legitimate authority

legitimate authority


political legitimacy

any form of political rule in which the rulers successfully uphold a claim that they govern by right in accord with law, tradition or similar basis.

WEBER identified three ‘pure types’ of legitimate authority:

  1. legal-rational authority, resting on a belief in the legality of enacted rules and those achieving authority under these rules, e.g. elected representatives or civil servants;
  2. traditional authority, resting on an established belief in the sanctity of tradition and the acceptance of those chosen to rule in accordance with the customs and practices within this tradition, e.g. kings, queens or religious dignitaries;
  3. charismatic authority, resting on the devotion to an exceptional individual or leader and on the normative rules ordained by this individual, e.g. a prophet or warlord.

The last of these provides the dynamic or revolutionary element in Weber's overall account of political legitimacy. In the long run, how ever, e.g. after the death or departure of the exceptional teacher or leader, there occurs a routinization of charisma, and a reversion to traditional, or legal-rational, forms of authority. See also BUREAUCRACY, STATE, POWER, NATION STATE, SOVEREIGNTY, HOLMES, LEGITIMATION CRISIS.