What is power and authority?

Essay by GayassHigh School, 11th grade December 2003

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According to the dictionary (www.dictionary.com) Power comes from the Latin 'potere' which means 'to be able.' Just from this little description we can tell that to have power would mean that you are able to do things. The dictionary then goes on to say that if you have power you can do anything you want, within reason.

Authority is the power to enforce laws, exact obedience, command, determine, or judge. Authority is also one that is invested with this power, especially a government or body of government officials

Both power and authority are closely associated and are sometimes interchangeable, though not always. According to Max Weber, a German sociologist who lived in the nineteenth century, there were three types of authority:

1. Traditional Authority - This type of authority is held by the monarchy, Parents, teachers etc. this could also be seen as hierarchical authority. It depends on established customs and traditions.

In the case of the monarchy, it means that one monarch commands the same amount of respect, obedience and loyalty as the previous monarch commanded.

2. Charismatic Authority - This type of authority is obtained through charisma, this means that certain types of personality give people authority; a good historical example of this is Hitler. Not many people believed in what he was saying but his charisma held them, convinced them that what he was saying was right.

3. Rational-legal Authority - This last type of authority (according to Weber) is the powers of the police and the right of Parliament to pass laws, which are then enforced onto the general populace. This is so because the people elected the government into power.

These types of authority are not absolute and they overlap continually, e.g. a teacher also has an amount of legal and charismatic power. Authority comes...