The current debate on the consequences of governance networks (GNs) for the future of democracy is excessively normativized at the expense of its empirical accuracy and critical force. This paper therefore aims to bring back Weber’s approach to legitimacy as an empirical problem. This approach allows studying GNs as improbable achievements that require constant legitimacy work as part of the art of networking.
Weber offers a theory of ethical power, a power which nature and rationality can be grasped by studying rituals that establish and validate authority with extrarational means. Studying these microphysics of power opens up analysis to institutional complexity and promises a more accurate taxation of the possibility of democracy in contemporary governance. This paper additionally shows why this Weberian approach constitutes a distinctive voice within critical governance and elaborates the methodological tools it has to offer empirical researchers.