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SOCY 151: Foundations of Modern Social Theory
- Conceptual Foundations of Weber's Theory of Domination
Diverging significantly from Marx’s idea that history can be traced by the modes of production and the economy, Weber argues that history is characterized by different modes of authority. Leaders strive to rule in authoritative ways, they attempt to legitimate their uses of power. Weber argues that throughout history, leaders have successfully established domination in three modes of authority: traditional, charismatic, and legal-rational.
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Foundations of Modern Social Theory
SOCY 151 - Lecture 17 - Conceptual Foundations of Weber's Theory of Domination
Chapter 1. Review of Second Test Questions [00:00:00]
Professor Iván Szelényi: All right, good morning. I want to do what I did last time around the test; just to walk very quickly through the test questions and sort of test myself; how would I respond to them? There is a lot for today to cover. So I will rush. Let me just one more time emphasize, you have plenty of time to do that. Right? I have a discussion section at 7:00. So I don’t want to risk that something is going on wrong in the internet. So I will post this before my discussion section, before 7:00; exactly when, I don’t know. I mean, I have these anxieties, what Hobbes was talking about, and therefore I don’t want–I prefer to be five minutes early, rather than being an hour late. Right? So sometime before 7:00 you will find it, and you have to send your answer around 9:00.
Some of you communicated that you need another time, because you have already engagements; it is always you have to work this out with your discussion section leader–right?–and your discussion section leader will take care of your needs. And be brief. Right? Sort of the two questions should be about–more like four to six double-spaced pages, rather than much longer. I mean, we will accept eight. So you will not be penalized if you are longer. But the point is not to be long, but to be crispy. And again the point is, you know, you try to show the different views of the authors, and then comment on it, whether– which is more sensible. Right? And a third, a third, a third–right?–of a paper goes this way. You spend a third presenting one author; a third about an opponent of that author; and then your reflections on it. Right? That’s about it. So let me then rush through.
This is not an easy question–right?–Marx’s theory of alienation; Nietzsche’s or Freud’s theory of civilization. I mean, there is a common feature–right?–between the three authors. This really asks to create a controversy between the two. Right? You can pick two, usually. The common feature is that they are all concerned about modernity and people’s sense of being lost and being without control in modernity. And the problem of modernity: that we are too much controlled, and the control is increasingly inside us, rather than outside, and coercive. Right? I think that’s the common feeling. I think I made this point in the lecture.
If you read twentieth century literature, particularly first half, you find this feeling expressed by a lot of novelists. You read Franz Kafka–right?–you read Albert Camus. That’s where you get that same feeling expressed, to what Marx, Nietzsche and Freud are responding to. But there are big differences. Right?
Marx tries to move away from Hegel and wants to come down to earth and offer a theory of alienation which is rooted in the economy, into the production process. And Marx has a view what emancipated society will be, and he even has a historic agent who will get us there, to emancipation; the proletariat. Now Nietzsche is very different. Right? The genealogical method does not really offer you the right solution. Right? The genealogical method only shows you what is unique in modernity, in modern morality, in the Judeo-Christian morality, what you think is so attractive and so noble. And he shows–right?–how–right?–in the workshop where ideas are produced, it’s actually torture and oppression what operates. Right? So there is no good society, and no agent who will get you there. Right? You have to do it by yourself.
Now Freud also sees civilization as coming from repression of sexual drives. So he is in a critique of civilization. Right? But at the same time Freud has this dual attitude about civilization. Right? Civilization is coming from repression, but it is still sublimation, and the most beautiful things in human society–art and science–are coming from this sublimation. And he is also reflecting–he’s writing in 1930, through the rise of Nazism–an anti–right?–civilization, and he does not want to support that. Right? So in a way, you know, one can say that he does have- he does not offer you the vision of good society. To some extent he is with Nietzsche. He said, “You have to emancipate yourself. You have to figure out for yourself what your problem is.” And he certainly does not have a historic agent like Marx has. Anyway, this is the way how I would be dealing with this. And I will not tell you what my opinion is; I want to hear your opinion about it.
