Tripartite classification of authority

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Max Weber distinguished three ideal types of legitimate political leadership, domination and authority. He wrote about these three types of domination in both his essay The Three Types of Legitimate Rule which was published in his masterwork Economy and Society (see Weber 1922/1978:215-216), and in his classic speech "Politics as a Vocation" (see Weber 1919/2015:137-138).

Contents

  1. charismatic authority (character, heroism, leadership, religious),
  2. traditional authority (patriarchs, patrimonialism, feudalism) and
  3. legal authority (modern law and state, bureaucracy).

These three types are ideal types and rarely appear in their pure form.

According to Weber, authority is power accepted as legitimate by those subjected to it. These three forms of authority are said to appear in an "hierarchical development order". States progress from charismatic authority, to traditional authority, and finally reach the state of rational-legal authority which is characteristic of a modern liberal democracy.

Charismatic domination

Charismatic authority grows out of the personal charm or the strength of an individual personality. [1] It was described by Weber in a lecture as "the authority of the extraordinary and personal gift of grace (charisma)"; he distinguished it from the other forms of authority by stating "Men do not obey him [the charismatic ruler] by virtue of tradition or statute, but because they believe in him." [2] Thus the actual power or capabilities of the leader are irrelevant, as long as the followers believe that such power exists. Thus, according to Weber, it is particularly difficult for charismatic leaders to maintain their authority because the followers must continue to legitimize the authority of the leader.

Charismatic domination is different from legal-rational and traditional power insofar as it does not develop from established tradition but rather from the belief the followers have in the leader.

According to Weber, once the leader loses his charisma or dies, systems based on charismatic authority tend to transform into traditional or legal-rational systems.

Traditional domination

In traditional authority, the legitimacy of the authority comes from tradition or custom; Weber described it as "the authority of the eternal yesterday" and identified it as the source of authority for monarchies. [2] In this type of domination, the traditional rights of a powerful individual or group are accepted by the subordinate, or at least not challenged. The dominant individual could be a clan leader, eldest, the head of a family, a patriarchal figure or dominant elite. Historically this has been the most common type of government.

According to Weber, inequalities are created and preserved by traditional authority. Should this authority not be challenged, the dominant leader or group will stay in power. For Weber, traditional power blocked the development of rational-legal authority.

Legal authority, also known as rational-legal authority, is where an individual or institution exerts power by virtue of the legal office that they hold. It is the authority that demands obedience to the office rather than the officeholder; once they leave office, their rational-legal authority is lost. Weber identified "rationally-created rules" [2] as the central feature of this form of authority. Modern democracies contain many examples of legal-rational regimes. There are different ways in which legal authority can develop. Many societies have developed a system of laws and regulations and there exist many different principles of legality. With the development of a legal-rational system, the political system is likely to be rationalized similarly. Constitutions, written documents, established offices and regular elections are often associated with modern legal-rational political systems. These in the past have tended to develop in opposition to earlier traditional systems such as monarchies, where the set of rules are not well developed. As these systems develop in a rational manner, authority takes on a legal-rational form. Those who govern have the legitimate legal right to do so and those subordinated accept the legality of the rulers.

Albeit rational-legal authority may be challenged by those subordinated, it is unlikely to result in a quick change in the nature of the system. Such power struggles, according to Weber, are mostly political struggles and may be based on nationalism or ethnicity.

The classification of authority in the context of history

Weber also notes that legal domination is the most advanced, and that societies evolve from having mostly traditional and charismatic authorities to mostly rational and legal ones, because the instability of charismatic authority inevitably forces it to "routinize" into a more structured form of authority. Likewise he notes that in a pure type of traditional rule, sufficient resistance to a master can lead to a "traditional revolution". Thus he alludes to an inevitable move towards a rational-legal structure of authority, utilizing a bureaucratic structure. This ties to his broader concept of rationalization by suggesting the inevitability of a move in this direction. Thus this theory can be sometimes viewed as part of the social evolutionism theory.

In traditional authority, the legitimacy of the authority comes from tradition, in charismatic authority from the personality and leadership qualities of the individual (charisma), and in legal (or rational-legal) authority from powers that are bureaucratically and legally attached to certain positions. A classic example of these three types may be found in religion: priests (traditional), Jesus (charismatic), and the Roman Catholic Church (legal-rational). Weber also conceived of these three types within his three primary modes of conflict: traditional authority within status groups, charismatic authority within class, and legal-rational authority within party organizations.

