Weber proposed a three-part typology for authority:
Traditional Authority -- resting on the estabilished belief of sancitity
of traditions and legitimacy of those exercising authority under them
Rational-legal authority -- resting on a belief of the legality of
patterns of normative rules and the right of those elevated under those
rules to issue commands
Charismatic authority -- resting on devotion to sanctity, heroism,
and character of a person, and the normative rules ordained by him or her.
(from Scott p. 38)
Associated with each authority relation is a certain administrative structure.
Traditional authority leads to gerontocracy, patriarchialism,and feudalism.
Rational-legal authory leads to structures of which the most highly developed
is bureaucracy. Charasmatic authority leads to a more personal structure
of a leader and his devoted followers.
Authority in Organizations
Social scientists define authority as legitimate power. "Legitimacy
is the property of a situation or behavior that is defined by a set of social
norms as correct or appropriate" (Scott p. 305). So legitmate power
is the combination of a set of persons and power relations and a set of
norms governing the exercise of power and the response to it.
In informal groups norms develop where the subordinates to power see the
relationship as acceptable and appropriate. Obedience becomes somewhat independent
of the superior's individual characteristics and more dependent on the social
norms regarding the position. Peer group controls become also important
in supporting the emergent power structure. Scott adds that "a stable
role structure has emerged that guides the expectations of the participants,
making it possible for the leader to lead and for followers to follow without
the generation of disruptive emotional responses" (Scott p. 306). The
power relations become more impersonal and socially accepted. The subordinate
considers requests as more like obligations than preferences.
Authority structures tend to be more stable and effective control systems
than power structures (Scott p. 306). However, the emergent norms also restrict
and constrain the power of the superior, and give the subordinate group
collective strength over the superior. Scott concludes that "authority
is legitimate power" and "legitimate power is normatively regulated
power" (Scott p. 307).
Remember that in many cases there are multiple perspectives and competing
authority schemes within organizations. This authoratative pluralism is
a product of the Judeo-Christian tradition and is most prevelant in western
democracies who create and maintain these "checks and balance"
Katz and Kahn (1978) add that "The essential difference between a democratic
and an authoritarian system is not whether executive officers order or consult
with those below them but whether the power to legislate on policy is vested
in the membership or in the top echelons" (p. 58).