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Social Democratic Party. Their influence declined

after the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany

in 1934, although neglect of their ideas underestimates

their significance for Marxist theory. Austro-

Marxists were interested in the development

of Marxism as an empirical social science and

were influenced by other intellectual currents in

Vienna at the time, notably logical positivism and

neo-Kantianism. The specific ideas of the Austro-

Marxists are illustrated by the four major studies

undertaken by Adler on the philosophy of science,

Bauer on nationality and nationalism, Hilferding

on finance capitalism, and Renner on social functions

of law (see law and society). Much of Adler’s

work was devoted to the clarification of the theoretical

foundations of Marxism and to its re-presentation

as an empirical social science. He drew on

both neo-Kantian and positivist philosophies to

claim that the Marxist concept of “socialized

humanity” was a conceptual a priori that made

the investigation of causal regularity possible.

Adler’s view of Marxism as a sociological theory

was broadly shared by other Austro-Marxists and

in turn influenced the development of sociology

in Austria up to 1934. Over three decades Austro-

Marxists analyzed the profound changes in capitalism

the most significant of which is characterized

by Hilferding as Finance Capital (1910). This

work was concerned with problems of circulation

and capitalist production and addressed the

theory of money, growth of joint-stock companies,

monopoly capital, economic crises, and imperialism.

Hilferding argued that there had been a structural

change in capitalism with the separation

of ownership from control in the joint-stock

company. This enabled small numbers of people

to acquire control over a large number of companies

in which a central role was played by the

credit system and banks (“finance capital”). But

technological progress makes ever-larger quantities

of capital necessary, so the volume of fixed

assets increases, the rate of profit falls and competition

is curtailed through the formation of cartels

and monopolies. This in turn changes the role of

the state, which increasingly engages in conscious

rational organization of society. The aim of socialist

politics is, then, not the abolition of the state

but the seizing of state power in order to bring

this rationalization and direction of social life to

fruition. However, a further aspect of this closer

relationship between state and cartels is the

emergence of imperialist politics, involving a

struggle over world markets and raw materials.

In this context, socialism will not arise from any

inevitable breakdown of capitalism but through

the political organization of working-class political

parties creating a rational economic system.

These ideas are reflected in Renner’s theory of the

relative autonomy of law and Bauer’s theory of

nationalism as the ideology of imperialism.


authoritarian personality

World War II was followed by the rapid development

of social scientific analyses of prejudice and

racism. One of the most influential but controversial

of these was The Authoritarian Personality (1950),

the result of research undertaken by Theodor

Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswick, Daniel Levinson,

and R. Nevitt Sanford as part of the Berkeley

Public Opinion Study and for the Institute of

Social Research, also known as the Frankfurt

School. The Authoritarian Personality used two psychodynamic

tests, the A (authoritarianism) and F

(fascism) scales, and was based on interviews with

audience research authoritarian personality


e´migre´ Germans in the postwar United States. It

examined the connection between deep-rooted

personality traits and prejudice, and analyzed

the formation of the “potentially fascistic individual.”

This authoritarian personality type displayed

characteristics of “authoritarian submission” –

disliked giving orders but had an uncritical attitude

towards idealized moral authorities of the ingroup;

“authoritarian aggression” – a tendency to

seek out and condemn people who violate conventional

attitudes; anti-intraception – opposition

to imagination and creativity; superstition and

stereotyping – would believe in superstition

and think in rigid categories; power and toughness

– identification with powerful figures; cynicism

– generalized hostility and belief in

conspiracies; projectivity – projecting onto stigmatized

groups unconscious emotional impulses;

and preoccupation with sex and concern with

“goings-on.” This personality type will become

anxious and insecure when events upset their

previously existing worldview. The personality

type was associated particularly with (what the

authors saw as) the highly sexually repressed

lower middle class, a group that felt threatened

by both large corporations and socialism and was

predisposed to support authoritarian politics.



The term authoritarianism indicates a political

regime in which government is distinguished by

high-level state power without legitimate, routine

intervention by the populace governed, for

example through binding procedures and practices

of popular consent-formation, public opinion,

free speech, and government accountability.