Okay, the second question. That’s not easy either. Practical theory of truth, and Nietzsche’s genealogical method. Well there is, again, a common element between Marx and Nietzsche. Neither of them believes in objective abstract truth. Right? Marx says there is no objective abstract truth. Truth is a practical question. Truth is being achieved by human practices. Right? And Nietzsche, of course, does not believe in objective truth. Right? He’s trying to find truth. But truth is being accomplished by comparing, you know, different notions of morality, and to show that in comparison with each other, both have its upsides and downsides. Right? So there is–by the way Nietzsche, don’t misunderstand him. He is not a nihilist. He does not say everything goes. Nihilism is a very negative term for Nietzsche. So he does not want to say there is no truth at all. He said truth is just relative, and you can arrive at a critical understanding of your situation by comparing your situation with another one.
There is, of course, a very fundamental difference again between Marx and Nietzsche. Because what is this practical truth? These are human activities, and Marx basically arrives at these human activities through changing the physical work, through the system of production. And again, he has the agent who is–this is the revolutionary practices of the proletariat, which will get you to the truth. There is nothing like that in Nietzsche. Right? Nietzsche does not have a historical agent, and does not have the society where after all you will get to true society.
Well this is actually a very simple question. Many of you did not like it. So I’m thinking very hard whether to put it on. It’s a bit narrow, but very simple. German Ideology and the Grudrisse. Very simple. There are two unique features in the German Ideology. One is when he–he does develop the notion of mode of production for the first time in this book, ‘45–1845. But he does identify the nature of mode of production primarily by division of labor. And this doesn’t serve him very well, because the division of labor does not capture the conflictuous relationship between classes, which eventually will have to lead to revolution. So he abandons it–does not finish the book. Because only at the very end of the book does he realize that the two components of mode of production are forces of production, technology, and relations of production. And relations of production, for most of the German Ideology, is division of labor. And then he realizes, no, no, no, it is not division of labor, but property relations: the relationship between those who have property and those who do not have property. And he also has a very deterministic view of history in the German Ideology. All societies have to go through the same modes of production: tribalism, slave mode of production, feudalism and capitalism.
In the Grundrisse, there are two big innovations. Now the center is property relations; the peak of history of capitalism, when the producer is separated from the means of production completely. And he breaks from the deterministic view of history. Right? Now he has this multi-linear development of history. Not every society has to come through slavery and feudalism. The Asiatic societies, in a quasi-communal society, can move directly into capitalism. Okay. So that’s basically a very simple question. I probably did a very bad job in the lecture, that this did not become clear.
So four, Marx as a historical materialist, and compare him with Freud. Well actually I am inspired here by Jürgen Habermas. And Jürgen Habermas says, “Well, Marx in the ‘Thesis on Feuerbach’ got it right when he said that the real point of departure is sensuous human activity.” At that time, when Habermas was writing this, he was still a materialist. Then he had his culture turn, and he’s probably not a materialist any longer. He said, “Materialism is if your point of departure is what you can get from through your senses, not through your ideas.” But he said Marx made a mistake; namely, that he reduced sensuous human activities to the economy, and to production. And well, he said, Freud is more interesting, because he has a different kind of sensuous human activity. And this is sensuous human activities between people–right?–sexual relationships.
In fact, Habermas makes it more complicated; I don’t want to get into Habermas. But his interpretation of Freud is that Freud also starts from sensuous human activity, to understand what is in people’s mind. But it is not economic reductionism; if anything, it is sexual reductionism. Right? It is a pan-erotic explanation of history. But, in some ways, you know, they all starts for sensuous human activities, in explaining what can be in people’s minds–what is our ideas. So the starting point is material sensuous experience–right?–and the product are ideas. Right? This is, in this sense, they are both materialists, but in different ways. Is that–I suppose it should be pretty clear now. Right?
Okay, Classes. Well you can have different views on this, and especially whether Marx’s theory of classes are still applicable. You know, Marx defined classes in terms of property relationship. He had two classes in The Communist Manifesto, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The question is does it still matter? And you have to reflect on this. Do you think property relations still is a major antagonistic divide in American society, or not any longer? And, of course, Marx believed in The Communist Manifesto, yes there is still a middle-class, but it will be done away; middle-class will be become either bourgeois or become proletarian. And, of course, in the United States, the received wisdom is that we are all middle-class. Are we all middle-class? I would like to hear your view about this. Right? But that’s the big question. Clearly Marx did get it wrong; that’s undoubtedly, I think everybody agrees. I think Karl Marx, if he would be alive, he would say, “Ah, I screwed it. I made a mistake. Of course there is a big middle-class.” Right? So, I mean, you don’t have to really hate Marx, you know, that there is a middle-class. He clearly made a mistake. Right? Anyway, but you can ask the question, who is the middle-class? Are we indeed all middle-class? Is this sensible to talk about the big bourgeoisie? Well there are no big bourgeoisie any longer. This is people’s capitalism we live in. And these are the questions I would like you to deal with.
