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Authority is amongst the oldest and most widely used concepts in political life, coinciding with its own foundation: an Author is an originator of something, and all human articrafts as well as aggregates bear the mark of authority. Every definition couples authority with power, but power is treated as a unitary concept while authority is highly differentiated. However, the consensus tends toward Max Weber's three-fold treatment, distinguishing tradition-based authority, rational-legal authority and charismatic authority.
Authority is situated between two most prominent axes in political theory: the horizontal, power/legitimacy and the vertical, state/individual. The horizontal axis alone provides the keywords for the definition of authority employed by most political scientists and their dictionaries. Power is transformed by legitimacy to produce authority. Legitimacy brings to ower at least three key attributes of authority: stability, consensus, and durability. The vertical axis underlies the enduring separation between personal and institutional authority. Political analysis has a tendency to focus on the impersonal machinery of setting goals, giving commands, performing duties which is the basis of a - more or less legitimate - orderly ensemble of people. Yet, authority originates in the first place from remarkable individual qualities and often remains within the close reach of personal influence: be it a community's traditional environment - a religious or ethnic group, a notable network, a family circle; or the followers of a strong leadership, attracted by professional expertise or visionary charisma.