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"The Pandemic Was a Global Exam, and Our Country Came in First": Autocratic Performance Legitimacy in Saudi Arabia

Accepted version
Peer-reviewed

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Type

Article

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Authors

Schmidt-Feuerheerd, B  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0009-0001-4163-9973

Abstract

jats:pExisting scholarship establishes that authoritarian regimes make claims about their legitimacy yet does not tell us what makes these claims effective. This article argues that authoritarian legitimation is more effective when coproduced by the government, media, and progovernment supporters, rather than just being centrally disseminated talking points. This article uses the effective handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the Saudi government to demonstrate how this narration translated trust in state capacity into performance legitimacy of the Saudi regime and system of governance. Saudi media figures and progovernment supporters expanded basic government talking points for audiences and discussed successful policies in relation to countries with higher international status (chiefly in the West) and higher state capacity (such as China). This article evaluates statements by the government, original media sources, and more than 90 interviews with Saudi nationalists, intellectuals, and entrepreneurs, while speaking to the relational character of performance legitimation beyond Saudi Arabia.</jats:p>

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Keywords

4408 Political Science, 44 Human Society, 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Journal Title

Perspectives on Politics

Conference Name

Journal ISSN

1537-5927
1541-0986

Volume Title

Publisher

Cambridge University Press (CUP)
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