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Authority and Legitimacy

The concept of authority in general terms implies the right to command. It is not to be identified with persuasion or influence. The expressions like the parental authority, authority of tradition, authoritative opinion, political authority, legal authority or the constitutional authority are familiar expressions and they clearly convey that authority is exercised more characteristically within a net work of clearly defined roles.

It is exercised according to the established and well recognized pattern. Political authority specifies the governing authority and defines the manner the power is to be exercised. It determines the nature of relations between the government and the governed. The doctrine of legitimacy implies that the authority should be used according to well recognized and accepted pattern.

The natural sequence of happenings following the usage or custom or the established procedure invests the authority with legitimacy. Command and obedience relationship is based on the assumed legitimacy in the exercise of authority. Force and coercion are not legitimate but these are used either to establish legitimacy or by the legitimate authority for legitimate purpose. The legitimate authority if it fails in its objective may be challenged and a revolutionary authority may come into being. In case the newly established authority may fail there may be the counter-revolution. The authority that may come into existence finally has to establish its legitimacy. It is therefore the foundation of all governmental power. The government can itself function only with the understanding that it has the power to function. At a given time the authority that has come into existence may not have the legitimacy but it shall have to secure such legitimacy as the society would recognize and as could secure to it the international recognition.