Power and Authority.

Length: 5 Pages 1283 Words

A simple definition of power could be the ability both to demand that people do something, and to say how a thing should be done or organised. Authority, however, is where power is granted by consent; and when an individual or committee is said to have authority, the reason that justifies this authority is known as legitimacy. In general, the government has authority because it has legitimacy through: tradition, as Parliament has existed for hundreds of years; charisma, as many people may follow present PM Tony Blair through the strength and attraction of his personality; and democratically through the people, as they vote in elections for the MP or party they wish to form the government. An example of an organisation that has power but not necessarily authority would be the Mafia, which exercise their power by sometimes using violence and force, or money, status, education or sex. In Liberal Democracies such as the UK, power is split into three types: legislative power, which is the power to make laws; executive power, which is the power to implement laws; and judicial power, which is the power to interpret laws. The two concepts of power and authority can be understood in different ways, for example Steven Luke's three faces Continue...

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The statement also shows how people with power tend to exercise their power by making those with less power do things to benefit themselves. Steven Lukes published the book 'Power: A Radical View' in 1974 that discussed his theory that there are three faces of power. Although this notion of charisma may lack a straight definition, its importance lies in Weber's development of the idea that the leader derives his role from the belief that his followers have about his mission. The same example applies: the Government could be accused of doing this in referendums as they sometimes hold them to make the public believe it is democratic when they are actually taking place for their benefit. Feminists believe that in reality the women that fill these roles and maintain the manipulated norms are being exploited by and for the benefit of men. Max Weber, whose study took place in the 19th century, decided that authority was split into three types: charismatic authority, traditional authority, and rational - legal authority. Overall, the concept of authority by Weber has been accepted by many sociologists, and although Lukes' alternative definition of power is radical, they both provide understandable theories to discuss the concepts. The third and final dimension or 'face' of Lukes' Marxist view on power is different from the above two; it believes people in positions of power have the ability to shape and manipulate desires of different social groups. This type of power is known as 'power behind closed doors', and the individuals or groups exercising power do so by preventing those who take a decision by limiting the amount of decisions they are allowed to take. The first face or dimension is the 'decision making'; Lukes believed power involved making decisions over issues where different individuals or groups express different policy preferences. The nature, sources, and limitations of political authority and power have been much debated questions since the time of the ancient Greeks. Examples of people who have become powerful due to their following could be Hitler, Mother Teresa, Ghandi or even Margaret Thatcher. In this decision making process, power lies in the Government. Also, many people think that the Government's use of referendums falls into the category of 'non- decision making' as they public feel that they are being involved with the running of the country and so democracy is increased whereas the Government is still in power as they are not obliged to follow the referendum's decision.


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