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.
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.
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.
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.