Authority, bureaucracy, legitimacy, political power, political theory, sociological theory
This article theorizes authority from sociological and normative perspectives. It opens with the work of Weber, Arendt and Raz. This is followed by a sociological analysis of authority as a capacity for action, power-to and power-over, which are linked to felicitous performative action within epistemic interpretative horizons. Normatively, it confronts the anarchist challenge that authority is inimical to freedom by distinguishing between dispositional and episodic power. Bureaucratic and political power-over authority is theorized as normatively defensible when it confers dispositional power-to. This article concludes by discussing the mismatch between sociological authority, as a social fact, and normatively desirable authority: how the practices of charismatic, bureaucratic and democratic authority are often normatively problematic.