1. Weber sought to develop a better understanding of the dynamics of social organization by focusing on how social control operates in different types of social contexts. To start, he distinguished power and authority: •Power is defined simply as the ability to get someone to do something despite resistance. There are many sources of power, which we will address when we talk about social control and leadership, but of primary interest here is the consideration that power is socially expensive. To work effectively, power depends upon observation and enforcement, both of which need to paid for.
•Alternatively authority is simply defined as legitimate power. It is a socially recognized agreement process between a superordinate (i. e. , the administrator or leader) and a subordinate (i. e. , the employee or follower) that articulates a range of activities over which the leader can tell specific followers what to do. Its appeal lies in that it requires neither observation nor enforcement, and therefore is much more efficient and reliable. 2. Weber distinguishes three types of authority: •Traditional authority is based in the person (the classic example is the King/Queen).
The traditional authority is an ascribed status, (received through birthright), and it defines a social relationship between the lord and the vassal based on personal loyalty or fealty. In return for the fidelity of the vassal, the lord promises protection or other resources that the lord controls. The relationship is thus one of mutual obligation and is dependent upon the legitimate recognition of authority in the person of the lord. The system works well under conditions where organization is relatively small or where decision making is not under severe time constraints.
Weber regards bureaucracy as an “ideal-type,” meaning not the best of form of organization, but rather a theoretical abstraction of social control. In a bureaucracy, authority is rationalized so that everyone is treated the same. Bureaucracy is described through six characteristics: • 1. The organization of activities in each position is based on rules. These are consistent and universal. 2. Each position is specifies a “sphere of influence” which organizes related activities. These positions define a functionally related division-of-labor. 3.
Organizational positions are organized into a hierarchical system which directs communication and control. This system allows the delegation of tasks into a hierarchy of organizational relationships. 4. The positions in each office may carry technical qualifications that require suitable training. Hiring and promotion is thus based on merit. 5. Each position is compartmentalized into a distinct office, organized by function, not by the person who does the job. 6. Administrative acts and decisions are formulated recorded in writing. These written rules become the files on which organizational activity is based.
Under bureaucracy, a more efficient and rationally consistent organization emerges. But bureaucracies often do not work as well as they are designed. Under what conditions do bureaucracies work best? •Charismatic authority is often misidentified as a set of individually held attributes. Instead, Weber defines Charisma as a set of attributes that are socially prescribed as related to leadership positions (e. g. , a priest or cult leader). Followers or disciples may endow the charismatic leader with “supernatural” or exceptional powers that are not accessible to the ordinary person.