Tag Archives: traditional authority

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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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.

Blog #2: House of Sand and Fog

The movie House of Sand and Fog demonstrates a variety of ideas and concepts that have been discussed in class. The plot has two intersecting stories that deal with changing class situations. Class situation changed according to Marx’s definition of class being defined by the ownership of property. A man named Bernini used to be a colonel in his old country Iran and hold a prestigious status, but now that he’s in the U.S he’s a working immigrant. Bernini is forced to work two back to back jobs to try to keep up with the lifestyle that he wants his family to continue. Thus, he comes out of work to then put on his suit to go home to a beautiful house that’s not really his. The other character Kathy has a house that she inherited from her father. This is when the class situation changes for her as well. Kathy comes from a middle class family and has her inherited house but then gets wrongfully evicted. She has to move from motel to motel to then finally living in her car. At the same time, Bernini is the one who buys her house. He perfectly shows practice in this protestant work ethic. He observes the market and invests in the house by receiving it a low price of which he uses wages of working from someone else (the American Dream). Kathy’s personal story doesn’t really matter to him because he believes that is how you’re suppose to behave in the market place; you can’t be swayed by these kinds of stories. This reflects on Weber’s type of social action which is instrumental-rational. His actions are carried out to achieve a certain goal; Bernini calculates which actions will lead in the best and most effect manner to the goal that’s been set. When Kathy’s lawyer asks if they can buy back the house for the same price he bought it for, he asserts “It doesn’t matter, this house is a necessity for my family,” which confirms how bad he needs this investment and can’t even contemplate not getting that money and being to finally live the life him and his family were pretending to live.

In addition, Bernini and his wife have a relationship based on Weber’s type of authority titled traditional authority, which shows that it rests on the established belief in the sanctity of immoral traditions. Every time they get into an argument it ends with him hitting her. Bernini displays a traditional type of social action in which his actions are controlled by tradition or deeply rooted habits (“the ways it’s always been done.”) This is also shown throughout the story of which he still corrects people when they do not refer to him as “Colonel Bernini”. This shows that he was still attached to his old title and clinging to a prestigious status which was based in his past life. Bernini abusing his wife and making her move all the time shows Durkheim’s concept of anomie regarding the wife. She shows a lack of moral regulation, a lack of feeling grounded due to moving all the time and not having a permanent home. She has a very strong fear of deportation (though it’s baseless because they are American citizens) because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen with them perhaps due to Bernini’s past.

On top of all this you have Officer Lester who expresses charismatic authority. He rests on the devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person. Officer Lester is driven by ideals and principles and not by the rules and particular formal requirements of his job. He goes beyond this and wants to be a hero and take matters into his own hands. He shows this when he saves a woman from her abusive husband by planting drugs in his house (whom is on parole). Therefore, he is immediately sent back to prison where he cannot abuse his wife anymore. He displays this type of affective social action of which his actions are determined by his specific affections and emotional state. As an officer he is part of a law enforcement bureaucracy where he’s expected to obey certain rules and chain of command (treating everyone the same based on legal status where in this case they are American citizens). He violated these expectations when he took the law into his own hands regarding the abusive husband and again when he offers Kathy help moving the boxes out of her house. He doesn’t follow protocol which shows he is ideal driven and doesn’t feel restrained by the rules of his job.

— Nicole Rizzo

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.