Citizens’ appeal against the decisions of the ruler

is discouraged and, eventually, repressed by coercive

means. A wide array of nation-state societies

have historically been governed by such regimes.

Although authoritarian rule is usually deployed as

a shorthand for oppressive measures, it can also

(but not wholly without coercion at some point)

feature as paternalistic benevolence. Authoritarian

rulers hold themselves responsible (but not

accountable) for the ruled subjects’ well-being

andmay enforce strict conformity “for the subjects’

own good.”

In the political sociology of Max Weber, the

term also occurs in the characterization of

the transition between authority systems in the

West. Traditional differs from modern (that is rational-

legal) authority in that, by character, law in

the authoritarian regime is particularistic, both

formal and substantive inequality before the

law exist, and the ultimate purpose of law as

coherent body is not well elaborated. According

to Weber’s differentiation of ideal-typical regimetype

activity, non-authoritarian regimes are characterized

by adjudication (highly rationalized law)

rather than administration. They emphasize

rights, including social rights, and political authority

is impersonal and impartial, with sovereigns

serving citizens to maintain and develop

their rights.

In comparative-historical method and macrosociology,

the authoritarian regime-type is commonly

differentiated from totalitarian and

democratic systems. Whereas there is wide consensus

over the general distinction between democratic

regimes on one hand and authoritarian and

totalitarian on the other, there is much disagreement

over the difference between authoritarian

and totalitarian regimes in history. There are two

camps, one arguing that totalitarianism is a more

extreme form of authoritarianism, and a second

arguing a categorical difference between the two.

The regime-type distinction became particularly

important in a practical sense to international

relations during and following the Cold War

period, because it allowed governments to argue

it would be ethically unproblematic for them to

interact with authoritarian nations charged with

human-rights violations, because these nationstates

would be capable of political reform and

therefore should not be isolated – unlike totalitarian

ones. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes

are usually compared with regard to their degree

of subordination of their political subjects’ lives.

The full control of the citizenry and the enforcement

by terror under both fascism and Stalinism

are two well-documented examples of totalitarian

regimes in the twentieth century. One outstanding

analysis of the parallels of these two regimes

was delivered by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of

Totalitarianism (1951), in which she emphasized

that totalitarian ideologies are marked by the purposeful,

radical liquidation of any freedom,

thereby denying any space for action and thought,

as well as aiming at changing human nature.

Another defining criterion is the extent to which

regimes are revolutionary or conservative –

authoritarian regimes are argued to be the latter,

while totalitarian regimes are said to transform

the basic structure of society. ANN VOGEL


The concept of authority has a long and rich history

within western political philosophy, where it

authoritarianism authority


has been often coupled and contrasted with liberty

and other significant concepts. It has not had

the same resonance within sociology, where it

often appears in the same context as the power

concept. The relationship between the two concepts,

however, is construed in rather different


Sometimes authority is categorically contrasted

with power. For instance, Robert Nisbet, in his

influential work The Sociological Tradition (1967),

has argued that, with the advent of modernity,

the power phenomenon has displaced authority.

This displacement has happened in a particularly

dramatic manner in the course of the second

of the “twin revolutions” – the industrial one

with its main site in England, and the political

one breaking through in France. Much in the

sociological tradition, he suggests, constitutes a

critical reflection on the power phenomenon, and

compares it unfavorably with “authority.” The

latter was a very significant aspect of pre-modern

European society, where it was enmeshed in, and

structured, magnified, justified, and bounded by,

such forces as religion, the family, law, and tradition.

Power, instead, de-coupled itself from these

phenomena, and sought to control and modify

society through sheer, factual force, first and

most signally exhibited in all its brutality in the

“terror” phase of the French Revolution.

The nostalgia for the premodern order which

Nisbet considers intrinsic to the whole sociological

tradition expressed itself also in its reverence

for authority. This is much in evidence in the

response of Edmund Burke (1729–97) to the revolutionary

events themselves, in the proto-sociology

of French Restoration thinkers, and later in

Alexis de Tocqueville’s worried reflections on the

penchant of democratic societies for a new form

of despotism. Among later social theorists, Nisbet

emphasized E´ mile Durkheim’s hankering for authority,

especially in the form of laws and other

public arrangements which would restrain the

ruthless greed of the over-individualized, atomized

members of modern society.

