Authority (derived from the Latin word auctoritas), as a concept, can be used to mean the right to exercise power given by the State (in the form of government, judges, police officers, etc.), or by academic knowledge of an area (someone that can be an authority on a subject) or, in some societies, by higher spiritual powers or deities.
When the word authority is used in the name of an organization, this name usually refers to the governing body upon which such authority is vested; for example, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority or the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. It can also mean the right to do something or execute an order.
In government, the term authority is often used interchangeably with power. However, their meanings differ: while power is defined as "the ability to influence somebody to do something that he/she would not have done", authority refers to a claim of legitimacy, the justification and right to exercise that power. For example, while a mob has the power to punish a criminal, for example by lynching, people who believe in the rule of law consider that only a court of law has the authority to punish a criminal legally as the law says.
There have been several contributions to the debate of political authority. Among others, Max Weber, Hannah Arendt, Alexandre Kojève and Giorgio Agamben have provided some of the most remarkable texts.
In political philosophy, the jurisdiction of political authority, the location of sovereignty, the balancing of freedom and authority (cf. Cristi 2005), and the requirements of political obligations have been core questions from Plato and Aristotle to the present. Most democratic societies are engaged in an ongoing discussion regarding the legitimate extent of the exercise of governmental authority. In the United States, for instance, there is an apparent prevailing belief that the political system as instituted by the Founding Fathers should accord the populace as much freedom as reasonable, and that government should limit its authority accordingly.
In the discussion regarding the legitimacy of political authority, the ends of the spectrum of views could be described as either a belief in the absolute freedom of the individual (i.e. Political anarchism), or the belief that there must be a central authority (in the form of a sovereign) that claims ownership and control over the masses (i.e. statism). The argument for political anarchy and anti-statism is made by Michael Huemer PhD, in his 2013 book, The Problem of Political Authority. In that book, he delves into the various justifications used by political theorists throughout history to justify the legitimacy of political authority via the State. On the other hand, one of the main arguments for the legitimacy of the state, the "social contract theory", is made by Thomas Hobbes in his 1668 book, Leviathan.
Since the emergence of social sciences, authority has become a subject of research in a variety of empirical settings: the family (parental authority), small groups (informal authority of leadership), intermediate organizations such as schools, churches, armies, industries and bureaucracies (organizational and bureaucratic authorities), and society-wide or inclusive organizations, ranging from the most primitive tribal society to the modern nation-state and intermediate organization (political authority).
The definition of authority in contemporary social science remains a matter of debate. According to Michaels in the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, authority is the capacity, innate or acquired for exercising ascendancy over a group. Other scientists argue that. It is power that is sanctioned and institutionalized.
Max Weber, in his sociological and philosophical work, identified and distinguished three types of legitimate domination (Herrschaft in German, which generally means 'domination' or 'rule'), that have sometimes been rendered in English translation as types of authority, because domination isn't seen as a political concept in the first place. Weber defined domination (authority) as the chance of commands being obeyed by a specifiable group of people. Legitimate authority is that which is recognized as legitimate and justified by both the ruler and the ruled.
Weber divided legitimate authority into three types:
History has witnessed several social movements or revolutions, against a system of traditional or legal-rational authority, which are usually started by Charismatic authorities. Weber states that what distinguishes authority from coercion, force and power on the one hand, and leadership, persuasion and influence on the other hand, is legitimacy. Superiors, he states, feel that they have a right to issue commands; subordinates perceive an obligation to obey. Social scientists[who?] agree that authority is but one of several resources available to incumbents in formal positions. For example, a Head of State is dependent upon a similar nesting of authority. His legitimacy must be acknowledged, not just by citizens, but by those who control other valued resources: his immediate staff, his cabinet, military leaders and in the long run, the administration and political apparatus of the entire society.
Authority can be created either expressly or by implication; (2) public entities act publicly, using the same means to communicate the grant of authority to their agents that they use to communicate this to third parties; (3) apparent authority describes the situation when a principal has placed restrictions on an agent that are not known to a third party; (4) restrictions on government agents are accomplished in the open, through laws and regulations; (5) everyone, including contractors, are supposed to know the laws and regulations of our government; and thus (6) the concept of "apparent authority" is often inapt when dealing with the government, insofar as the only cognizable restrictions on the agent's authority are deemed known to third parties, shattering any appearance of authority.
To validate an argument, we refer back to our ancestors - or to someone who, while still alive, has already garnered the sort of authority only ancestors normally have.