Weber On Legitimate Norms And Authority Assignment

Weber On Legitimate Norms And Authority Assignment Words: 2652

Weber in this treatment of legitimate orders and authority is dealing with different aspects of a single phenomenon-the forms that underlie all instances of ordered human interaction. In his treatment Weber distinguishestwo fundamental components of this ordering: normsand The differencesbetween the two are obvious and fundamental. authority. Norms are rules of conduct towards which actors orient their behaviour Weber, 1964; pp. 124-5). Ordered interaction is achieved when a high probability exists that a significant number of actors in a given context will orient their behaviour to the same norms.

The essenceof authority is a relationship between two or more actors in which the commands of certain actors are treated as binding by the others (Weber, 1954; p. 328). Authority is thus a sphere of legitimate command and where authority exists ordered interaction is also possible. Thus authority and norms representpolar principles of social organization: In the one case organization rests upon rientation to a rule or a principle; in the other instance it is based upon compliance to commands.

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The significance of legitimateorder and authority is, as Weber makes clear, that the most stable ordering of conduct is achieved when the ordering principles are held to be binding by the actors subject to them: An order which is adhered to from motives of pure expediency is generally much less stable than one upheld on a purely customary basis through the fact that the correspondingbehaviour has become habitual. The latter is much the most common type of subjective attitude. But even this type of order is in urn much less stable than an order which enjoys the prestige of being considered binding, or, as it may be expressed, of ‘legitimacy. (Weber, 1964; 125. ) The critical question then becomes that of the exact relationship between the various types of authority and norms. We believe that the key to the synthesisof the separate discussionsof the legitimacy of ordersand authority lies in an explication of these relationships: the point being that the types of authorityinvariablyexist in some relationshipto norms. The total institutional structure underlying ordered interaction is always some amalgam of norms nd authority.

Charismatic authority, represented by the prophet is the purest form of authority in that it claims the right to break through all existing 124 This content downloaded from 137. 158. 158. 60 on Fri, 21 NOV 2014 normative structures. As such, charismatic authority precipitates charismatically-certified norms, e. g. , sacred law as revealed by the prophets (Weber, 1964; p. 361). In the stage of the ‘routinization’ of charisma, charismatic authority becomes encrusted in sacred norms which govern its allocation, as in the proceduresfor resolving the problem of succession.

These orms can be understood as having their legitimate basis in (b) of Weber’s categories cited above, i. e. , in affectual attitudes. The relationship between the system of authority and the normative order in charismatic authority thus follows a characteristic development. To begin with, charismatic authority is substantially unbounded by norrns. The prophet, so long as he retains his charisma, can destroy old norms and create new ones. In time, the workings of charismatic authority leaves a residue of sacred norms produced by the word or deed Of the prophet.

These charismaticallycertifiednormslimit the uthority of successors to the original charismatic leader. The movement is then from a system of virtually pure authority to a system of authority with an admixture of constraining norms. Charismatic authority produces norms whose legitimacy is ascribedto i. affectual attitudes . legitimizing the validity ofwhat is newly revealed.. In the case of traditional authority the relationship between norms and authority is reversed. Where in charismatic authority the leader generatesnorms, in traditional authority, the normsgenerate the leader.

The bearer Of authority-the king-or the hereditary chief depends on traditional orms for his authority. He claims a legitimate right to the throne by virtue of the traditions which define succession. The legitimacy of traditional authority thus rests upon the legitimacy of traditional norms. The same traditional norms constrict the sphere of traditional authority in a way unknown to charismatic authority. The traditional leader is limited by custom in the range of his edicts. In legal-rational authority a similar dependent relationshipis found.

The authority derives from legal norms. The bureaucrat derives his authority from the legal norms defining the sphere of jurisdiction of his office. The legitimacy of legal-rational authority thus flows from the legitimacy of legal-rational norms, and just as the sphere of traditional authority is bounded by traditional norms, the sphere of legal-rational authority is bounded by legal norms. The essential difference is that legal norms and legal rational authority can be shaped and modified with a facility unknown to traditional authority.

It is important to emphasize here that this legal rational authority restsupon normswhose legitimacy is ascribed to the fact that they have . been established in a manner which is recognized to be legal’, i. . , (d) of Weber’s categories referred to above. For the three forms of authority, we then find three sets of relationships to norms. Charismatic authority sweeps aside old norms and norms generates charismatically-certified new norms (i. e. , . 125 legitimated by… virtue of affectual attitudes Traditional authorityis legitimated by traditional normsand is additionally circumscribed by them.

