Tag Archives: Max Weber

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.


Blog #2- Charismatic or Rational-Legal Authority or both? M.Weber

In this day and age, in my opinion, our media savvy society can be seen as having two types of authorities. A rational-legal authority is what one would generally think America is run by. This is because in a rational-legal authority, according to Weber, the leaders are elected by the public–electing anchors legitimacy.  So the reason why we agree to certain tasks our President completes is because we trusted and voted for him in the first place. Also, his work is backed up by the law.

But if you look at our President, he can also be seen as a charismatic leader. He is a rational-legal leader because American citizens voted for him on Election day but a charismatic leader because we are loyal and obedient to him. (Not all of America but the democrats who voted for him.) Charismatic leaders, according to Weber, can have good or bad charisma. A few examples of charismatic leaders are: Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and Hitler. Although these three charismatic authorities may not have had the exact same views,  they did have particular beliefs and ideas that people worshipped and praised.

Back to Obama, we can tell that when he first ran for President, he probably figured that he needed to have a good charisma for people to accept him as a rational-legal authority. His infamous “change” and “hope” speeches caught all of Americas attention, especially while being caught up in a recession and a war that was going on for 10+ years. If it wasn’t for his charismatic approach, maybe he would not have won.


Max Weber & An NFL Legend

Blog 3:

Being a diehard fan of the New York Giants has been, for the most part, an enjoyable experience over the past twenty years or so. That is, until this season. Embarrassing record aside though, one of the most difficult aspects of the Giants’ struggles this year has been watching the failures of Eli Manning. Eli is the affable and never flustered quarterback, whose calm mien continuously puts Giants fans at ease. The Giants’ most recent loss to the Chicago Bears had me thinking about many things, and oddly enough, Max Weber was one of them. Though one might assume I was pondering about whether Weber would have been a Giants fan, or if he’d have been a fan of American football at all, I was actually thinking about his views on legitimate authority, and how the pivotal position of quarterback might fit into his concepts.

I’m sure the literature within the subcategory of the sociology of sports has countless examinations of this position, its representation of society at large, its historical racial inequality, etc., these topics, while fascinating, are not what this post will focus on. What I was reflecting on after a tragic sixth loss in a row was a quarterback named Manning, but not Eli (I had thought sufficiently about him over the course of Thursday night’s game), I focused on his older brother Peyton.

Peyton Manning is unquestionably one of the most prolific players to ever quarterback in the NFL. His career has coincided with arguably the most exciting and record-breaking era of quarterbacking that the league has even seen. A recent article on the sports website Grantland detailed Peyton at this point in his career, and this piece had me ruminating further on Peyton’s mastery of the position, which undoubtedly has required both teammates and coaches to not only trust in him, but follow his directions. Although this relationship appears quite different from that of a president or a monarch and his or her citizens, Peyton’s role within the team definitely comes with “authority” as Weber would define it.

But what type of “authority” is this? It doesn’t possess the characteristics of Rational/Legal Authority, as it is not a law or a legal statute that the quarterback must lead the team. In fact, many teams, even Super Bowl winners, have not been led by their quarterbacks in terms of direction and moral, but derived their identity from players at other positions, like linebacker Ray Lewis on last year’s Baltimore Ravens, or lineman Warren Sapp on the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then what about Traditional Authority? It does seem as though “quarterback as leader” is the de facto result of the position’s role as orchestrator of a team’s offense, which has been more or less the case since the game’s development. While this iteration of Traditional Authority does not fully relate to that of a king in a monarchical society, I feel that there is some element of Traditional Authority in the position. Mainly because football’s positions and their responsibilities are so solidly entrenched in the way the game is played. However, I also believe that just as Weber felt that these were “ideal types” and that real life examples don’t always fit neatly into one category, that quarterbacks, and specifically those as masterful as Peyton Manning, possess an element of Charismatic Authority as well.

As writer Brian Phillips explains “most great quarterbacks, even most immobile pocket passers, give the impression of riding on chance, of keeping their bearings as chaos breaks out around them. Peyton Manning gives the impression of choreographing chance.” It is this seemingly unimaginable control and command that leads to his “charisma.” This “charisma” is reinforced further by his theatrical machinations at the line of scrimmage, where he hoots and hollers as he diagnosis the defense, changing the play when necessary to ensure success. And success he continuously has had. As Weber points out, “charisma” can wax and wane, and it is during the latter point that someone with Charismatic Authority loses his/her dominance. For Peyton Manning, this dwindling has yet to occur.

In viewing Manning within Weber’s framework however, there seems to be a contradiction. Weber emphasized society’s move towards rationalization, and the disenchantment that results from this hyper efficiency. Many quarterbacks have specific adjectives that are used to describe their style of play, and Peyton’s would include methodical, efficient, cerebral, and dominant. Phillips even goes as far as saying that when Manning plays football, “he goes out every week with a graphing calculator and a stack of forms, and he just audits teams to death.” It doesn’t get more efficient than that. But while these words definitely echo a rational approach, watching Manning lead an offense is anything but disenchanting. In fact, it’s poetry in motion.

I don’t know what all this proves, it might just be an argument for why sports seem transcendent to me, and maybe it’s just a justification for spending so much time caring about them, but somehow Max Weber made me appreciate football a little bit more than I did last week.

Embedded are the Phillips article and a Peyton Manning highlight video. Enjoy.

Weber’s reasons for why people work

BLOG #3 I think Weber’s instrumental-rational approach to social action describes why most of us go to work. Today people just want to work to make money so that they can have food and shelter. Especially nowadays since the economy isn’t great and the job options aren’t many, people are most likely going to take any kind of job opportunity that comes their way. Even a person who loves their job still only works to make money. This would fall under the category of Affective Action. But it is not Affective Action alone that makes people in this situation work; they are also motivated by instrumental-rational actions. They aren’t purely doing what they love because they love doing it. They have other motives.

One could say people work because of value-rational reasons. This would mean people work because they believe in the value of work and that it makes you a respectable person. But then, in my opinion, if work takes away time from the real important things such as your family, religion and your mental health than how could one believe it is inherently respectable? I agree that supporting a family is a respectable thing to do. A person wants to be able to feed and shelter his family. But then that would also fall under the category of instrumental rational action. The only other social action for the reason why we work is because of tradition. People have been working since the beginning of time and this could be why we do it today. But this only works in conjunction with instrumental-rational action as well. Because even though people have always been working, they’ve only done it to be able to survive. They do it to be able to have the means to create shelter and sustenance for their families. To sum up, even if a person works because they love their work or they believe in the action of work itself or they are doing it because their ancestors did it, they still are working because they know a paycheck is coming at the end of the week. Money is definitely a main motivator for why people go to work today.