Max Weber Power and Authority
What is power?
Power can be described as an individual or group’s ability to influence and/ or control others’ behavior, even against their will.
According to Max Weber, power is an aspect of social relationships and refers to the possibility of imposing one’s will upon another person’s behavior. A can get a person to be to do something that person be otherwise would not have done.
In Weberian terms, power is about this kind of ability to get your way, even when other people resist.
Power is present in social interaction and creates inequality situations since the one who has power imposes it on others. The impact of power varies from case to situation.
On the one hand, it depends on the capacity of the powerful individual to exercise power. On the other hand, it depends upon the extent to which it is opposed or resisted by the others. Weber says that power can be exercised in all walks of life.
The influential sociologist Manuel Castells argues that power relationships are the foundation upon which society is built upon because those in power built the social, political, cultural institutions within society and shape the values and norms of societies according to their interests and values.
However, Castells argues that even in those societies where power appears to be highly concentrated, there’s always the existence of counter-power or, in other words, wherever there is domination, there is also resistance to domination.
Therefore, social institutions are always the result of these constant power struggles.
A Manuel Castells has been particularly interested in using the Internet and wireless communication devices in the politics of resistance.
There has been an interesting use of Facebook and Twitter in the Politics of Protest of recent years. The use of social media in protest movements emerged in more developed countries in recent years, such as the movement in Spain and the Occupy Wall Street movement that emerged in New York a couple of years ago.
Sources of Power: Where does the power come from? How do people get power?
There are two primary sources of power within society.
This is illegitimate power that arises through three use of manipulation or force. This is the power that we would associate primarily with violence or the threat of violence.
The other source of power, which is legitimate, is because authority is called consensual power. This is a power relationship where people voluntarily submit to the will of others.
According to Max Weber, there are three legitimation systems, each with corresponding norms, which justify the power to command. It is these systems of legitimation that are designated as the following types of authority.
- Traditional authority
- Charismatic authority
- Rational-legal authority
Charisma means an extraordinary quality possessed by some individuals. This is a very personal form of authority, and this is where people will obey a political leader because of their personal attributes. This gives such people unique powers to capture the fancy and devotion of ordinary people. Charismatic authority is based on extraordinary devotion to an individual and the way of life preached by this person.
The legitimacy of such authority rests upon the belief in the supernatural or magical powers of the person. The charismatic leader ‘proves’ his/her power through miracles, military, and other victories or the disciples’ dramatic prosperity.
Charismatic authority is not dependent on customary beliefs or written rules. It is purely the result of the leader’s unique qualities who governs or rules in his personal capacity.
Charismatic Authority Examples
Some well-known charismatic political leaders from recent history would include people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
This system of legitimation flows from traditional action. In other words, it is based on customary law and the sanctity of ancient traditions. It is based on the belief that a certain authority is to be respected because it has existed since time immemorial.
Traditional authority is based on three authority of deeply embedded social customs and traditions. Traditional authority does not function through written rules or laws. It is transmitted by inheritance down the generations. Traditional authority is carried out with the help of relatives and personal favorites.
Traditional Authority Examples
In modern times, the incidence of traditional authority has declined. Monarchy, the classic example of traditional authority, still exists, but in a highly diluted form.
The Queen of England is a traditional authority figure, but she does not actually exercise her authority, as you may be aware. The land laws are enacted in her name, but their content is decided by the legislators, the people’s representatives.
The queen has a parliament, which governs the kingdom, but she does not appoint ministers. She is a nominal head of state.
Legal Rational Authority.
According to Max Weber, legal-rational authority is much more impersonal than charismatic authority. This is to do with the position that somebody holds within an organization.
The term refers to a system of authority, which is both rational and legal. It is vested in a regular administrative staff who operate per certain written rules and laws.
Those who exercise this authority are appointed to do so based on their achieved qualifications, which are prescribed and agreed upon. Those in authority consider it a profession and are paid a salary. Thus, it is a rational system, is an institution rather than their personal characteristics.
The position that somebody holds within an organization is meant to place clear limits on that office holder’s power.
In reality, political leaders might derive their authority from a mixture of these sources.
Legal Rational Authority Example
For example, take the former prime minister, Tony Blair. When he was prime minister, he had legal-rational authority. But he was also seen as quite an effective prime minister because of his personal charisma.
Elements of Authority
For a system of authority to exist, the following elements must be present.
i) An individual ruler/master or a group of rulers/masters.
ii) An individual/group that is ruled.
iii) The ruler’s will to influence the ruled’s conduct, which may be expressed through commands.
iv) Evidence of the rulers’ influence in terms of compliance or obedience shown by the ruled.
v) Direct or indirect evidence shows that the ruled have internalized and accepted that the ruler’s commands must be obeyed.
How do people use power? How is power exercised?
Three Faces of Power.
What is Steven Luke’s three faces of power?
Steven Lukes argues that power is exercised in three ways, which he called the Three faces of power: decision-making power, non-decision-making power, and ideological power.
According to Steven Lukes, there are three main ways power is exercised, what Steven Lukes has famously called the Three faces of power.
And they are;
- Decision Making
- Agenda Management, (Non-Decision Making)
- Manipulation of Wishes (Ideological Power)
Powers Decision Making
The first face of powers decision-making is the most obvious, the most visible, the most measurable former power. It is about individuals’ or groups’ ability to influence and implement decisions that affect other people within society.
The Parliament members are entitled to sit in the chamber and have decision-making power because they can make laws implement decisions that affect other people.
Agenda Management/ Non-Decision Making.
This is the ability of groups and individuals to set the political agenda and perhaps place limitations on the discussed issues.
For example, media play a significant role in this type of power. The media have quite a bit of influence in our society in laying down the list of subjects for public discussion, and
Manipulation of Wishes
The manipulation of wishes is the type of power that most sociologists would refer to as ideological power. According to Manuel Castells, this type of power is the ability to shape people’s minds in terms that favor the powerholders’ interests.
For Manuel Castells, the fundamental struggle for power within society is always about the people’s minds and any power based exclusively on coercion and intimidation. It is ultimately a weak form of power. The critical battle is about what happens in our minds.