Legal rational authorityrestsupon legal normsand is also contained by them. Thus the three types of authority are related to three of the four categories of legitimacy underlying norms. As for the remaining category of normative legitimacy-that deriving from a rational belief in its absolute value we shall have to use a different route of approach to trace its relationship to authority. BASIC ATTITUDES TOWARDS LEGITIMACY The essence of legitimacy, whether it be of norms or authority, is the sense of duty, obligation, or ‘oughtness’ towards rules, principles or commands. What is the fundamental nature of these attitudes?

Weber provides us with four categories of normative legitimacy and three categoriesof legitimate authority: are we then to conclude that there are seven fundamental postures f legitimacy, or can they be distilled to more basic forms? Parsons has argued that the root Of legitimacy lies in charisma (Parsons, 1968; pp. 658-69). We shall argue that the seven Weberian categories can be reduced to two basic forms of legitimacy. The basic attitudes of legitimacy can be stated in terms of Weber’s typology of social action (wert-rational, zweck-rational, traditional, and affectual action).

Before attempting this, for the sake of brevity and clarity we quote in full Weber’s description of the four categories: Social action, like other forms of action, may be classified in the following four ypes according to its mode of orientation: (l) in terms of rational orientation to a system of discrete individual ends (zweckrational), that is, through expectations as to the behaviour of objects in the external situation and of other human individuals, making use of these expectations as ‘conditions’ or ‘means’ for the successful attainment Of the actor’s own rationally chosen ends; (2) in terms of rational orientation to an absolute value (wert- rational);involving a conscious belief in the absolute value of some ethical, aesthetic, religious, or other form of behaviour, entirely for its own sake and ndependently of any prospect of external success; (3) in terms of affectual orientation, especially emotional, determined by the specific affects and states of feeling of the actor; (4) traditionally oriented through the habituation of long practice. (Weber, 1 964, p. 115. ) The category of zweck-rational, or purpose-rational action can be immediately dismissed as a basis of legitimacy, because in this instance the norm or authority is accepted, not out of a feeling of rightness, but out of the rational calculation that submission is in the interests Of the concerned party. A criminal who hesitates to violate certain laws out of 126 ear of the penalty of capture orients himself in this way to laws which he does not recognize as legitimate.

The category of traditional action can also be discardedas a potential basis of legitimacy since, as Weber points out, this action is habitual, automatic and unreflective it is very often a matter of almost automatic reaction to habitual stimuli which guide behaviour in a course which has been repeatedly followed’, Weber, 1 964, p. ii6). It is clear that the sense of ‘oughtness’essential to legitimacy is absent here. This leaves the categoriesof affectual and wert- rationalaction and we shall argue that all forms of legitimacy can be u bsumed under these categories. Affectual action involves some emotional posture, whether this be positive attachment, awe, fear or reverence, and it is readily apparent that such elements are found in the orientation to traditional and charismatic norms and authority.

Thus an affectual orientation underlies four of the seven categories (traditional authority, traditional norms, charismatic authority and affectually legitimated norms). The question of wert-rational legitimacy is somewhat less accessible, since here we have a sense of obligation which is ultimately rational in nature. Consider the example of certain typical legal norms, e. g. , tax laws. We recognize that a complex spectrum of attitudes exists towards such legislation and that many obey these laws on the basis Of selfinterest (to avoid punishment) rather than out of a sense of obligation. For those who recognize the legitimacy of the laws, however, the nature of that legitimacy is based on the ‘legality’ of the laws, i. e. , that they were passed in the duly accepted manner.

The idea of ‘legality’ is here the basic value against which the legitimacy of the law is measuredthus its wert-rational character. The law s not the object of reverence or awe; the temper of its legitimacy is a sober judgment of rightness’ owing to its relationship to the fundamental value of correct legal procedure. Weber’s category of legitimate norms involving a rational belief in the absolute value of the norm also falls within this principle of wertrational legitimacy and in addition has an interesting and profound relation to the ‘ordinary”legal normsjust mentioned. The example that Weber provides for this category is that Of ‘natural law’ and we may understand it to apply to all categories of ‘higher law’ and morallyrelevant law.

