If legitimation is an activity which serves to confirm the identity of the legitimator, then democratic legitimation is not an exception to this function. In so far as people act as citizens as well as subjects, they too engage in actions, legitimations which cultivate, sustain, create, or conform to that identity. ‘Democratic legitimation’ is most commonly thought of as the transfer of consent from citizens to the government. But there is another activity, also democratic, also legitimation, whereby subjects cultivate and sustain their own identity, the legitimation, not of rulers, but of citizens. Democracy involves subjects cultivating their own identity as participating and active members of the polity. A recognition of the self-legitimation of the rulers, in other words, is only problematic for democrats if it is not realised that citizens too legitimate themselves, and do so in a way which makes them more than simple clients of a democratically sanctioned state. So it is appropriate to ask where this activity can be observed. What do subjects do which seems to them similar to that of the various self-legitimating actions conducted by rulers?
Rodney Barker, Legitimating Identities: The Self-Presentations of Rulers and Subjects, p. 112