Technology legitimation in the public discourse: applying the pillars of legitimacy on GM food

Sikke R. Jansma*, Jordy F. Gosselt, Kimberly Kuipers, Menno D.T. de Jong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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The public sphere, reflected by the public discourse, is an important domain for the legitimation of technology. In the institutional literature, four pillars of legitimacy are distinguished: normative, cognitive, regulative, and pragmatic. The aim of this study was to investigate to what extent these pillars can be used as a framework for analysing the legitimation of technological innovations in the public discourse. We conducted a qualitative media analysis of the case of GM food in the Netherlands, analysing 287 articles from nine Dutch newspapers in the period of 1996–2016. The results show that the pillars provide insight into legitimacy in a multi-dimensional way and serve as a structure for the dynamics of legitimation processes. Regarding GM food, the public debate was pre-dominantly negative, with a strong focus on the normative pillar. Emotional rhetoric exceeded knowledge and understanding (cognitive pillar) of GM food. The regulative and pragmatic pillars were hardly addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-207
Number of pages13
JournalTechnology Analysis and Strategic Management
Issue number2
Early online date2 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Legitimacy
  • media analysis
  • public discourse
  • GM food


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