Certain laws, such as those relating to family life, capital punishment, sexual behaviour, and other salient moral issues are accepted not on the basis of their legality, but because they express moral principles which are held as absolute values in themselves. A useful example of this type of legitimacy is found in civil rights legislation. In addition to the purely formal legal legitimacy just cited is the legitimacy based on the principle of social equality that these laws serve. If we contrast the attitudes towards traffic laws and laws structuring equal 127 Weberon legitimatenormsand authority ranchise the difference is immediately apparent. In the one case the legitimacy derives from the pure legality of the laws, in the other case it flows from the principle of equality that the laws implement.

These different bases of legitimacy of legal norms are treated by Weber in his legal sociology in terms of formal and substantive rationality (Weber, 1954, Ch. VIII). Formal rationality refersto the internal consistency of a body of law; substantive rationality refers to the relationship of law to some external criterion of justice or value. In the one case the rightness of a law is judged in terms of its legality’, its formal appropriatenessin terms of existing legal principles, i. e. , its procedural correctness. In the other case the rightness of the law is judged in terms of its implementation of a specific extra-legal value, e. g. , equality, freedom, or conceptions of morality, patriotism, honour, etc.

Our argument is that Weber’s principle of formal rationality is a principle of legitimacy equivalent to the fourth category of normative legitimacy (recognizingnormsas legitimate because they have been established in a manner which is recognized to be legal’) and that the principle of substantive ationality is equivalent to the third principle of normative legitimacy (recognizing a norm as legitimate by virtue of a rational belief in its absolute value . In both instances the character of legitimacy is that of a rational commitment. We logically include in this category legal-rational authority because of its derivation from rational legal norms as cited above. Despite what has been said thus far the full distinction between what we have called affectual and wert-rational legitimacy may still be obscure. We are fortunate, however, in having available a unique experimental emonstrationof these categories in Piaget’s study of the attitudes of children towards the rules of the game of marbles (Piaget, 1 9600,ch. l).

From our point of view this is a study of the legitimacy of those rules and Piaget’s results fall strikingly close to the two fundamental postures of legitimacy based upon Weber’s categories of social action. Piaget finds an early and late stage in the development of these attitudes. The morality of constraint, the first stage, appears to correspond to affectual legitimacy. The rule is considered to have eternally existed, is immutable and is charged with reverence. The similarity o traditions and sacred law is of course clear. In the second stage, the morality of co-operation, the attitude towards rules is no longer tinged with awe and reverence.

The rules are respected insofar as they are oriented to a sense of reciprocity and justice. The rules can be changed to satisfy this basis of legitimacy. Thus in this second form the attitude towards the rules bears the character of a wert-rational orientation. Our position then, in distinction to Parsons, who finds charisma as the single generating principle of all varieties Of legitimacy, is that there are two basic attitudes of legitimacy: a egitimacy based in feeling (affectual) and a legitimacy based in reason (wert- rational). This 128 dichotomy is reflected in the two stages of attitudes towards rules in the work of Piaget-the moralities of constraint and co-operation.

The Weberian categories of legitimacy towards norms and authority can also be grouped under these headings: charismaticauthority, traditional authority, sacred laws and traditional norms are all rooted in the legitimacy of feeling: legal rational authority, legal rational norms and higher law based on absolute values are different varieties of a legitimacy based on reason. Ill. THE FOURTH TYPE A major problem in the Weberian typology of authority is the difficulty of conceptualizing the patterns of legitimacy of democratic political institutions. For example, how are we to understand the nature of the authority of the president of the United States?

Shall we say that his authority is of the legal- rational type? If so, then the sphere of his authority is demarcated by the constitution, and the laws passed since, and his right to exercisethat authorityis certified by the legal proprieties of his election. But how then are we to explain certain curious waxings and wanings of presidential authority. We know that if a president is elected by a ‘landslide’ that there is much talk of a ‘mandate’, and conversely, if he is a minority president the legitimacy of his authority is somehow suspect. We know that challenges to presidential authority will be made in terms of the consent of the governed, e. g. in the case of unpopular undeclared wars the right of the president to wage such wars is challenged on constitutional grounds and on the basis of the absence Of the consent of the governed. We know also that the authority of other important political offices is often challenged on a similar basis. The actions of the Supreme Court are thus often challenged on the grounds that nine men, who are not elected, are frustratingthe popular will. The legitimacyof actions by congressmenand governorsmay also be attacked on the grounds of its divergence from what .. the people want The common element in these examples is of course the legitimacy of authority based upon the consentof the governed.

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