Is Legal Rational Authority the Most Rational Type of Authority?

Topics: Max Weber, Authority, Charismatic authority Pages: 7 (2410 words) Published: July 27, 2013

In every society, whether pre-modern or modern, there has been a hierarchy of command of which everyone must adhere to. In order for this system to operate, there must be someone in charge. Since every human being is found in a group or an organization which may be a country, tribe, institution or a family, it is obvious that the hierarchy of command is also in different types and forms.Therefore, this essay is an attempt to show with reasoning, whether or not that legal-rational authority is the most rational type of authority as viewed by Max Weber. It will first explain the three types of authority, then compare them in terms of rationality and applicability with present day examples and finally, a conclusion will be withdrawn. The word “authority” comes from the verb “authorize” which means “lead”. It is defined as a transactional process characterized by active reciprocal interrelationships in which the values, training, and perceptions of members play a crucial role in defining and validating the power of leaders (Peter, 1963:135).Authority rests on socially accepted norms that define compliance with certain orders as a social duty. Norms are rules of conduct towards which members orient their behavior (Ibid: 223).An individual is considered an authority because of his technical expertise, combined with his ability to communicate effectively with the group (Basu, 1994). Rationality means the effectiveness of something while the word “legal” means “within the accepted formal rules”.Therefore, legal-rational authority is belief in the legality of patterns of standard rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands. Under this type, authority is held by legally established impersonal orders and extends to people by virtue of offices they hold. Their power is determined by their qualifications. As long as individuals hold these offices, they have a certain amount of power, but once they leave office, their authority is lost. This authority can develop because of the systems of laws which are in different socities.For example; a political system causes the development of legal-rational authority (Kathy, with this type of authority are constitutions, written documents, and established offices, reguralised models of representation, regular elections and political procedures. These are developed in opposition to earlier systems such as monarchies or other traditional forms where there are no well developed set of rules. The subordinates within this type of authority accept the legality of rulers, believing in the right of those who have legitimate rights to exercise power (Ibid).Those with the power then exercise power based on this right of legitimace.The subject persons to the commands are legal equals to those who obey “ the law”. The “apparatus” that implements the system is also subject to the same principles, thus organization is continuous (Ravindra,1991:78).This examination of regal-rational authority led Weber to define an ideal-type bureaucracy which is a rationally and systematically constructed pure type of action, used as a measuring tool to determine the similarity between actual social institutions and defined ones. It incorporated hierarchy, written rules of conduct, promotion based on achievement, specialised division of labour and efficiency. Information flows up the hierarchy of command and directives flow down. This ideal-type was intended to promote economic growth and prosperity. Many of its concepts are echoed in today’s capitalist and political systems (Ob cit). Traditional Authority derives its legitimacy from the acceptance of it since hoary past e.g. in Swaziland (Peter,1963).This is the type of authority in which the traditional rights of a powerful and dominant...

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