Europe from the Rhine river to the east before 1914 was ruled by illegitimate regimes. The two Kaisers, the Sultan and the Tzar, who were unable to understand the huge social and political upheaval Europe went trough with the industrial-technological revolution, massive urbanization and population growth since the end of the Napoleon wars. The authority of these kings was derived from fables and folk stories, and not from popular support. They had no political system to reinvent themselves. Not surprisingly the two kaisers ruled by 1914 in their countries for more than 50 years. The two Kaisers felt the loss of popular support among growing urban population, who were mainly dispossessed proletarian, supportive to socialistic parties, while the agrarian communities, who were rather supportive to the tradition leadership, declined in their numbers. The two Kaisers, each in different way where obsessed by these trends and believed that a “good war” can stop these “negative” trends. The war, even if broke out because of a rather peculiar reason,(murder of heir) was well prepared and discussed for years before the war among the ruling elites of Germany. The surprise was the machine guns effect and the stupidity of anachronistic generals, who could not predict the slaughter of millions of soldiers in the very first weeks of the war. Then there was no political courage to stop the war without some justification, like territorial achievements. So they continued the slaughter until destroying themselves and if you take WWII as direct result of WWI the whole Europe as well.
Europe never really recovered from the two world wars. It lost its morale and political legitimacy to spread its cultural, social, political and philosophical achievements, and now it is in retreat while its cultural existence is threatened by newly awaken religious fundamentalism of its neighbors.
Unfortunately i see similar illegitimacy in the US and EU politics, where the politics is driven by short sighted, pro-plutocracy interests, protecting the existing financial elites on account of the rest of the population. This was the main reason for the 2008 economic crisis and will be the reason for next crisis. These politicians support economic system, where publicly traded companies are managed by interconnected individuals, who are guarantees for each other, while by their short sighted policy and drive to personal rewards dilute the real owners of the companies, the general public, and mostly the pension funds depositors. Not surprisingly this system cannot cope with the main danger of the world today, the environment, the despotic regimes in Africa and Asia, and the demographic explosion of uneducated masses in the underdeveloped countries.