1. Traditional Authority: Of all the legitimating of authority, the appeal to tradition is certainly the most common.
People obey traditional authority because “it has always been that way”. The right of the king to rule is not open to question. People obey a ruler because they know that doing so in past generations has given their society order and continuity. Thus it is not tradition alone here that is at issue, rather the stability of the social order that is being accepted for its own sake. In a political system based on ‘traditional authority’ power is legitimated by ancient custom.
The authority of the ruler is generally founded on unwritten laws and it has almost a sacred quality. Tribal leaders and monarchs have always relied on traditional authority. From the historical point of view it has been the most common source of legitimating of power.
Traditional authority tends to be more common in organisations which stress upon continuity with the past and the upholding of widely shared values and beliefs. Example: Established churches, the higher reaches of government, and the courts and familial organisations based on kinship ties. In each one of these settings, it is inconvenient for us to question the authority relationships involved. We tend to follow the tradition for it has always been followed, and doing any other thing would 2.
Rational-legal Authority: In this kind of authority power is legitimated by explicit rules and procedures that define the rights’ and obligations of the rulers. Such rules and procedures are commonly found in a written constitution, and set of laws. Legal-rational authority stresses a “government of laws, not of peoples”, Officials here can exercise power only within legally defined limits that have been formally set in advance. This kind of authority is commonly found in most of the political systems of modern societies. In this kind of authority power is respected and complied with not because the followers are fools or because the exercise is endowed with extraordinary qualities as it is the charismatic case.
: Here, the legitimacy of authority is derived from the respect for the legality of power. Weber described such authority with reference to its most common organisational context, namely, bureaucracy, Weber writes-“Legal authority rests on enactment, its pure type is best represented by bureaucracy. The basic idea is that laws can be enacted and changed at pleasure by formally correct procedure.
The governing body is either elected or appointed and constitutes as a whole and in all of its sections rational organisations….”. 3. Charismatic Authority: “In a system based on charismatic authority, power is legitimated by the unusual, exceptional, or even supernatural qualities that people attribute to particular political, religious, or military leaders”. Weber called this extraordinary quality ‘Charisma’. Robert Bierstedt calls this kind of authority, not authority at all, but leadership. Human history provides classical examples of such leaders with that quality of Charisma’. Example: Jesus Christ, M.
K. Gandhi, Hitler, Napoleon, Mao, Castro, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Churchill, and so on. “The charismatic leader is seen as a person of destiny who is inspired by unusual vision, by lofty principles or even by God. The charisma of these leaders is itself sufficient to make their authority seem legitimate to their followers”.
Ian Robertson In stressing the importance and sanctity of tradition, Weber never aid that tradition is inviolable. He only said that tradition is the rule rather than an exception. There are exceptions also; Weber used the term “Charismatic authority” to refer to such exceptions (borrowing the term from the Christian theology). Weber writes: “Charismatic authority rests on effectual and personal devotion of the follower to the lord and his gifts of grace (Charisma). They comprise especially magical abilities, revelations of heroism, power of the mind and the speech. The purest types are the rule of the prophet, the warrior hero, the great demagogue”.
The important thing in charismatic authority is that the leader is not magical, but he is believed to be so. Through various devices and tactics the leader creates an army of true believers to get the perpetual support of the people. Yet Charismatic authority is inherently unstable. It has no rules or traditions to guide conduct. Since it is based on the unique qualities of a particular individual, it is undermined if the leader fails or dies. Subsequent leaders may lack the reason and qualities.
Hence systems based on charismatic authority are usually short-lived. “Each of these forms of authority represents an “ideal type”. In other words, each is an abstraction that is only approximated to a greater or lesser extent by any actual political system. In practice, political systems and political leaders may derive their authority from more than one source”.-Ian Robertson