Authority and Power

Authority and Power

Any organization or a grouping of people can never operate with such a form of control. This form of control is what is termed as authority and power. While power and authority are essential in various organizations, it is the backbone of political organizations. Multiple authors have explained the concept of power and influence. However, the view presented by Dalf seems to have helped in shaping the idea of power and authority. He argues that power and authority is a relationship in which an individual has capability and control. In his view power is the ability to attempt to do something that one could not do successfully. We live in a society where issues of power and authority interact in many cases. There is often different and diverse interest, but in many cases, one would often seek to dominate over the other. In the circumstances, where one dominates the other then that is the application of power. While there are varying views about power and authority, there is a clear relationship between the two.

There are two dominating views on the issue of power. From Karl Deutsch view it means the ability to be involved in the conflict, resolve and get rid of the obstacles. Although the belief that Karl seems to present is in a general concept, the same view can effectively apply in e local politics. In domestic situation, there are often several powers that compete to capture power and to have influence in the society. The group that takes the lead is often termed as the powerful one.

In contrast to Deutsch, Raphael D.D looks at power from different angles (Earenfight). However, all these definitions seems to point out to the fact that power focuses on ability. In Raphael, view power is merely the ability to make other people do something that one wants.


On the other hand, authority is the ability to exercise power over people without having to demand it. There are varying views on authority coming from different authors. According to Maclver, authority is the vested right in a given authority to give judgment, determine policies, and settle controversies (Rasch, 220). It is the act of leaders to guide other people. One can also look at authority as the right over other people. Raphael also weighs in and gives a more precise definition. His view is that authority is the right to do something. In his description, the focus is on the word right. Therefore, he explains that the right to do something means permission. In essence, he uses the right to mean freedom. However, his second view on the right focuses on the claim to do something. For instance, when an individual does something that other people challenge him, he can make the argument that he has the right to do it. However, in trying to understand the aspect of power and authority, it is essential to follow the link.

The link between power and authority

Power means the ability to be able to do something. However, this power might not be legitimate. In the cases where there is no legitimacy to power, then such power does not have authority. For instance, a military general might seize power through a coupe, but the power might not be sanctioned by the laws of the part of the world (Rasch, 220). In such a case the individual might force people to do things, but the power does not have the authority of the law. Therefore, it is important to point out that it is not in all cases that power will be legitimate; however, the authority will always be valid. In the case that an action is carried out with authority there is still an approval of the law (Cassinelli, 80). The constitution and the law will often give legitimacy to authority. This view thus helps to provide a clear understanding of how people apply power and how much power can miss having some legitimacy.

Power always demands the application of cohesive measures and physical force. A person that has power might require an obligation from others. In the case that the person refuses to act within the demands of the holder of the power, constitutionally or legally the individual cannot be obliged to follow the command (Rasch, 220). It is at this level that the holder of power would often resort to using their power to force the people to oblige to the command. On the other hand, the individual is often required to authority on the ground that it always has a legal obligation. An individual that has authority will not have to use force to make people act in a given way. The authority that they have gives them the right to demand that people respond accordingly.

From the definition of authority, the holders are empowered or have the claim to do something. Therefore one can argue that without regard to the source of authority its nature often arises from the rule of law. Besides, authority is not only legal, but it also claims its foundation from the law. Therefore an individual that has authority has the full right to demand something. The right to demand something does not emerge from cohesion, but instead, it is based on the free will of the people to allow the person to exercise the control over them. It then means that one might have power but lack authority. In the view of Lipson, a government that has authority is one that everyone agrees to (Karakostas, 70). Therefore, the action of such a government is sanctioned or approved by the people, and even those that do not agree with the measures will have to tolerate it. Therefore, authority is the power that has garments of legitimacy.

There is also another framework that can explain the relationship between power and authority. Raphael offers the argument that authority cannot exist without power (Rasch, 220). For instance, a man might have the authority that comes with some laws and formal rules. In such a situation the man can make any decisions. However, the challenge would often come with the man cannot exercise the authority, based on the idea that people do not recognize him. The situation might arise from cases of the mass upsurge.

However, power might exist even in cases where there is no authority. There are many countries in the world where leaders have taken over power and used it for many years. The cases of dictatorships that the world has experienced reflect on how power can exist without authority. A ruler that uses military power would demand the citizens to follow him even when he does not have that authority. In such a situation, the leaders would often have to use fear and through the approach ensure that they make people follow their command (Karakostas, 70). Therefore, such form of control would often come in the way of exercising fear. All the dictator leaders in the world had mastered the art of manipulating people through fear. Even today, the cases of North Korea might reflect on how people can have power without authority. They have thus to limit their subjects from access to information and make them live in fear to be able to control them. The cases of power without authority seem to affect third world countries mostly.

There has always been contention on the application of power and authority. However, it seems quite clear, that one might exercise power without authority. However, one thing that seems clear is that one might not use authority without power. For one to be able to make people recognize their authority then they must have the power to exercise it. While different authors argue that power is dangerous and intoxicating, there is a general feeling that authority is constraining. For one to use some authority they have to follow the set rules and guidelines. Besides, for one that has power, they often have some legitimate control over the people. In most cases with authority, one might not be required to demand people to follow them because the people are often willing to support. However, it is important to note that these two aspects often work hand in hand.

Works Cited

Cassinelli, C. W. “Political authority: its exercise and possession.” Power, Authority, Justice, and Rights. Routledge, 2017. 74-90.

Earenfight, Theresa. Queenship and political power in medieval and early modern Spain. Routledge, 2017.

Karakostas, Alexandros, and Daniel John Zizzo. “Compliance and the power of authority.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 124 (2016): 67-80.

Rasch, William. “Political theology and political form: power, contingency, authority, belief.” Journal for Cultural Research20.3 (2016): 217-234.