Abstract: Questions of legitimacy go beyond the state. This is true in at least two ways. First, legitimacy is an evaluative term that applies to international and subnational forms of political organization. But it also applies to forms of social organization that are not straightforwardly about state power. These other contexts of legitimacy include voluntary associations, sports federations, markets, media, philanthropy, and the arts. In this paper I explore whether there is a formal structure that underlies all of these claims of legitimacy. Even allowing for significant differences across the domains, I argue that there is a generic logic that underlies legitimacy claims in various social practices. I develop and defend the following formulation: an entity is legitimate insofar as it is the object of relevant recognition. This recognition consists of the affirmation by a relevant constituency that the entity in question is succeeding at or fulfilling its raison d’etre. I begin by explaining how the formulation works in the case of political legitimacy, and then I use this central case to elaborate and motivate the logic of legitimacy that I propose. Then I use the general logic of legitimacy to explain how legitimacy assessments work in three cases that go beyond politics: voluntary associations, commercial exchange, and philanthropic assistance.