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Niklas Altermark

Niklas Altermark

Associate professor

Niklas Altermark

Personalisation at the top of civil societies? Legitimation claims on civil society elites in Europe


  • Niklas Altermark
  • Milka Ivanovska Hadjievska
  • Håkan Johansson

Summary, in English

Top civil society organisations (CSOs) face a particular legitimacy dilemma as they need to have leaders who are seen as legitimate by the elite groups they interact with, and by those they represent. This article investigates how they handle this dilemma by studying legitimation practices of newly appointed leaders. Based on Weber’s theory of authority and Pitkin’s theory of representation, the article investigates 114 public announcements of governance leaders in the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the EU. The article finds a common model of civil society elite legitimation beyond national differences. The observed model draws on two types of claims: promoting leaders as excellent and astounding professional leaders (charismatic authority) and as able spokespersons (substantive representation). Major European CSOs hence legitimate their leaders as being ‘on par with’ other top leaders, as an elite among other elite groups, similar to trends of personalisation in politics and business.


  • Department of Political Science
  • Civil Society and Social Movements
  • School of Social Work

Publishing year





British Journal of Politics and International Relations

Document type

Journal article




  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)




  • Civil society elites? Comparing elite composition, reproduction, integration and contestation in European civil societies


  • ISSN: 1369-1481