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Essay on Authority Systems

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Nowadays almost everyone totally or partly belong to a certain organization. It can be a school, a company, a factory or a military troop. Even people who do not live or belong to these small scale organization, they still live in the society, which is also a big organization, a political entity. That is to say that every people is just member of a certain organization. As the member of the organization, people can feel the consequences of power at every level. So the power of the organizations is a highly focused topic. According to certain organization theory ‘the concept of power is almost totally absent from the discourse of organizational behavior. The preferred concept is that of authority.’ (Jackson and Carter 2000: 79) This essay try to give a brief review on the theories of power versus authority and try to analysis the strength and the weakness of these theories.

When come to the theory of power and authority, German sociologist Max Weber should be the first to be mentioned. ‘Weber’s principal contribution to the study of organizations was his theory of authority structures which led him to characterize organizations in terms of the authority relation with them…Under an authority system, those in the subordinate role see the issuing of directives by those in the superordinate role as legitimate’ (Pugh and Hickson 1989: 5) Based on this, Weber developed three types of legitimate authority:
‘1. Rational ground-resting on a belief in the ‘legality’ of patterns of normative rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands’ (legal authority).
2. Traditional grounds-resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of the status of t...


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...when Jackson and Carter find that these models can only be used in a certain environment, for example, in a internalization environment and give the conclusion that they are not particularly useful, this conclusion may be give too casual.

All in all, Weber’s theory of authority, (legal authority, traditional authority and charismatic authority) can explain most of the organizational behavior and his work still play a key role in this field. However, his theory still has some problems as mentioned before. He method of using the concept of authority instead of power may ignore the possibility of the abuse of power. And when using his model to analysis the real world, people may find that his three type may be too simple to explain all phenomenons. That means people still need to improve these models or to develop new models in the future study of organizations.



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