I strongly recommend a read of this enlightening little book (approx. 170 pages, depending on the edition) by Jürgen Habermas.
There is more than whiff of legitimation crisis wafting around the Irish State at present.
Dermot Ahern acnowledges, for example, that the threatened withdrawal of services by members of An Garda Síochána amounts to "a challenge to the authority of the State".
Others might say that it is Mr. Ahern's own Government (together with its predecessors) that has been instrumental in inflicting catastrophic damage on the State and its authority.
A small sample:
A legitimation crisis can be predicted only if expectations that cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value or, generally, with rewards conforming to the system are systematically produced. A legitimation crisis then, must be based on a motivation crisis—that is, a discrepancy between the need for motives declared by the state, the educational system and the occupational system on the one hand, and the motivation supplied by the socio-cultural system on the other. (LC, Part II, Ch. 6)
Our present social/cultural/political/economic 'system' continues to systematically produce expectations (e.g. wealth, wellbeing, equality, fairness, happiness ...) which, increasingly, cannot be fulfilled either with the available quantity of value (e.g., appeals to 'patriotism' ring hollow; appeals to 'sacrifice' lack credibility when they come from those who do not experience most of the pain; appeals to 'decency', 'honesty'. truthfulness', etc., similarly lack effective systemic force) or with rewards conforming to the system (the illusion that the party would continue indefinitely has been shattered; everyone will not have the big house, car, holiday villa, etc., to which they were systematically encouraged to aspire).
The result is a severe underlying systemic crisis.
If this crisis is merely cyclical and temporary, like a curable illness, the party may eventually resume and the system itself will survive the crisis.
If the crisis is more long term, it will begin to undermine the types of motivation whose absence would inevitably result in a crisis of legitimation. This, in turn, would lead to a search for an alternative system, a new social/cultural/political/economic paradigm (which will eventually produce a new set of expectations).
Those who wish to preserve the present 'system' will feel obliged to do all in their power to stave off a terminal legitimation crisis.
Those who desire an alternative 'system' may welcome an impending legitimation crisis. Their problem is that they have no way of knowing for sure what kind of alternative may emerge.