/artists provide quality and artistic credibility, the government/public authorities provides funding, and the general public provides legitimacy. In satisfying the three publics the actors engaged in preserving the relevance and importance of the publicly funded organizations are conducting legitimation work. Legitimation work is a social process being in motion for as long as there are actors engaged in securing the future existence of such organizations.

In this paper I present a theory of legitimation work. The theory is developed from several empirical studies of various publicly funded organizations in Norway and Sweden. I have studied the legitimation work done in the Norwegian public service broadcaster NRK and the Swedish public service broadcaster SVT, the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. These are all organizations that are in need of legitimizing themselves towards the three before-mentioned publics when conducting legitimation work. In the paper I discuss what characterizes a publicly funded organization’s communication with the various publics and what role they play in the legitimation work.