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Questions surrounding the topic of authority have long interested sociologists. Who has it? Where is it derived from? What kinds are there? How is it exercised?

Max Weber was interested in the concept of authority and how it related to what he perceived to be the increasing rationalization of society. He saw authority as the legitimate form of domination (there were illegitimate forms as well), which he defined as the “probability that certain specific commands (or all commands) will be obeyed by a given group of persons” (Weber [1921] 1968:212). He outlined three basic types of authority: traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal. Traditional authority is based on a historical precedent and the idea that one should rule because of a long-standing belief system. Charismatic authority is derived ...

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