In his view every historical relation between rulers and ruled contained elements that can be analyzed on the basis of the above distinction.

Comparison table

CharismaticTraditionalLegal-Rational
Type of rulerCharismatic leaderDominant personalityFunctional superiors or bureaucratic officials
Position determined byHaving a dynamic personalityEstablished tradition or routineLegally established authority
Ruled usingExtraordinary qualities and exceptional powersAcquired or inherited (hereditary) qualitiesVirtue of rationally established norms, decrees, and other rules and regulations
LegitimizedVictories and success to communityEstablished tradition or routineGeneral belief in the formal correctness of these rules and those who enact them are considered a legitimized authority
LoyaltyInterpersonal & personal allegiance and devotionBased on traditional allegiancesTo authority / rules
CohesionEmotionally unstable and volatileFeeling of common purposeAbiding by rules (see Merton's theory of deviance)
LeadershipRulers and followers (disciples)Established forms of social conductRules, not rulers

See also

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Max Weber German sociologist, jurist, and political economist (1864–1920)

Maximilian Karl Emil Weber was a German sociologist, historian, jurist, and political economist, who is regarded as among the most important theorists of the development of modern Western society. His ideas profoundly influence social theory and research. Despite being recognized as one of the fathers of sociology along with Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, and Émile Durkheim, Weber saw himself not as a sociologist but as a historian.

Power (social and political) Ability to influence the behavior of others

In social science and politics, power is the capacity of an entity to influence others. The term authority is often used for power that is perceived as legitimate by the social structure, not to be confused with authoritarianism.

Authority Political power over others

In the fields of sociology and political science, authority is the legitimate power of a person or group over other people. In a civil state, authority is practiced in ways such a judicial branch or an executive branch of government.

Charismatic authority is a concept of leadership developed by the German sociologist Max Weber. It involves a type of organization or a type of leadership in which authority derives from the charisma of the leader. This stands in contrast to two other types of authority: legal authority and traditional authority. Each of the three types forms part of Max Weber's tripartite classification of authority.

Political sociology Branch of sociology

Political sociology is an interdisciplinary field of study concerned with exploring how power and oppression operate in society across micro to macro levels of analysis. Interested in the social causes and consequences of how power is distributed and changes throughout and amongst societies, political sociology's focus ranges across individual families to the State as sites of social and political conflict and power contestation.

Cultural hegemony Marxist notion of cultural dominance

In Marxist philosophy, cultural hegemony is the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class which manipulates the culture of that society—the beliefs and explanations, perceptions, values, and mores—so that the imposed, ruling-class worldview becomes the accepted cultural norm; the universally valid dominant ideology, which justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for every social class, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class. This Marxist analysis of how the ruling capitalist class establishes and maintains its control was originally developed by the Italian philosopher and politician Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937).

Organizational theory Type of theory

A theory involves concepts or constructs that are related in such a way as to explain why certain phenomena occur. An organizational theory involves a set of concepts/constructs that are related to each other and explain how individuals behave in social units we call organizations. Organizational theory also concerns understanding how groups of individuals behave, which may differ from the behavior of an individual. The behavior organizational theory often focuses on is goal-directed.

Legitimacy (political) right and acceptance of an authority

In political science, legitimacy is the right and acceptance of an authority, usually a governing law or a regime. Whereas authority denotes a specific position in an established government, the term legitimacy denotes a system of government—wherein government denotes "sphere of influence". An authority viewed as legitimate often has the right and justification to exercise power. Political legitimacy is considered a basic condition for governing, without which a government will suffer legislative deadlock(s) and collapse. In political systems where this is not the case, unpopular régimes survive because they are considered legitimate by a small, influential élite. In Chinese political philosophy, since the historical period of the Zhou Dynasty, the political legitimacy of a ruler and government was derived from the Mandate of Heaven, and unjust rulers who lost said mandate therefore lost the right to rule the people.

Politics as a Vocation 1919 essay by Max Weber

"Politics as a Vocation" is an essay by German economist and sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920). It originated in the second lecture of a series he gave in Munich to the "Free Students Union" of Bavaria on 28 January 1919. This happened during the German Revolution when Munich itself was briefly the capital of the Bavarian Socialist Republic. Weber gave the speech based on handwritten notes which were transcribed by a stenographer. The essay was published in an extended version in July 1919, and translated into English only after World War II. The essay is today regarded as a classic work of political science and sociology.

