Blog 5: Webster’s definitions of authority

Webster defines authority as a claim to legitimacy, In other words, the control and demands seems to legitimate based on three principles. These three principles are (1) voluntary compliance or in obedience, obedience and staffs or assistances to execute the general policy. Webster further describes three types of authorities, rational-legal authority, traditional authority and charisma authority. Rational-legal authority is when “it rest on the belief in the legality of enacted rules” for instance, the Supreme Court judge.  The Supreme Court Judge uses techniques and goes by the law to figure out the truth from the defendant and plaintiff. He must obey all laws of the United State and give the proper treatment without any impersonal interest on each individual. Whoever is committed of a crime, the Supreme Court judge must decide the appropriate punishment to fit the crime that an individual committed.

Webster continues to explain that traditional authority is when” it rests on the established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions” I personally think traditional and rational –legal authority both intersects each other. The reason for that is traditional authority is based on customs that has been around for many years. This tradition authority is a reflection of rational legal authority of an individual. If that makes any sense? For instance the Supreme Court or any court system in the U.S. has been in the U.S. for many years now and these people in position must follow traditional laws. The Supreme Court judge must decide on his decision based on what he was taught from other judges before him or her. Another example is President Obama; he can also be linked to traditional authority because of his position. Similar to the U.S. courts, the presidents of U.S. from many years to now have been following the same concept and regulations of the country. The people always changes but the roles of the position are handed down from generation to generation.

Webster then ends it with Charismatic authority which “rests on the devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person”. It is said in class that Charismatic authority do not influence others because to improve economic stability but for their own or other’s purposes. For instance Mohammad Gandhi used charismatic authority to start the independence movement in India. His form of charismatic authority was not used by force but volunteerism. Citizens of India followed Gandhi because he stood for everyone in the country and peace. In other words, the citizens of India wanted to join in with the protest.  Another example is Hitler; he was considered a charismatic authority because he was a symbolic figure for the Germans. He did not want to improve the country economically but rather save his people from torment, shame and blame.  He was an idol and godly figure in the country of Germany.  People relied on him for protection, assurance and hope. Similar to Gandhi, Hitler rose because an event in the country that inspired him to take action in his own hands.

It also seems to me that charismatic authority has a relation with Marx’s idea of alienation. Hitler and Gandhi are people who have been humiliated and alienated by others. Because of how they were treated, it forces them to form a different perspective of their surroundings. This is how they rose to become an idol or an authoritative figure in history. Thus, alienation and humiliation plays a crucial part of history.


2 responses to “Blog 5: Webster’s definitions of authority

  1. Adolf Hitler is a perfect example of charismatic authority as outlined by Max Weber. Charismatic authority can also be argued when looking at the 2008 presidential election and the popular surge of Barack Obama.

  2. Interesting hypothesis about the influence of alienation in developing a critical perspective on society. There seems to be something to this. Influenced by Nietzsche, Weber also thought about humans’ need to make sense of suffering.

    As for authority, it’s important to keep separate Weber’s “ideal types” and empirical/historical examples of authority. As distinctive types of legitimate authority, they are designed to eliminate the possibility of overlap; they are distinctive combinations of elements. They are “pure,” idealized constructions. The intersection of traditional and rational-legal authority that you describe is based on empirical observation — sure enough, “real” authority is never pure, but appeals to different, incompatible, principles of legitimacy.

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