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traditional authority

Definition of Traditional Authority

(noun) A type of power legitimized on the basis of long-standing customs.

Examples of Traditional Authority

  • Hereditary nobles in Europe, particularly the monarchy. The Royal Court, which is attached to a ruler is typically filled with family and friends, who often serve as administrators as well. However, since appointments are made based on relationships to the ruler, the appointed may not be competent.
  • President of the United States, while individuals may be different, they are assuming the authority of their predecessors as grant by the Constitution.
  • The Pope holds authority as a surrogate of Jesus. Individual popes may be charismatic with crowds lining up to hear them speak, but authority is in the papacy, not the individual.

Traditional Authority Pronunciation

  • IPA Pronunciation
    • American English
      • /trəˈdɪʃ(ə)nəl ɔˈθɔrədi/
      • /trəˈdɪʃ(ə)nəl əˈθɔrədi/
      • /trəˈdɪʃ(ə)nəl ɑˈθɔrədi/
    • British English
      • /trəˈdɪʃn̩(ə)l ɔːˈθɒrᵻti/
      • /trəˈdɪʃən(ə)l ɔːˈθɒrᵻti/
  • Syllabification: (tra·di·tion·al au·thor·i·ty)

Usage Notes

  • Plural: traditional authorities
  • The authority of tradition comes from time or “right”, typically because ruler’s family has always held power and thus transfers the authority through heredity or the position (e.g. prime minister), not the individual holds the legitimate authority. According to Weber, people obey traditional authority because of the “eternal yesterday” not because of statute or tradition.
  • Traditional authority is typically patriarchal and found in tribal or feudal societies.
  • Charismatic authority typically disrupts traditional authority. According to Weber, most past societies were characterized by traditional authority, with periods of charismatic authority.
  • A type of authority.

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Cite the Definition of Traditional Authority

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “traditional authority.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved October 16, 2019 (https://sociologydictionary.org/traditional-authority/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

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

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

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “traditional authority.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed October 16, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/traditional-authority/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“traditional authority.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 16 Oct. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/traditional-authority/>.