Okay, labor theory of value, and Adam Smith. I thought this is a very easy question. Right? Adam Smith said that, you know, all value is created by labor. But then he said when it comes to distributing wealth or income, it has to go to labor, capital and land. Marx, on the other hand, said, “Well, this is a contradiction. If all labor goes to- if all value is created by labor, it should go to labor. And therefore if it is taken away from labor, it should be understood as exploitation.” Is this an advance or is this a misunderstanding? And you can say, “Well this is a misunderstanding because Adam Smith was right. He said all labor is–all value is created by labor, in societies where capital is not accumulated and the land is not privately owned, and therefore this is a consistent argument.” Or you can say, “Well Marx actually got a very important point, because there is indeed exploitation; there are exploitive relationships, and it does drive history.” I mean, how you take your position, this is up to you. You have to argue consistently–right?–and the argument of consistency will be rewarded.
Seven: Well this is–again, a lot of people said don’t do it because we have not talked about domination. I’ll probably leave it, because I will talk in the next–how much have I got?–forty minutes about this–domination and mode of production, and what domination is.
Well Protestant ethic; was he as an idealist? Some people think this is a too narrow question. Well I think you kind of can ask the question, is this really an idealist view? Some people said, what Weber is saying, that it is Calvinism which created capitalism. Is this his view? What is exactly his view? He is very critical of Marx. He believes that Marx has a simplistic materialist explanation: it is consciousness which–it is existence which determines consciousness, rather than the other way around. Is Weber saying the opposite? It is consciousness which determines existence or capitalism. And that’s what The Protestant Ethic is trying to do. And, of course, he has this interesting notion of elective affinity–questions whether there is really a causal relationship between ideas and the economy. And you can labor on this, what he might mean. And what you think–this is a cop-out–right?–that he actually–is Marx more of a contemporary social theorist, because he has a causal explanation? He tries to give a causal explanation. And that’s what you are told in political science or economics. “Real social science comes up with causal explanations.” Right? And Weber shies away, and Marx tries to do causal analysis. Okay.
Did I miss nine? Well this is very much a–very similar to the previous question. Here only I ask you to compare the two: Is Marx really a simple-minded economic deterministic–determinist? It is existence which determines consciousness. Or does he have a more complicated view? Is there a contradiction in Marx? Right? The philosophy of praxis, that we are making history. He also makes that claim. How does it fit? Does he simply contradict himself, or is this a consistent ideology? And, you know, Weber, is he an idealist, or he is not really an idealist? What does he mean by this elective affinity?
And then finally, with the final question, I think people seem to be liking this. Not easy, by the way. Marx clearly has a notion of human nature. Right? Marx believes–is a Rousseauian–an even more radical than Rousseauian theory of human nature, especially in his theory of alienation. Right? We are good, and the problem comes as society makes us alienated. But I think he goes a little beyond Rousseau. Because he thinks that in the state of nature we are actually social; being social is in our nature. Right? Rousseau did not think so. The noble savage has to be socialized into civil society. Marx believes that this whole idea of state of nature is an abstraction. We are all born in society, and by nature we are social. Only capitalism, which makes us competitive–competitive bourgeois individuals, makes us asocial and egoistic.
Well does Weber has a theory of human nature? It’s a more difficult question to pose. I think, if I would argue, I would say if Weber does have one, it is closer to Hobbes, because he does believe that people–the history of humankind is a struggle for power; yes, an ending struggle for power, and that’s why he explained human history with power struggles. That’s about it; that’s the way how I would, in a nutshell, try to deal with this. And I hope this was somewhat helpful, and makes you relaxed–right?–that this will not be a difficult test. It will be actually a lot of fun, to deal with these intriguing, interesting issues. Okay? And believe me, I really want you to have fun. I think these are interesting questions.
Chapter 2. Four Types of Social Action [00:21:43]
Okay, now we come to Weber’s theory of domination. And that’s almost impossible, what I am trying to do now. But will try to rush you through. And first of all we have to understand Weber’s theory of action which has some similarities to Hobbes and Hobbes’ theory of voluntaristic action. But then we also have to deal with Weber’s notion of rationality, and then his distinction between power and domination; his theory of legitimacy. This is very, very important. It’s one of the most fundamental concepts, particularly in political theory, but also in economics and in sociology. And finally his types of authority; we will deal at great lengths with different types of authority. I’ll just give you a sense what this is in the next twenty-five minutes.
