power and authority

Topics: Authority, Charismatic authority, Rational-legal authority Pages: 9 (1882 words) Published: October 13, 2014


Power in its broadest sense is the ability to achieve a desired outcome, sometimes seen as the power to do something. In politics, however, power is usually thought of as a relationship; that is, the ability to influence the behavior of others in a manner not of their choosing(Heywood 2013)

Weber variously defined power as the probability that an actor in a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despise resistance, regardless of the basis of in which this probability lies (Lukes 1986)

According to Henry Fayol authority is the right given to a manager or director to achieve the objectives of an organization, it is the right to get things done through others. The right to give orders to the subordinates and to get obedience them because managers cannot do their work without authority, it is the right to give orders and power to exact obedience

This essay seeks to compare and contrast power and authority. As already mentioned, power is the ability to make people act in a certain way. Normally people always associate power with the use of applied force but it does not necessarily imply the use of physical force only. Power can exist in two forms namely; soft power and hard power. Soft power is a staple of democratic politics. The ability to establish preferences tends to be associated with intangible assets such as an attractive personality, culture, political values and institutions and policies that are seen as legitimate or having moral authority (Nye 2004 23). This basically means that soft power involves the use of looks and personality to influence other people’s actions. For example, other countries observe America as a well-developed and powerful state, in that way most people are more aspired such that they do their studies there. By doing so, the American state has influenced other people to think of them in a certain manner. The other type of power that exists is hard power. Unlike soft power this one this one involves the use of applied force to influence other people. A typical example is the one that was demonstrated by Muammar Gaddafi during his ruling days in Libya. He was a political leader and a dictator; he remained firmly in power and made a reputation as a shrewd. He also went to an extent of attacking protesters in his own country leading to full armed rebellion of Libya. Hard power can rest on inducements or threats. But sometimes you can get the outcomes you want without tangible threats or payoffs (Nye 2004 14) Authority means having legal rights to exercise power over people. Authority is therefore based on an acknowledged duty to obey rather than on any form of coercion or manipulation. In this sense authority is power cloaked in legitimacy or rightfulness (Heywood 2013 4). It exists in three types namely traditional, charismatic and legal rational. Traditional authority is regarded as legitimate because it has always existed: it has been sanctified by history because earlier generations have accepted it. It operates according to a body of concrete rules: that is fixed and unquestioned customs that do not need to be justified because they reflect the way things have always been (Heywood 2013 82). Charismatic authority is based on power of an individual’s personality. Owing nothing to a person’s status, social position or office, it operates entirely through the capacity of the leader to make a direct and personal appeal to followers as a kind of hero or saint. For example Adolf Hitler(Heywood 2013 84).

Legal rational authority operates in most modern states. The power of the president, prime minister or government official is determined in the final analysis of formal constitutional rules which constrain what an office holder is able to do (Heywood 2013 84)

Authority is the...
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