Also found in: Legal.
one of the most important characteristics of a state. The Marxist-Leninist theory of the state considers public authority to be a specific variation of social compulsory authority, one that arose after society split into antagonistic classes. Public authority supplanted social authority, which was characteristic of the primitive clan-tribal system and served the interests of the entire society, whether it was a clan, tribe, or alliance of tribes.
Public authority is the political authority of the ruling class regardless of the particular state forms in which authority is organized and exercised. The chief functions of public authority are to subordinate—which includes suppressing the opposition of other classes—and to organize and control society according to the economic, political, and nonmaterial interests of this class. In class antagonistic society, public authority is in essence the dictatorship of the ruling class, a means of exploitation of the working people. The apparatus of public authority consists of armed forces, intelligence, governmental agencies, the diplomatic service, and the like. In exploiter states, public authority is alienated from society in political and organizational terms and is maintained at the expense of the working people. Taxes and loans are the material foundation and the hallmark of public authority.
In a socialist state, public authority serves the interests of the people, expresses the people’s will, and is linked to the people by numerous democratic forms that are refined as socialism develops.