Okay, the four types of economic action. He makes a distinction. The question is, how can–how are we orienting with each other? What motivates us when we are interacting with other people? He said well we can act instrumentally, rationally, and I will explain it to you what he means. And then he said we can also act value rationally; and again we’ll come–explain what this means. In our interaction we can be led our emotions. And he said this is–well, whether this is rational; he said this is not irrational thing. It is not necessarily irrational that we act out of our emotions, and I will tell you when he thinks this is becoming irrational, acting out of emotion. Or, in our interactions we can be led by tradition.
Now to understand this, that we actually interact with each other in very different ways–over time, with the same person, we can act occasionally instrumentally or occasionally we can act affectually. Right? Occasionally we act towards somebody because we have a great deal of emotion or feeling; love or hate. And occasionally we can act instrumentally. Right? We use somebody in order to achieve somebody. Can I borrow twenty dollars from you? Right? Then we act instrumentally. But we also can act out of hate or love. Right? In a discussion section I really hate the guts of somebody who is always speaking–right?–in the discussion section, and then I just will contradict, because I just–it is my antagonism. Or I just sympathize with somebody, and therefore I also tend to disagree [correction: agree]; basically driven by my emotion. And now I’m not talking about love, which binds people more.
Now what is behind this is Weber’s fundamental methodology. He calls his approach to society ‘interpretative sociology.’ The term interpretative sociology is translated from German. The German term is Verstehen; Verstehen means understanding. Occasionally we also translate it into English, that what Weber does is understand. But Weber’s strong commitment is that social analysts–be it an economist, be a political scientist, be a sociologist, be a historian, be an anthropologist–is not to pass value judgments on others, but to try to understand what drives other people. Don’t assume that other people, because they act differently than you, would act in their situation, that they are dumb, evil, or irrational. Right?
This is particularly a debate with economists. Economists tend to have–right?–a very strong conception that there is one economically rational behavior. Weber said, ‘No; I mean, there are various types of ways how we can act, and my job is not to say, ‘Now you’re very rational’. My job is to try to put myself into your position, and to understand why you did, and why you did the way how you did it.” This is interpretive sociology. Right? This is understanding, Verstehen. Right? That I emotionally try to put myself into your situation, and rather than saying, “This is what I would do”, I decide if I were you, in your situation, would I do the same thing? Why do you do that the way how you do do? Assuming that you are not acting irrationally, but try to understand why you act the way you act. Okay?
Now let’s talk about instrumentally rational action. This comes to the closest what most economists, especially neoclassical economists, regard as rational economic action. He said, “Instrumentally rational action”–he calls it Zweckrationalität–is when the ends and the means are all rationally taken into account and weighted. Right? This is kind of utility maximization. Right? When you–utilitarians define this as the rational way to act. Right? That you have–you are striving for happiness, and you try to achieve this happiness, and in this process you maximize utility. You try to reduce the expenses, and you try to increase the return on what you try to achieve. But let me also emphasize that Weber’s notion of instrumental rationality does not say that the ends are irrational. Right?
Weber, very much like John Stuart Mill, is quite aware that we actually do have preferences, and there are some ends what we find more valuable than other ends. Instrumental rationality only means if in order to achieve this end is too costly for us, then we probably will go for our second preference, rather than our first preference. Right? So well I would like to date somebody; I very much would like to date that person. But in order to have a successful date, I have to take this person into a four, five-star restaurant. Well the dinner will cost me $200.00. Well there is another person whom I would not mind to date–you know, my second preference–and that would go with a full-star restaurant, and would cost me only 50 bucks. And therefore, you know, I will weigh it, you know?
Is my preference for the first date is so strong that it is worth for me to pay $200.00? Or it’s actually not that much stronger; my second preference is actually pretty good, and therefore I actually go for the $50.00 dinner. You see what I’m getting at? So you are weighting rationally, both the ends and the means, and you come to a conclusion. Again, you know, not all that far away from Hobbes–right?–and Hobbes’ idea–right?–that we are–you know, we do have these drives, we have these appetites, and we have these fears, and then we arrive at a will. This is instrumental rationality. But he said people can act value rationally, and if somebody acts value rationally, I am not willing to call them irrational; value rationality, if somebody says, “This value is so important for me that I don’t care what is the price I will have to pay for it.” Right?
