Power, Authority And The State Essay

1333 words - 5 pages

Waking up on the typical Monday morning, I feel groggy and confused. What day is today? I think it over and realize it is the dreaded Monday. Wishing it was still Sunday, I slowly get up and, like a snail, complete my morning routine. On my way to Hunter, everything is the usual–waiting for the suddenly delayed train, rushing through the massive horde of people trying to transfer trains, and finally arriving at school along with hundreds of others. I notice that the train station has set up a table lined with police officers checking passengers’ “suspicious” bags. The person in front of me gets called over by the police and she complies, by allowing the police officer to look through her bag. I keep walking as this is nothing out of the ordinary. During English class, my professor wants us to free-write for ten minutes. Everyone listens and begins frantically writing. I am finally done with all my classes for the day and while on the train, a performer enters with a charismatic air. He presents his speech and begins to dance. He is unlike the usual performers; there is something to him that they didn’t have. Riders alike take out their wallets to praise the performer on a job well done. What a normal day.
Authority is all around us, and it is a part of our daily lives. We listen to those we believe to be in charge of us and never give our obedience a second thought. What is authority? According to Max Weber, a German sociologist, authority is the legitimate power which one person or group holds over another and does not involve force or violence (10). Weber goes on to construct his “Tripartite Model of Authority” in which he narrows down the definition of authority into three sub-categories: legal/rational authority, traditional authority, and charismatic authority. The power of authority is subtle, yet powerful. We obey without understanding why.
The first type of authority is legal, or rational authority. Weber writes, “It is concerned with how a political order is regarded as legal in the eyes of the population…and the legitimacy is maintained by reference to a legal code” (13). Individuals or groups with legal rational authority are functional superiors or bureaucratic officials. This type of authority rules through the law, the government, and established norms. The reason their authority is accepted is that people generally believe rules and regulations are necessary in order to maintain a functioning society. Examples of legal authority figures are members of Congress, the President, the Queen of England, and average police officers. These authority figures are able to maintain their dominance because it has been accepted as a norm and necessity to follow the law.
The second type of authority is traditional authority. Weber states, “this type of authority is: resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and legitimacy of those exercising authority under rule” (12). Those with traditional authority inherit...

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