Government and Politics

Информация - Юриспруденция, право, государство

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llegitimate. However, if an official clearly exceeds the power of an office, as Richard Nixon did by obstructing justice during investigation of the Watergate burglary, the officials power may come to be seen as illegitimate. Moreover, as was true of Nixon, the person may be forced out of office.

Charismatic Authority

Weber also observed that power can be legitimized by the charisma of an individual. The term charismatic authority refers to power made legitimate by a leaders exceptional personal or emotional appeal to his or her followers. Charisma allows a person to lead or inspire without relying on set rules or traditions. Interestingly, such authority is derived more from the beliefs of loyal followers than from the actual qualities of leaders. So long as people perceive the person as possessing qualities that set him or her apart from ordinary citizens, the leaders authority will remain secure and often unquestioned.

Political scientist Ann Ruth Willner (1984) notes that each charismatic leader draws upon the values, beliefs, and traditions of a particular society. The conspicuous sexual activity of longtime Indonesian president Achmed Sukarno reminded his followers of the gods in Japanese legends and therefore was regarded as a sign of power and heroism. By contrast, Indians saw Mahatma Gandhis celibacy as a demonstration of superhuman self-discipline. Charismatic leaders also associate themselves with widely respected cultural and religious heroes. Willner describes how Ayalollah Khomeini of Iran associated himself with Husein, a Shiile Muslim martyr; and Fidel Castro of Cuba associated himself with Jesus Christ.

Unlike traditional rulers, charismatic leaders often become well known by breaking with established institutions and advocating dramatic changes in the social structure. The strong hold that such individuals have over their followers makes it easier to build protest movements which challenge the dominant norms and values of a society. Thus, charismatic leaders such as Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King all used their power to press for changes in accepted social behavior. But so did Adolf Hitler, whose charismatic appeal turned people toward violent and destructive ends.

Since it rests on the appeal of a single individual, charismatic authority is necessarily much shorter lived than either traditional or legal-rational authority. As a result, charismatic leaders may attempt to solidify their positions of power by seeking other legitimating mechanisms. For example, Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959 as the leader of a popular revolution. Yet in the decades which followed the seizure of power, Castro stood for election (without opposition) as a means of further legitimating his authority as leader of Cuba.

If such authority is to extend beyond the lifetime of the charismatic leader, it must undergo what Weber called the routinization of charismatic authoritythe process by which the leadership qualities originally associated with an individual are incorporated into either a traditional or a legal-rational system. Thus, the charismatic authority of Jesus as leader of the Christian church was transferred to the apostle Peter and subsequently to the various prelates (or popes) of the faith. Similarly, the emotional fervor supporting George Washington was routinized into Americas constitutional system and the norm of a two-term presidency. Once routinization has taken place, authority eventually evolves into a traditional or legal-rational form.

As was noted earlier, Weber used traditional, legal-rational, and charismatic authority as ideal types. In reality, particular leaders and political systems combine elements of two or more of these forms. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy wielded power largely through the legal-rational basis of their authority. At the same time, they were unusually charismatic leaders who commanded (lie personal loyalty of large numbers of Americans.


Each society establishes a political system by which it is governed. In modern industrial nations, a significant number of critical political decisions are made by formal units of government. Five basic types of government are considered: monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship, totalitarianism, and democracy.


A monarchy is a form of government headed by a single member of a royal family, usually a king, a queen, or some other hereditary ruler. In earlier times, many monarchs claimed that God had granted them a divine right to rule their lands. Typically, they governed on the basis of traditional forms of authority, although these were sometimes accompanied by the use of force. In the 1980s, monarchs hold genuine governmental power in only a few nations, such as Monaco. Most monarchs have little practical power and primarily serve ceremonial purposes.


An oligarchy is a form of government in which a few individuals rule. It is a rather old method of governing which flourished in ancient Greece and Egypt. Today, oligarchy often takes the form of military rule. Some of the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America are ruled by small factions of military officers who forcibly seized powereither from legally elected regimes or from other military cliques.

Strictly speaking, the term oligarchy is reserved for governments run by a few select individuals. However, the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China can be classified as oligarchies if we extend the meaning of the term somewhat. In each case, power rests in the hands of a ruling groupthe Communist party. In a similar vein, drawing upon conflict theory, one may argue that many industrialized "democratic" nations of the west should rightly be considered oligarchies, since only a powerful few actually rule: leaders of big business, government, and the military. Later, we will examine this "elite model" of the American political system in greater detail.

Dictatorship and Totalitarianism

A dictatorship is a government in which one person has nearly total power to make and enforce laws. Dictators rule primarily through the use of coercion, often including torture and executions. Typically, they seize power, rather than being freely elected (as in a democracy) or inheriting a position of power (as is true of monarchs). Some dictators are quite charismatic and achieve a certain "popularity," though this popular support is almost certain to be intertwined with fear. Other dictators are bitterly hated by the populations over whom they rule with an iron hand.

Frequently, dictatorships develop such overwhelming control over peoples lives that they are called totalitarian. Monarchies and oligarchies also have the potential to achieve this type of dominance. Totalitarianism involves virtually complete governmental control and surveillance over all aspects of social and political life in a society. Bolt Nazi Germany under Hitler and the Soviet Union of the 1980s are classified as totalitarian states.

Political scientists Carl Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski have identified six bask traits that typify totalitarian states. These include:


  1. Large-scale use of ideology. Totalitarian societies offer explanations for every part of life. Social goals, valued behaviors, even enemies are conveyed in simple (and usually distorted) terms. For example, the Nazis blamed Jews for almost every. thing wrong in Germany or other nations. If there was a crop failure due to drought, it was sure to be seen as a Jewish conspiracy.
  2. One-party systems. A totalitarian Style has only one legal political party, which monopolizes the offices of government. It penetrates and controls all social institutions and serves as the source of wealth, prestige, and power.
  3. Control of weapons. Totalitarian states also monopolize the use of arms. All military units art subject to the control of the ruling regime.
  4. Terror. Totalitarian states often rely on general intimidation (such as prohibiting unapproved publications) and individual deterrent (such as torture and execution) to maintain control (Bahry and Silver, 1987). Alexander Solzhenitsyns Gulag Archipelago (1973) describe the Soviet Unions imprisonment of political dissenters in mental hospitals, where they are subjected to drug and electric shock treatments.
  5. Control of the media. There is no "opposition press" in a totalitarian state. The media communicate official interpretations of events and reinforce behaviors and policies favored by the regime.
  6. Control of the economy. Totalitarian states control major sectors of the economy. They may dissolve private ownership of industry and even small farms. In some cases, the central state establishes production goals for each industrial and agricultural unit. The revolt of the Polish workers union. Solidarity, in the early 1980s was partly directed against the governments power over production quotas, working conditions, and prices.


Through such methods, totalitarian governments deny people representation in the political, economic, and social decisions that affect their lives. Such governments have pervasive control over peoples destinies.


In a literal sense, democracy means government by the people. The word democracy originated in two Greek rootsdemos, meaning "the populace" or "the common people"; and kratia, mea