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  Authority (Latin, ‘power [of origination]’) refers to a type of power which when exercised is obeyed because it is considered to be legitimate. Those who recognize the ‘authority’ consider it to be justified and proper, and so the exercise of authority tends to be effective in securing its objectives. Authority is also used to refer to the established political rule within a community or state when this rule is politically legitimate.

The sociologist Max Weber (1864 - 1920) distinguished three ‘ideal’ types of authority. Legal-rational authority entails obedience to formal rules that have been established by regular public procedures; traditional authority involves the acceptance of the rules which embody custom and ancient practices; charismatic authority is exercised because the followers or disciples believe in the extraordinary capacities of their leader. For Weber, any régime that has minimum acceptance has some semblance of legitimacy even if this is grounded on the use of force.

The term authority has been employed more loosely within sociology to refer to the influence exercised by leadership. It is also used in social psychology in research on the dynamics of small groups to refer to influence over individual belief and behaviour. DA

See also charisma; community; dominant ideology; hegemony; ideal type; ideology; legitimation; social control; society; state.Further reading R. Nisbet, The Sociological Tradition; , F. Parkin, Max Weber.



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