In these conceptualizations, authority is characterized

by the sense that it speaks from above

individuals, with a voice at the same time forbidding

and benevolent, whose commands evoke respect

and create in their addressees a sense of

obligation. But if here authority is contrasted

with power, other sociological renderings of the

concept juxtapose it to power. For instance, in

the context of recurrent arguments about the respective

conceptual provinces of power, force, coercion,

influence, manipulation, and authority,

the latter is sometimes seen as exemplified by

the phenomenon banally characterized as

“doctor’s orders.” Here, authority typically seeks

to induce subjects to actions they would not

engage in on their own, but does so because it is

grounded on another subject’s superior knowledge

of the circumstances and expresses its concern

with the interests of the former subjects. The

benevolence component of the first understanding

is strongly stressed. To simplify these complex

conceptual relations, we might say that a further

use of “authority” subordinates it conceptually to


This variant needs closer reflection, because it

has lent itself to much elaboration by social theorists.

Let us begin with Max Weber’s concept of

power (Macht) which sees power present, within a

social relationship, if and to the extent that one

party to it is in a position to realize its own interests,

even against the (actual or virtual) opposition

of the other party. Weber himself remarks

on certain liabilities of this understanding of

power, such as the fact that it can be applied to

relations of no great significance, and that within

a given relation “power” so understood may easily

shift from one party to the other, and then vice

versa, as the issues vary. Given this difficulty, it

is preferable, in sociological discourse, to make

use chiefly of a concept narrower than power,

characterizing situations where power asymmetries

are particularly marked, and affect and

structure larger and relatively durable contexts

of interaction. This may happen, in particular,

when power is “legitimate.”

For legitimate power, Weber proposes the concept

Herrschaft. This term means literally “lordship,”

but it has seemed appropriate, to the

English translators of Weber, to employ a different

expression. One of the alternative translations

proposed, besides “rule,” “rulership,” and “domination,”

is “authority.” In this capacity, that is in its

conceptualization as “legitimate power,” authority

has acquired much currency in English sociological

discourse. It was put forward in 1947 as the

translation of Herrschaft by Talcott Parsons and A.

M. Henderson in The Theory of Social and Economic

Organization, their edition in English of the first

part of Weber’s Economy and Society (1922 [trans.

1968]), which for about two decades held sway

in the English-speaking world. Furthermore, even

the later, complete, and much better edition of

Economy and Society by Guenther Roth and Claus

Wittich (1968), while making some use of an alternative

version of Herrschaft (domination) continued

to use “authority” in rendering Weber’s

authority authority


final statement of his typology of Herrschaft –

widely recognized as one of his most significant

contributions to sociology and political science.

What follows refers chiefly to that typology.

First, what does “legitimacy” mean? According

to Weber, it constitutes a significant qualification

of a relationship where commands are routinely

issued which evoke obedience. They can do so,

however, on rather different grounds: because

the addressees of commands are totally accustomed

to automatic, unreflected submission; as a

result of those addressees’ calculation of the respective

probabilities and effects of obedience

versus non-obedience; finally, because the addressees

sense that, as moral beings, they owe obedience

to those commands, that these ought to be obeyed

because they have been duly issued by people

entitled to issue them.

In this last case, commands can be said to be

legitimate. This entails that they are more willingly

and reliably obeyed, that sanctions (see norm[s]) for

disobedience are less likely to be called for, that

the whole relationship – while remaining, at

bottom, a relationship of power – is rendered

more stable, durable, wide-ranging, and effective.

These advantages of authority, that is of power

endowed with legitimacy, have long been recognized

– for instance, in a statement from Jean-

Jacques Rousseau (1712–78) in his Social Contract

(1762): “the strongest person is never sufficiently

strong to be always master unless he converts his

strength into right, and obedience into duty.”

Weber imparts an original twist to this generalization.

If a power relationship turns into one of

authority insofar as it is grounded on an argument,

however implicit, to the effect that those

in power are entitled to issue commands, and

those receiving commands are duty-bound to

obey, then one may differentiate the various types

of authority by referring to the contents of that

implicit argument.

