Typology of Authorities

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Weber's Typology of Authority
Max Weber, who is also know as one of the principal architect of modern social science, also has the distinct honor of being one of the foremost social theorist in the 20th century (Kim, 2007). Weber argued that all oppressive structures and all uses of power must exist within a legitimated order which is based on a complex mixture of two kinds of legitimating factors: subjective and objective (Allan, 2005, p. 151). Underlying the subjective and objective legitimacy, in referencing authority, Weber identified three ideal types of legitimacy upon which authority rests: rational-legal, charisma and traditional (Allan, 2005, p. 152). These three were considered Weber’s typology of authority, which Weber developed to help his effort in understanding the nature of modern organizations (Tolbert & Hall, 2009, p. 70). Weber’s typology of authority distinguishes the basis of a mixture of ways power may be exercised in any society or institution (Shortell, 2003). Let’s discuss Weber’s three types of authorities, rational-legal, charisma and traditional, to better understand the benefits of each one.

Rational-legal authority characterizes hierarchical relations in modern society and most power relationships in contemporary organizations (Tolbert & Hall, 2009, p. 70). Legal authority invests in an individual on the basis of a normative or legal structure (Bower, 1971). In a rational-legal authority, the bureaucracy is rationally designed for optimum performance throughout each portion of an organizational structure, to help contribute to the whole (Jarvis, 2005). The rational-legal authority is based on a value system which understands the value of relationships in social organizations should be managed by a group of general laws and rules (Tolbert & Hall, 2009, p. 70). These laws and rules that are created with the purpose to deal efficiently and effectively with problems and questions that may be encountered by the people within this system (Tolbert & Hall, 2009, p. 70). In this systems, organizational members easily conform to a rational-legal authority because the rules are defined, administered fairly and rights and privileges help to protect members from hierarchy injustice (Jarvis, 2005). One example of rational-legal authority could be that of a town’s mayor. They mayor has authority within a city or a municipality, but his authority is bound by rules and laws of that city. The mayor is held responsible by the electorate who placed him or her in power and by the by-laws within that civil organization. If the mayor violates the rules or laws that are in place, there are already established rules and laws as to how to handle the mayor’s actions. The mayor also has the authority to change set laws to help benefit the overall municipality where he has authority. Charismatic authority stems from devotion to a particular power hold and is based on the power holder’s personal characteristics (Tolbert & Hall, 2009, p. 70). In referring to charismatic authority, Weber stated (1947) “in its pure form charismatic authority may be said to exist only in the process of originating. Charismatic authority cannot remain stable, but becomes either traditionalized or rationalized, or a combination of both” (Langlois, 1997). Some examples of charismatic leaders are Gandhi, Julius Caesar, Hitler and Preachers who are followed and obeyed because people obtain a strong emotional bond to them (Henry, 2007). People typically respond to a charismatic leader because they believe they have a special gift or power. Groups of people with similar emotional views, view a charismatic leader as being extraordinary, indication special gifts, talents, and abilities and superiority. Kings and Queens were born with the power of charismatic authority. Our religious organizations also produce a unique charismatic authority helping people fill a spiritual void and being seen as the anointed or chosen one’s to preach God’s word. In...
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