School of
Social Sciences
___Introduction to Sociology
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Max Weber -
Types Of Authority

 


The Person The Years of Mastery 
Introduction An Exemplary Moralist
The Early Academic Career  
   
The Work  
Introduction The Function of Ideas
Natural Science, Social Science, and Value Relevance Class, Status and Power
The Ideal Type Bureaucracy
Causality and Probability Rationalization and Disenchantment
Types of Authority  

Weber's discussion of authority relations--why men claim authority, and feel they have a legitimate right to expect willing obedience to their command--illustrates his use of the ideal type as an analytical tool and his classification of types of social action.

Weber distinguished three main modes of claiming legitimacy. Authority may be based on rational grounds and anchored in impersonal rules that have been legally enacted or contractually established. This type is rational-legal authority, which has increasingly come to characterize hierarchical relations in modern society. Traditional authority, on the other hand, which predominates in pre-modern societies, is based on belief in the sanctity of tradition, of "the eternal yesterday." It is not codified in impersonal rules but inheres in particular persons who may either inherit it or be invested with it by a higher authority. Charismatic authority, finally, rests on the appeal of leaders who claim allegiance because of their extraordinary virtuosity, whether ethical, heroic, or religious.

It should be kept in mind that here, as elsewhere in his work, Weber was describing pure types; he was aware that in empirical reality mixtures will be found in the legitimation of authority. Although Hitler's domination was based to a considerable extent on his charisma, elements of rational-legal authority remained in the structure of German law, and references to Germanic Volk tradition formed a major element in the appeals of National Socialism.

This typology of various forms of authority relations is important on several counts. Its sociological contribution rests more especially on the fact that Weber, in contrast to many political theorists, conceives of authority in all its manifestations as characteristic of the relation between leaders and followers, rather than as an attribute of the leader alone. Although his notion of charisma may lack rigorous definition, its importance lies in Weber's development of the idea that the leader derives his role from the belief his followers have about his mission.

From Coser, 1977:226-227.

  

Websites On Weber Work By Weber
Max Weber Class Notes (External Link) Bureaucracy
  Fundamental Concepts in Sociology (External Link)
  The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
   



These pages were originally written by: Angus Bancroft and Sioned Rogers
Redesigned and updated by: Pierre Stapley - 2010