Weber then argues that, at a high level of abstraction,

where the whole range of historical

reality can be encompassed conceptually by few

ideal-typical constructs, that argument has always

had one or the other of three contents, each

characterizing a distinctive kind of authority.

Traditional authority. This rests on reverence for

the past, on the assumption that what has always

been the case is sacred and deserves to persist.

Thus, what makes a command rightful is the

extent to which it echoes previous, time-hallowed

commands; the rightful power holder is the descendant

of a former power holder (typically, a

patriarch); the appropriate sentiment towards

him of those subject to his power is that of filial

devotion; and so on.

Charismatic authority. Here, the commands are

issued by a person to whom transcendent forces

have imparted a “gift of grace,” enabling that

person to perform extraordinary feats that bear

witness to the power of those forces and benefit

those who follow the person in question. These

feats may be victories obtained through unprecedented

military action and leading to wide-ranging

conquest and much booty; or the proclamation of

new beliefs and values, opening up novel understandings

of the meaning of existence and

avenues to after-worldly salvation. Accordingly,

those commands are intrinsically innovative,

break with tradition instead of reasserting it,

and are to be obeyed because they express the

unchallengeable will of the person in question.

Legal authority. Here, single commands constitute

correct instantiations of rules of lesser or

greater generality, valid in turn because they

have been formed and enacted according to certain

procedural rules. These establish which individuals

are entitled to issue which commands in

which circumstances, and thus constrain the

impact of the personal interests of those individuals

on the content of the commands. In turn,

obedience does not express the personal subjection

of those practicing it to those issuing the

commands, but constitutes, however implicitly,

the dutiful observance of an entire system of rules

which justifies and orients those commands.

What Weber thus typifies are at bottom cultural

realities, sets of understandings, and justifications

which can be, and sometimes actually are,

advanced in the context of discourses. On this

account, his typology has sometimes been interpreted

idealistically, as if in Weber’s mind the

nature of its legitimacy determined all significant

features of an authority relation.

This is not an acceptable interpretation. As we

have seen, the reference to legitimacy serves to

differentiate conceptually a phenomenon which

presents aspects of a very material nature, in

particular those relating to the exercise or the

threat of violence as the ultimate sanction of

commands, or the arrangements made to provide

those in command with material resources. Furthermore,

legitimacy itself often emerges, in one

configuration or another, only over time, as a byproduct

of those or other material aspects of the

authority relationship. Figuratively, one might

say that authority develops as naked power,

over time, clothes itself in legitimacy – a development

that in turn has considerable consequences

authority authority


for the nature and the effects of those very


For instance, the extraction from the economy

of resources to be made available to those in a

position of power, can be facilitated by the emergence

and the consolidation of a feeling, within

the collectivity, that the commands through

which such extraction is carried out appeal to

the dutiful submission of subordinates to their

legitimate superiors. Furthermore, the extraction

process will vary in its forms, tempo, intensity,

predictability, according to the nature of the legitimacy

vested in those superiors. Those features of

it will in turn have distinctive effects on other

aspects, both of the authority relation and of

social life in general.

In fact, Weber’s typology of authority, while

privileging the varying nature of the legitimacy

as a way of partitioning conceptually that phenomenon,

subsumes under the resulting partitions

a whole range of further components, such

as the arrangements for the judicial settlement of

disputes and punishment of crime, the typical

ways in which those in authority present and represent

themselves and those subject to their commands,

and above all the arrangements made for


In other terms, some of the most significant

concepts produced by Weber’s thinking about politics,

such as those of patriarchalism, patrimonialism,

feudalism, administration by notables, or

bureaucracy, are framed within his typology of

authority, and are among his most important legacies.

They convey the expressly sociological

nature of that thinking, for in his judgment other

approaches to the concept of authority, particularly

philosophical and juridical ones, had not

paid sufficient attention to the day-to-day aspect

of authority, such as administration itself. It

seemed very important, to him, to create typologies

of the ways in which administrators are recruited,

trained, instructed, deployed, monitored,

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