Blog #1: Weber’s 3 types of Legitimate Authority

I agree with Max Weber’s idea that there are three types of authority.  Weber defines authority as the probability of certain specific commands or all commands will be obeyed by a given groups of persons.  He divides authority into three legitimate types: traditional authority, charismatic authority, and rational-legal authority.  Traditional authority comes from the belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions.  One example of this type of authority is the authority given by the King and Queen of England.  Their authority is passed down from one generation to the next.  Some characteristics of traditional authority include:  it being handed down from past generations, rule over others without question, it is given legitimacy by custom, and that it has always been done this way.

Weber says that charismatic authority “rests on the devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person.”  This type of authority depends on the relationship between the leader and the followers.  Some characteristics of charismatic authority include: leadership must benefit followers, leaders are worshipped in some way spiritually or heroically, followers listen and do what leaders say to appease them.  Two examples of this type of authority are Pope Benedict XVI and Adolf Hitler.  Two very different types of leaders that fall under the charismatic type of authority.

Weber’s last type of authority is rational-legal.  We give power to these leaders by electing them and by doing this these leaders have power over us.  An example of this type of authority is the President of the United States.  We vote for him so that he can become president and by doing so giving him the legitimate authority to rule over the United States.  I agree with Weber’s interpretation of authority and how they are broken down into three different categories.

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One response to “Blog #1: Weber’s 3 types of Legitimate Authority

  1. Very good presentation and application of Weber’s ideal types of authority. The one example that seems questionable is Pope Benedict XVI. Weber would say that Popes — serving at the top of a very rational-legal organization like the Catholic church — would tend to rely on rational-legal authority. But Weber would recognize that during relatively extraordinary times truly charismatic Popes would emerge. I think Pope Francis is a better example of *charismatic* authority.

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