Authority And Legitimacy
Another approach to authority focuses more on the question of whether those who are ruled accept authority as legitimate regardless of its source. This approach originated with Max Weber (1864–1920), who distinguished three ideal types of authority: traditional authority that rests on history and tradition; charismatic authority that rests on the personality of the leader; and legal-rational authority that rests on impersonal rules and powers and is associated with the office rather than the personal characteristics of the office holder. If those affected think that power is exercised legitimately, then any of these three types of authority is legitimate, regardless of its moral justification.
Weber suggested that as societies modernize, authority transforms from traditional, to charismatic, to legal-rational. This implies that only one type of authority exists at a time, or that authority is a linear sequence from traditional to charismatic to legal-rational. Clearly, these three types of authority coexist. This is illustrated by distinguishing between the notions of "an authority" and "in authority." For example, the U.S. Congress possesses legal-rational authority, and representatives and senators have certain powers that derive from their office. Representatives and senators are "in authority" but are often influenced by individuals called to testify before committee hearings who, because of their charisma or expertise, are "an authority."
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