Weber: Types Of Legitimate Domination


  1. Domination = probability command(s) will be obeyed. Subtype of power and influence. Wide variation in basis. Always a measure of “voluntary compliance”
  2. D of groups takes staff. Staff obey from custom, affect, or pay & this determines type of domination. But legitimacy also needed.
  3. D rarely relies on custom, affect, or pay alone. Everything about social organization of D seems to depend on basis of legitimacy claim.
  4. Legitimacy is a reasonable basis for classifying types of domination.
  5. Authority relationship is a broad category.
  6. Mere “power over” not same as authority. A involves command and obedience. But there are gradations in real world.
  7. People obey for different “real” reasons. What’s important is how basis for validity of authority is related to “means of its exercise.”
  8. Effects of domination as social phenomenon extend throughout society.
  9. Ideology of “leader as servant” does not change this analysis.
  10. Three types of basis for legitimate authority: rational; traditional; charismatic.
  11. Rational = legal authority based on rules.
  12. Traditional = based on belief in sanctity of “the way it’s always been done.”
  13. Charismatic = based on exceptional character of an individual
  14. Variations across types in person obeyed and what determines range of things covered.

Structure of Excerpt

This excerpt has three parts. First (1-3), Weber "announces" domination, puts it in context of power and influence, and names some structural issues (such as need for a staff) that go with it. Second (4-12), he works through 7 "meta-theoretical" issues — mainly establishing that "basis of legitimacy" has multiple structural implications. Finally (13-17), he lays out his three ideal types of authority/domination.


The Problem

Weber begins by defining domination distinguishing it from power and influence, which he says are bigger categories. The German for domination here is "Herrschaft" which could be literally translated as "lordship" as in "lordship over." This heavy-handed etymology is useful here because it implies that we really are talking about a social relationship. For Weber, too, an important component of domination or authority is that it includes a subjective role for the dominated: Weber says it always "implies a minimum of voluntary compliance, that is an interest (based on ulterior motives or genuine acceptance" in obedience" (Weber 2010, 116.3, emphasis in original). Weber's point here is that in the case of authority relations, there is subjective action on both sides of the relationship.

Domination over groups of people requires a staff. The problem is how to maintain staff loyalty. Loyalty can be achieved "by custom, by affectual ties, by a purely material complex of interests, or by ideal (wertrationale) motives" (116.5), in other words, custom, affect, pay, or beliefs. But no matter the basis, more — legitimacy — is needed. Based on experience, Weber notes, different kinds of legitimacy give rise to different "type[s] of obedience," "kind[s] of administrative staff," and "mode[s] of exercising authority" (116.7).1

Some Meta-Theoretical Considerations

(para 5) The concept of authority represents a continuum of types of social relationships. It is present to a different degree in different realms governed by law and custom, but we'd say it exists whenever there is some degree of "voluntariness" on the side of the subject. Just having power — as when a bank exercises monopolistic control — is not enough to call it "authority" per se (para 6, 117.5).

Sociologically we are interested in the patterns of people obeying commands and the overall basis of the claim that the commands are legitimate. Even if people only obey cynically, we can still try to ascertain how the supposed validity of the commands is framed (para 7, 117.7). And further, even if the ultimate subjects of a ruler are so powerless that we cannot talk about them in these terms, the staff that the rule uses to control them will be loyal to him on the basis of something and this can be examined in terms of types of legitimate authority.

Weber continues with a definition of "obedience": when the action of the person obeying follows the "content of the command" enough that you can identify one with the other and that this comes from the fact of the command not the actors own intentions. In other words, we would not call it obedience if A tells B to do something B was going to do anyway (para 9, 118.3). Still, the subjective experience of "obeying" can vary, but this doesn't affect our efforts to categorize here (para 10, 118.4). Neither, for that matter does the fact that in some systems we talk about leaders as "servants" of the lead (para 12, 118.5).

III The Pure Types

  1. Rationally based authority rests on belief in rules and we obey persons who are elevated, by rules, to position of authority.
  2. Tradition based authority rests on "the way it's always been" and we obey individuals granted authority by tradition.
  3. Charismatic authority rests on the exceptional qualities of a particular person.

In each case, the "authority" specifies both who has it and what it covers.

Max Weber Legitimate Authority.pptx

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