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Thursday May 9th 2019Tim Candler9

 

    Max Weber who died in 1920, devoted his years of scholarship to attempting a rational understanding of society, an area of study that's seems increasingly untenable. One of his lasting contributions, however, began with his essay The Three Types of Legitimate Rule, in which he suggested three ideal types. Legitimate belongs in the moving feast of perception, something's either right or it's wrong or depending on the day it's somewhere in between. The ideal type is when you chose characteristics that are typical of a particular set of behaviors, it's a mental image, subjective and a long way from a perfect A+B=C understanding. In short you got to start somewhere. Weber divided authority into Charismatic, Traditional and Legal. Traditional, included patriarchs which is the daddy thing, it included patrimonial which is when the accepted tradition has been that just the one man's in charge everyone else does as they're told, it included feudalism. Legal included what we like to call the rule of law, a bureaucratic state which is when a great many decisions are made by state employed officials rather than a rag tag bunch of power hungry elected representatives hell bent on selling their souls for votes. The characteristics of Charismatic Authority included character, heroism, leadership and religious. For Weber in his Politics as a Vocation, a must read for any bright spark entering politics, he wrote "Men do not obey the charismatic leader by virtue of statute or tradition but because they believe in him." So the actual power or the capabilities of a charismatic heroic leader are irrelevant so long as enough people believe in the charismatic leader. For Weber, this meant that because the authority of a charismatic leader doesn't come from any kind of tradition, or set of rules and norms within a society it's the charismatic leader's followers who legitimize the leaders authority, and without that following of faithful, unnaturally devoted believers a charismatic leader has no power or authority. And according to Weber, no one has yet lived forever, so when a Charismatic Leader achieves his end time, then woopsy-daisy the sources of authority tend to revert to either Traditional types or the Legal types, the interlude of his or her time on earth remembered as total unmitigated disaster or a golden age of possibilities.  Once Weber had set out his three mental images or ideal types of domination, or authority, he set about identifying further characteristics.  How was the position determined? How was the position legitimized? What was the nature of loyalty relations? How cohesive were the relationships? How where the relationships maintained?

 

Past

    Interesting in Weber's understanding was this area of relationships. A charismatic leader tends toward relationships that are emotionally unstable and volatile.  A traditional type authority achieves cohesion through an idea of common purpose, which is a little different to the legal type authority where cohesion is maintained by obedience to the laws. Weber goes on to suggest that the charismatic type is characterized by a leader and disciples, traditional type by obedience to forms of social conduct, and the legal type values rules not rulers. Weber's point was that hard a fast categories, or types, were probably impossible to achieve, each circumstance was unique, so for the student these three mental images were usefully enhanced by the understanding that between the types there were degrees of exchange, a bleeding between, if you like. However, it's been argued that governance through charismatic authority has the least stability. With Mohammed, a most charismatic leader, his dominance was secured and legitimized by victories and conquests which had gathered a winning momentum of their own. This momentum outlived Mohammed, there were some big quarrels around a legitimate successor to the charismatic leader, but the momentum was overwhelming, not enough of the faithful were tired of winning, it was God given, and the structures of a traditional tribal authority were still very much in place because in his own search for political fulfillment Mohammed had used them most effectively. I'd argue Jesus had to wait for the manipulations of the Roman State to achieve security of his tenure in our world. Traditional types and charismatic types share more commonalities with each other than they share with legal types of dominance, or authority. May well be the current impasse is a crisis of confidence, far too ill considered for the title charismatic authority which leaders like Mohammad or Jesus were able to inspire, closer to a narcissistic bubble implosion, a sort of reach for adhocracy which is a spontaneous non-permanent governing internet type structure of authority based upon likes on face book as much as anything, a structure much admired by the entrepreneurial, mythical Hollywood and by Spartacus. A notion Weber would have dismissed as ludicrous, but nonetheless has been  propagated and encouraged by an increasing mismatch between people and the many clearly false assumptions within the established social structure, that will be resolved or not by the extent to which the Rule of Law, rules not rulers, the deep state if you prefer, remains sufficiently attractive to retain believers, and because of the hungry wolves out there it all looks rather grim for orderliness and what is loosely referred to as a stability that permits freedom. Tomorrow, with luck it'll be raining, so it'll be Robert K Merton who died in 2003 and his Deviance Theory, fascinating stuff.

 

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