The Three Types of Legitimate Rule (book)

The Three Types of Legitimate Rule (book)

"The Three Types of Legitimate Rule" is a book written by Max Weber, a German economist and sociologist. An English translation was published in 1958. His ideas about legitimate rule also appear in his "Basic Concepts in Sociology" and "The Theory of Social and Economic Organization".

According to Weber, beliefs in a legitimacy of a system of domination are not just philosophical matters. They contribute to the system stability and authority. All rulers develop some myth of their natural superiority, which is usually accepted by the ruled under stable conditions, but may be questioned during a crisis. Weber sees only three categories of legitimation strategies (which he calls 'pure types') used to justify the right of rulers to rule:
* Legal domination - is based on a system of rules which is applied administratively and judicially in accordance with known principles to all members of the group. The persons who exercise power are superiors appointed or elected by legal procedures. Superiors - officials - are also subject to rules that limit their powers, separate their private lives from official duties and require written documentation.
* Traditional domination - is based on a belief in the legitimacy of an authority that 'has always existed'. People in power usually enjoy it because they have inherited it. Officials consist either of personal retainers (in a patrimonial regime) or of personal loyal allies, such as vassals or tributary lords (in a feudal regime). Their prerogatives are usually similar to those of the ruler above them, just reduced in scale, and they too are often selected based on inheritance.
* Charismatic domination - is based on the charisma of the leader, who can show that he possesses the right to lead by virtue of magical powers, revelations, heroism, etc. The people who obey him are and followers. A leader's position is based on belief and charisma, not on tradition or legal rules. Officials are selected based on their personal devotion to the ruler, and charisma.

These 'pure types' exist only in some societies and are almost always found in combination with other 'pure types' - for example, familial charisma (important in kingship and the Indian caste system) is a combination of charismatic and traditional elements, while institutional charisma (existing in all church organizations, but absent from a priesthood that fails to develop such an organization) is a mixture of charismatic and legal elements.

The types of domination change over time, when rulers fail to live up to the expectations of the ruled. For example, after the death of a charismatic leader his followers, if they lack the charisma of their predecessor, will try to institute a system based on tradition or law. On the other hand, these systems can be challenged by the appearance of a new charismatic leader, especially during economic or military crises.

See also

* Tripartite classification of authority

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