"The Three Types of Legitimate Rule" is an essay written by Max Weber, a German economist and sociologist, explaining his tripartite classification of authority. Originally published in the journal Preussische Jahrbücher 187, 1-2, 1922, an English translation, translated by Hans Gerth, was published in the journal Berkeley Publications in Society and Institutions 4(1): 1-11, 1958. Weber also refers to the three types of legitimate rule in his famous essay "Politics as a Vocation."

Weber's ideas about legitimate rule also appear in his Basic Concepts in Sociology and The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. The translation of the German word Herrschaft is at the heart of understanding Weber's point about political legitimacy. The translation Rule was employed in the 1958 essay translation by the key early Weber translator Hans Gerth, and is in the title of the essay as translated here. Other translators of Weber including Alexander M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons, translated Herrschaft as authority. Weber translators Tony Waters and Dagmar Waters discuss the difficulties in translating Herrschaft as well, typically using "dominion" and "domination" in addition to the original German Herrschaft

Rational-legal authority is a form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a ruling regime is largely tied to legal rationality, legal legitimacy and bureaucracy. The majority of the modern states of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are rational-legal authorities, according to those who use this form of classification.

Traditional authority Form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a ruling regime is largely tied to tradition or custom

Traditional authority is a form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a ruling regime is largely tied to tradition or custom. The main reason for the given state of affairs is that it "has always been that way".

Patrimonialism is a form of governance in which all power flows directly from the leader. There is no distinction between the public and private domains: "The very essence of patrimonialism consists in the idea that the whole government authority, and the economic rights which correspond to it, tend to be treated as privately appropriated economic advantages". These regimes are autocratic or oligarchic and exclude the lower, middle and upper classes from power. The leaders of these countries typically enjoy absolute personal power. Usually, the armies of these countries are loyal to the leader, not the nation.

Three-component theory of stratification

The three-component theory of stratification, More widely known as Weberian stratification or the three class system, was developed by German sociologist Max Weber with class, status and party as distinct ideal types. Weber developed a multidimensional approach to social stratification that reflects the interplay among wealth, prestige and power.

Proconsul

A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome who acted on behalf of a consul. A proconsul was typically a former consul. The term is also used in recent history for officials with delegated authority.

In sociology, rationalization is the replacement of traditions, values, and emotions as motivators for behavior in society with concepts based on rationality and reason. For example, the implementation of bureaucracies in government is a kind of rationalization, as is the construction of high-efficiency living spaces in architecture and urban planning. A potential reason as to why rationalization of a culture may take place in the modern era is the process of globalization. Countries are becoming increasingly interlinked, and with the rise of technology, it is easier for countries to influence each other through social networking, the media and politics. An example of rationalization in place would be the case of witch doctors in certain parts of Africa. Whilst many locals view them as an important part of their culture and traditions, development initiatives and aid workers have tried to rationalize the practice in order to educate the local people in modern medicine and practice.

Legitimation crisis

Legitimation crisis refers to a decline in the confidence of administrative functions, institutions, or leadership. The term was first introduced in 1973 by Jürgen Habermas, a German sociologist and philosopher. Habermas expanded upon the concept, claiming that with a legitimation crisis, an institution or organization does not have the administrative capabilities to maintain or establish structures effective in achieving their end goals. The term itself has been generalized by other scholars to refer not only to the political realm, but to organizational and institutional structures as well. While there is not unanimity among social scientists when claiming that a legitimation crisis exists, a predominant way of measuring a legitimation crisis is to consider public attitudes toward the organization in question.

Authority (sociology) The legitimate power which one person or a group holds and exercises over another

In sociology, authority is the legitimate power which one person or a group possesses and practices over another. The element of legitimacy is vital to the notion of authority and is the main means by which authority is distinguished from the more general concept of power.

In a notable study of power conducted by social psychologists John R. P. French and Bertram Raven in 1959, power is divided into five separate and distinct forms. They identified those five bases of power as coercive, reward, legitimate, referent, and expert. This was followed by Raven's subsequent addition in 1965 of a sixth separate and distinct base of power: informational power.

Charisma is compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.

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