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Authority is defined as the exercise of legitimate influence by one social actor over another. There are, of course, many ways that an actor can influence another to behave differently, and not all of them have equal claim to authority. To differentiate the term from other forms of influence, consider a simple hypothetical: Imagine that a person wielding a club forces another person to hand over his or her money and possessions. This act might be considered coercive—the exercise of brute power, which in many instances would be criminal. However, if the person with the club is a bailiff, a person occupying a legitimate role in a society, and menaces the other person in the process of repossessing goods, the act of influence may well ...

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