In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, one US representative, John Lewis, fueled widespread media debates with a claim that he does not believe Mr. Trump to be a “legitimate” president. In a time when the many antagonizing executive orders and cabinet choices make these debates from mid-January appear like yesterday’s news, it is worth reconsidering them with a closer look at the concept of legitimacy itself.
According to Richard Seymour (2015), current European austerity politics ought to be regarded not as a temporary period of economic rationalization during crisis but rather as a shift toward a new political economic paradigm. This new paradigm is to be driven by a rhetorical commitment to “worker flexibility” and “labour market competitiveness”—both euphemisms for a long-term decline in the value of European salaries and an overall context of bottom-to-top economic redistribution. A further defining aspect of austerity in Europe is the condition of financialization, meaning that mantras of “living within our means” typically define the parameters of sensible governance yet often take the form of shifting public debt onto private households, as capital accumulation becomes increasingly driven by banks leveraging household debt to fund trading on financial markets (see Lapavistas and Flassbeck 2015).