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Max Weber, a German economist and sociologist, explaining his tripartite classification of authority. Weber also refers to the three types of legitimate rule in his famous essay “Politics as a Vocation. Weber’s ideas about legitimate rule also appear in his Basic Concepts in Sociology and The Theory of Social and Economic Organization.
The translation of the German word Herrschaft is at the heart of understanding Weber’s point about political legitimacy. The translation Rule was employed in the 1958 essay translation by the key early Weber translator Hans Gerth, and is in the title of the essay as translated here. Other translators of Weber including Alexander M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons, translated Herrschaft as authority.
According to Weber, beliefs in the legitimacy of a political system go beyond philosophy and they directly contribute to the state system stability and authority. All rulers have an explanation for their superiority, an explanation that is commonly accepted but during a crisis can be questioned.
Legal authority is based on a system of rules that is applied administratively and judicially in accordance with known principles. The persons who administer those rules are appointed or elected by legal procedures. Superiors are also subject to rules that limit their powers, separate their private lives from official duties and require written documentation.
Traditional authority is based on a system in which authority is legitimate because it “has always existed”. People in power usually enjoy it because they have inherited it.
Their prerogatives are usually similar to those of the ruler above them, just reduced in scale, and they too are often selected based on inheritance. Charismatic authority is based on the charisma of the leader, who shows that he possesses the right to lead by virtue of magical powers, prophecies, heroism, etc. Officials consist of those who have shown personal devotion to the ruler, and of those who possess their own charisma.
The types of authority change over time, when the ruled are no longer satisfied with the system. For example, after the death of a charismatic leader his followers, if they lack the charisma of their predecessor, will try to institute a system based on tradition or law.
On the other hand, these systems can be challenged by the appearance of a new charismatic leader, especially during economic or military crises. Tony Waters and Dagmar Waters, Weber’s Rationalism and Modern Society, Palgrave Books 2015, pp. Tony Waters and Dagmar Waters, Weber’s Rationalism and Modern Society, Palgrave Books 2015, pp. Reinhard Bendix, Max Weber: an intellectual portrait, University of California Press, 1977, p.