Concepts of Government- Power And Authority

Political Power and Authority


What is power?
Power is defined as the ability to affect someone’s behaviour through some sanctions.
(According to C. C Dibie’s Essential Government, “Power is the capacity to affect another’s behaviour by the threat of sanction. The sanctions may be negative or positive. Thus, a political leader may have the ability to control the actions of others by promising those who support him wealth or honours, or he may threaten to deny such rewards to those who oppose him. However, sanctions are used if there is non-compliance”.)

Power can be in Four Forms

1. Political Power- This is the power derived from the people and constitution.

2. Economic Power- This is the power one acquire from having economic resources.

3. Military Power- This is the power used by the armed forces

4. Physical/Naked Power- This form of power make use of force.

Ways By Which Power Is Acquired
(Sources of Power)

1. Through the constitution

2. Through Inheritance

3. Through Charisma

4. Through economic resources or wealth

5. Through force/coercion


What is the definition of authority?

NB:- Authority was propounded by Max Weber

Authority refers to the formal or legal right to make and enforce law or policies which the citizens obey. Authority connotes the acceptance of the right to rule as conferred by the people, irrespective of the sanctions.
(Essential Government, C. C. Dibie, August 2008)

Types Of Authority

The sociologist and philosopher, Max weber classified authority into three types.

1. Traditional Authority- This is a type of authority legitimated by the power of the tradition. This kind of authority can be found in traditional societies where the king/chief exercises authority over his subjects based on the customs and traditions of the land. Traditional authority can be passed down to generations, often through hereditary.

2. Charismatic Authority- This is a type of authority that is bestowed on an individual based on the extraordinary characteristics of that individual. For example, if an individual is known to be trust-worthy in a society, the people can make him a king, or let’s come down to treasurer, because of the trust-worthiness the people see in him.

3. Legal-rational Authority- This is an authority derived from the laws or constitution of a state. It may also be called political/constitutional authority.
This kind of authority is mostly found in modern democratic state, private and public corporations and other associations. The people do not give obedience to an individual leader (e.g. President) but rather a set of principles (constitution) used in governing the state.
Max Weber said “no authority structure could actually be exclusively bureaucratic, because some positions would be held by a variety of charismatic leaders. He also stated that non-bureaucratic legal authority could be found in organizations that have rotating office holders, such as “Parliamentary and committee administration and all sorts of collegiate and administrative bodies” (Weber 1958, 3).

Please, kindly drop a comment below if you find this helpful or you have a question.




* C. C. Dibie; Essential Government for Senior Secondary Schools; Tonad Publishers; August 2008


10 thoughts on “Concepts of Government- Power And Authority

  1. pls my people I was given an assignment yesterday and I am a little bit confused, the question, (what do you suggest with the present restructuring of government in Nigeria) pls I need a good summary


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