Weber: 3 types of authority

Authority:
This is the claim to the legitimate exercise of power. Political leaders have authority when those who are ruled accept this willingly and support those who govern them. Authority can take several different forms.
Weber identified 3 types of authority - traditional, charismatic and legal rational

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Traditional Authority

Nearly all systems of government before the modern state exemplified traditional claims to authority. It is ill-suited to changing societies and is found in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Nepal. 

Traditional authority is legitimated by the sanctity of tradition. The ability and right to rule is passed down, often through heredity. It does not change overtime, does not facilitate social change, tends to be irrational and inconsistent, and perpetuates the status quo. In fact, Weber states: “The creation of new law opposite traditional norms is deemed impossible in principle.” Traditional authority is typically embodied in feudalism or patrimonialism. In a purely patriarchal structure, “the servants are completely and personally dependent upon the lord”, while in an estate system (i.e. feudalism), “the servants are not personal servants of the lord but independent men” (Weber 1958, 4). But, in both cases the system of authority does not change or evolve.

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Charismatic

Leaders are inspiring figures who emerge in times of crisis and upheaval. Such power is by its nature short-lived unless the figure can translate to a permanent office or institution.

Charismatic authority is found in a leader whose mission and vision inspire others. It is based upon the perceived extraordinary characteristics of an individual. Weber saw a charismatic leader as the head of a new social movement, and one instilled with divine or supernatural powers, such as a religious prophet. Weber seemed to favor charismatic authority, and spent a good deal of time discussing it. 

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Legal Rational

The exact opposite of charismatic authority. Obedience is owed not to an individual but to a set of laws, We acknowledge the authority of laws - and not just the power of those who enforce it. 

Modern states are based on rational- legal authority structures.

Legal-rational authority is empowered by a formalistic belief in the content of the law (legal) or natural law (rationality). Obedience is not given to a specific individual leader - whether traditional or charismatic - but a set of uniform principles. Weber thought the best example of legal-rational authority was a bureaucracy (political or economic).

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