Well let me give you a very simple example. Right? You actually may think that human life is particularly valuable. Right? Now you or your partner may be expecting a child, and then you will have to make a decision. Will you give birth to this child or will you have an abortion? Right? And then it can come back to value rationality. Right? People can say that the life of an unborn child is so superior for me that though I know it is a very crazy stuff for me to have a child, or my partner, to have a child right now, I will do it; you know, because I am acting value rationally. I know it is instrumentally irrational. Right? I may have to quit school, you know, in order to earn an income or to take care of the baby or something, and I’m actually screwing my life, but I don’t mind–right?–because I have such a strong value commitment. You see what I’m getting at? And you cannot say this is irrational behavior. Right?
This is rational behavior because people has a commitment to an ultimate value, and this ultimate value occasionally is so high that you are sacrificing your economic interests; and occasionally you sacrifice your life. You are wiling to die for noble causes–right?–and you do it–right?–rationally. You weigh it, but you know that you will die. And if you know that you will die for this noble cause, one cannot say that you are acting irrationally. Affectual orientation. Affectual orientation, that you are led by emotions. He said it can be on the borderline, because if it is simply an uncontrolled reaction to a situation, then it is irrational. Right? If you’re simply acting out of anger, then you were irrational. Right? When you are drunk in a party and you are saying something to your partner, and your relationship is breaking up; you actually wanted this relationship to go on. Next morning you wake up and said, “My goodness gracious, what have I done?” Right? “I was dumb, I was irrational. I was led by emotions. I said things what I should not have said.” In this case emotion was irrational. It was an uncontrolled reaction to a stimulation.
But otherwise, to act out of love and to make sacrifices for love is very rational. Right? We do this all the time. Right? Your parents do it. You know, they send you to Yale and they pay $200,000.00 to get you a Yale degree–right?–very well aware that probably they will never get anything like that back from you. Right? They hope they will get some love back from you. Well they might or they might not. Right? But, you know, they act out of love. And, you know, some people may say, “You are crazy. Why you invest so much to your children? They will put you in a home of elderly”–right?–“when you get old. Nobody will take care of you.” Right? Well they–but the answer is, “But I love my child and I want the best for my child.” Right? This is a very not irrational behavior: well justified.
Anyway, these are traditional orientation, where you act out of tradition. Right? Well some people actually still believe in arranged marriages. Right? Certainly if you are Islamic, or even if you are an Orthodox Jew, you probably want to choose your partner through an arranged marriage. Right? You go to the rabbi and the rabbi will arrange the marriage for you. You have to be pretty orthodox, but there are some Orthodox Jews who do. Many Muslims who do that. Is it irrational? Not irrational. Actually one can say romantic love is not all that bloody rational. You know? The whole idea that you see somebody, fall in love, and next day you propose, that seems to be a pretty silly thing to do. Is not it is much better to go to the rabbi, who knows you, who knows your potential partner, and arranges the marriage for you? Anyway, the point is–right?–tradition can guide your action. And that’s again not irrational. It is only irrational if it is completely unthinking. I think that’s very important to say. If it is self-conscious, you know what you do. I do it because I am a Jew. I am doing it because I am a reborn Christian, and that’s what reborn Christians do. Right? If you follow this way, then you are acting rationally; or not acting irrationally, to put it more.
Chapter 3. Weber’s Notion of Rationality [00:35:39]
Now what is rationality? Well I think the key–it’s a very complex notion. For me–and you can have a different interpretation; now I will give you my interpretation. I think what is important, that rationality means that you substitute unthinking acceptance of a situation and not thought out, spontaneous reactions, to deliberate adaptation. So when you are conscious about what you are doing, then you are actually acting rationally, or at least you are not acting irrationally. He makes a distinction between rational, which is giving a great deal of thought, and non-rational, where actually there is still some reflection going on. Schluchter, a major Weber scholar who knows much more about Weber than I do. Though I have read this book cover to cover a couple of times, I haven’t read all the sixty volumes of Weber cover to cover, but have read quite a bit of it. Anyway, but Schluchter has read everything more than once. This is his interpretation. He said, “The question is means and ends. Instrumental rationality is the ultimate rationality, because you consider both means and ends.” And he said, “Value rationality is a lower level of rationality because you do not consider really means any longer.” Right? “Ends dominate. And traditionally the factual rationality are more marginal types of rationality.”
