Within natural resource governance it has become commonplace to orchestrate what is known as ‘stakeholder processes’: an alternative, non-coercive way of fostering collective action through public policy for natural resource management and livelihoods development. However, many initiatives fail to acknowledge their heritage as social projects of liberal capitalism, which reorganises risks and vulnerabilities and social and material divisions of labour to benefit already privileged groups.

After a theoretical critique of the constructionist approach and existing mainstream conceptions of legitimacy, the paper proposes a new framework conceptualizing legitimacy of stakeholder agency in natural resource management as a property emerging from the negotiation of intersubjective reality, where stakeholders exert legitimating practices in located policy adaptation instances.

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