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authority

Definition of Authority

(noun) Power perceived as legitimate.

Types of Authority

Authority Pronunciation

Usage Notes

  • Plural: authorities
  • The analysis of authority in social science was first developed by Max Weber, who identified three ideal types of legitimate authority. Weber identified two types of authority that had dominated previous social organization: traditional authority and charismatic authority. Weber then identified a new type, rational-legal authority, which lead to his theory of bureaucracy.
  • While authority is derived from legitimacy, at times the basis of legitimacy is transitory. For example, de facto governments have authority because of the ability to use force.
  • Also called legitimate power.
  • An (adjective) authoritative or (adjective) authoritarian (adverb) authoritatively source grants (noun) authorization.

Additional Information

Related Terms


Works Consulted

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Cite the Definition of Authority

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “authority.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved August 24, 2019 (https://sociologydictionary.org/authority/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

authority. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/authority/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “authority.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed August 24, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/authority/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“authority.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 24 Aug. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/authority/>.