Well I would offer you an alternative interpretation. This is my reconstruction of Jürgen Habermas; which said, “Well what Weber is emphasizing is what is the level–right?–of your reflexivity? Do you really think about what you are doing? And also to what extent you can communicate to others what you are doing. And if you do it this way, you can have reflexivity which is very high. So you think very hard why you are doing, and you are aware what the motivation of your action is, and you can explain it to a great deal to others. If this is so”–I think this is really Habermas–“then your rationality is the highest level of rationality.” Right? Because you can really explain your values very well. Instrumental rationality. There is not much to say. It’s only I am making more money this way. Right? Therefore the level of communication is relatively low, though you know very well what you are doing. Anyway, I’ll just leave it for you– don’t want to elaborate on this anymore. But the bottom line is for Weber rationality is really– has something to do how conscious you are of what you are doing, and how conscious you are of the consequences of your action. You are irrational when you don’t know what the consequences of your action are.
Chapter 4. Power and Domination [00:38:51]
Now power and domination. Weber makes a fundamental difference between power–in German, Macht–and domination. And this is a very important citation. Right? “Power is the probability that an actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance.” You can resist, and nevertheless the person who is in power can force you to do what you want to do. He said, “Well, this actually very rarely happens in social situations. What typically defines a social situation is relations of domination. That’s what he calls Herrschaft. Domination is the probability that a command will be obeyed. Right? The difference–right?–between power–domination–this is sort of my little equation here–domination is nothing else but power and legitimacy. Right? The people who hold power try to legitimate what they do.
You know, I was trying to do this in the first twenty minutes. “Look, you know, you have these questions which sound difficult. They are not difficult. They are exciting.” You know, there I tried to legitimate myself. “This is sensible, that you try to answer this question. You will learn, you know; you will understand society better. You will understand yourself better if you think about these questions.” Right? I was trying to legitimate the process, rather than just acting out of power. “If by 9:00 it will not be here, you will get an F”–right?–“and then you will be in big trouble–right?–you will not get your degree.” No, I did not want to legitimate–I tried to legitimate what we will be doing this afternoon–right?–by the legitimacy, saying this will be sensible for you to do. You benefit from it. Right? I tried to internalize–right?–what I want you to do, between 7:00 and 9:00, that you’re beginning to believe this is good for me that I am doing it. It is fun. Right? I’m learning. I’m enriching myself. This is my self-development. Right? So I was trying to convert–right?–power into domination. Right? And that is legitimacy; a claim that what I’m doing when I’m asking you, 7:00, you know, not to have a cocktail, but to sit down in front of your computer and to write a test, is good for you. Right? And if you internalize it and you’re beginning to think how wonderful, you know, that I can delay these cocktails for two hours–right?–then I achieved, then I–you know, then it was domination rather than power. Right? Is that clear?
Chapter 5. What Is Legitimacy? [00:42:01]
Now what is legitimacy? This is a very tricky question. And well I have my own view; many people will vehemently disagree with me. He said–and that’s very important–“Every genuine form of domination implies a minimum of voluntary compliance.” That is an interest in obedience. Right? Unless I could persuade you that you will feel, well I actually could–you know, I could drop this course and not to take this test. This is too difficult; I’ll just drop the course. I can live without this course. You can have a kind of voluntary compliance and, most important, an interest. You’re beginning to think, well I will learn something by doing this. If I achieve that, then this is really domination.
Now this is also an extremely important argument. Right? That every privileged groups–people in position of power–are developing a myth of their superiority; they are developing a myth that this is useful for you to obey. So the essence–right?–of legitimacy, that it has a certain–expects you to believe in the reasons what those in position of power try to justify their power, but also an understanding that this is a myth. Because this is–right?–comes very close to Nietzsche. Right? Nietzsche is sticking his head out here. Right? It is a mythology. It’s not really true. Right? You just internalize your own submission to the authority. Right? But the tendency in history is that you will internalize it.
So this is very different from what we normally say legitimacy, because by legitimacy in contemporary political discourse, refers–well Karzai is not legitimate because he was faking the elections. If elections are fair and free, then the person who is elected is a legitimate ruler. No, no, no, that’s not Weber’s view. It’s not universal suffrage and free and fair elections, what makes the ruler legitimate. What makes the ruler legitimate, that the ruler is capable to develop mythologies, to justify that you better obey the orders, what is given to you; because you have some self interest to do so, and you have some level of belief that it is actually not bad for you, to do what the ruler wants you to do. Right?
