Scientists are authority figures, and people naturally believe authority figures.
But most have argued that there is an important distinction between de facto authority and legitimate authority.
The Roman church claims for itself a teaching authority that has no counterpart in other denominations, though some fundamentalist groups try to exercise a similar authority over their members.
But just as fundamentalist theology posits the absolute authority of the Bible, fundamentalist moral doctrines posit the absolute authority of pastors, teachers, fathers, “civil authority,” and so on.
The fact that democratic assemblies have authority does not imply that all other forms of regime never have authority.
The subjects instead act more in accordance with reasons that are independent of the authority when they obey the authority.
A more robust right to rule includes a duty owed to the authority on the part of the subjects not to interfere with the activities of the authority.
The worry is that authority is never legitimate because the kind of obedience associated with authority is inconsistent with the autonomy of the subject.
A third conceptual account of authority or set of conceptions of legitimate authority involves the idea that the authority has a right to rule.
First, many people have understood legitimate political authority as a political authority that is justified in coercing the subjects of its authority.
The main function of political legitimacy, on this interpretation, is to explain the difference between merely effective or de facto authority and legitimate authority.
This entry distinguishes political authority from political power, and the idea of morally legitimate political authority from descriptive ideas of authority.
A second conceptual account of legitimate political authority implies that those over whom authority is exercised have some kind of duty with regard to the authority.
One classical account of political authority has modeled political authority and the attendant obligations on the obligations of family and the authority of the parents.
The consent theory of political authority requires that for the state to have authority over any person, the state must have the consent of the person to that authority.
Consent theories of political authority and instrumentalist conceptions of political authority state general criteria of political authority that can be met by non democratic as well as democratic states.
Within the state alone there is legislative authority, executive authority, judicial authority, and administrative authority; these different kinds of authority can have distinct sub-branches of authority.
And the idea of legitimate authority as an authority that has a right to rule over subjects who owe obedience to the authority and that has a right not to be interfered with by foreigners is surely an importantly distinct and perhaps ideal type of authority, which is rarely implemented.
Let us start with the distinctions between political authority as a normative notion (or morally legitimate authority) and political authority as a non-normative notion (or de facto authority) and between political authority in either of these senses and political power.
Raz helpfully distinguishes among three ways in which the relation between consent and legitimate political authority may be understood (1995: 356): (i) consent of those governed is a necessary condition for the legitimacy of political authority; (ii) consent is not directly a condition for legitimacy, but the conditions for the legitimacy of authority are such that only political authority that enjoys the consent of those governed can meet them; (iii) the conditions of legitimate political authority are such that those governed by that authority are under an obligation to consent.
- the power or right to give orders or make decisions
Example: he has the authority to issue warrants
- (usually plural) persons who exercise (administrative) control over others
- an expert whose views are taken as definitive
Example: he is an authority on corporate law
- freedom from doubt; belief in yourself and your abilities
- an administrative unit of government
- official permission or approval
Example: authority for the program was renewed several times
- an authoritative written work
Example: this book is the final authority on the life of Milton
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Raz helpfully distinguishes among three ways in which the relation between consent and legitimate political authority may be understood 1995 356 i consent of those governed is a necessary condition for the legitimacy of political authority ii consent is not directly a condition for legitimacy but the conditions for the legitimacy of authority are such that only political authority that enjoys the consent of those governed can meet them iii the conditions of legitimate political authority are such that those governed by that authority are under an obligation to consent