It is worthwhile debating the meaning of concepts only when they start to hinder the process of inquiry. This seems to be the case with Max Weber's concepts of legitimacy and legitimate authority. They are becoming increasingly popular among students of Soviet-type societies despite the numerous problems posed by their application in a socio-political context that is so different from the one Weber had in mind. This increased popularity results in a ‘conceptual stretch’. More importantly, it increases the danger of a serious misinterpretation of socio-political processes in Soviet-type societies because, as will be argued in this article, the concept of legitimacy is not appropriate for the analysis of mass compliance in such societies. Instead, the persistence of (relatively) stable social and political order in these societies, as well as the occurrences of mass dissent, may be better accounted for in terms of ‘conditional tolerance’. In order to demonstrate the utility of this concept, and to show the problematic nature of accounts in terms of legitimacy and legitimate authority, it is necessary to start with a brief reprise of Weber's conceptual scheme.