Chapter 6. Types of Domination and Authority [00:45:06]
Now there are different types of domination and authority. And this is where he clashes–right?–with Marx. As we have seen–right?–Marx developed his typology of societies from economic systems. Economy drives history. Weber is a Nietzschian; Hobbesian or Nietzschian. Right? What drives history is power, struggle for power. And the nature of power, how power is constructed, and how our power is sublimated–right?–into domination, to put it in the Freudian way, that is how you should understand how societies operate. So it is not modes of production what describes the evolution of history, but types of domination which describes the evolution of history.
And there are really three types of what he calls legitimate authorities. There are three ways how rulers in history legitimated their rules. It can be legal rational–easily you can say liberal–traditional and charismatic. And we will spend time on this, each one of them. I just very briefly want to tell you what these different authorities are. Legal rational authority is a system in which there is a belief in the legality of enacted rules. And those who are actually issuing the commands, they themselves are bound by those rules; by this is the rule of law. That’s what he calls legal rational authority. It is rule of law administered in a bureaucratic manner. You do not have a personal master. You do not obey a person. You obey the rules of the game. Right? And these rules of the game are prescribed. You know in advance before you act. It is set, and you follow these rules. That is legal rational authority.
This is not identical with democracy. It can be democratic, or it can be authoritarian. It can be actually a constitutional monarchy. Right? A constitutional monarch passed laws by a separate legislature which was or was not democratically elected. But everybody knew who the rules of the game are–right?–in a constitutional monarchy, eighteenth century, early nineteenth century England. No democratically elected parliament. Right? But the laws were there and the monarch followed the laws. That was legal rational authority.
Then you have traditional authority. Traditional authority, he said, rests on the established belief on the sanctity of immemorial traditions, and the legitimacy of those exercising the authority under them. In some ways, you know, when you are obeying your father, you are acting under traditional authority. The authority what your father has is ascribed to your father by tradition. Right? We know that this is something what fathers do have a legitimate right to say–right?–that in fact, you know, fathers do have a legitimate right to say that by midnight you have to be at home. Right? You kind of are not very happy about this; you know, when you were sixteen you started to revolt against this. But, you know, you accepted this is normally what, you know, fathers, you know, or mothers do say. You know? And, you know, he also said, “Well you did something and therefore for this weekend you cannot go out.” Right? They are acting out of traditional authority; authority which is ascribed to them by tradition.
And finally there is charismatic authority. This is a very complex issue. We will talk about this a great deal. Charismatic authority refers to the fact when a leader is trying to legitimate its right to issue commands, that he has some extraordinary character–that he’s something like, you know, an extraordinary, unusual person. But it’s also very important to see that they are often seen as supernatural, or even superhuman, having exceptional qualities. But what is also very important to see, that charismatic authority in Weber is not really the characteristics of the individual. This is what we attribute to the individuals, to have these extraordinary characteristics.
In the most recent U.S. history, during the electoral–during the presidential campaign, Barack Obama, with his, you know, charming personality, with his extraordinary skills of delivering speeches, was capable to create a kind of charismatic aura around himself. Right? People got excited, you know, almost like around a rock star. Right? And his whole arguments for trying to legitimate himself was very much cast in charismatic terms. Right? Hope you can believe in. Right? This is a very typical charismatic appeal. “You have to believe in me because I’m offering you hope in a hopeless situation.” Right? That’s what creates charismatic authority. How much charismatic authority President Obama still has, this is another question–right?–what you may want to discuss in the discussion section. It’s also a problem whether, you know, candidate Obama was really a charismatic leader.
Weber basically defined charismatic leaders as the great leaders, the makers of great world religions. Jesus Christ was a charismatic leader. So in some ways to say modern politicians, they are charismatic, it’s a bit slippery. But I think the emphasis on hope and the call, “You believe me because I will be able to deliver.” Yes we can. You know, I remember when I first heard him saying that, I said, “Yeah, that’s exactly the charismatic appeal.” Right? It’s not quite reasoned out. Right? And it moved me when Barack Obama came out and he said, “You think nothing can be done. But yes, we can. Hope you can believe in.” Right? This is very much a charismatic appeal. That’s what charismatic authority is all about.
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