Quoting Weber on ‘rational-legal’ authority and bureaucracy


paper, paper, fetish, paper


Actually, quoting Tolcott Parsons on Weber, from the Introduction to The Theory of Social and Economic Organisation, pp. 57-58. Weber so knew where it was at.


This first type [of authority] is what Weber calls ‘rational-legal authority.’ The order in question then consists in a body of generalized rules, in the type case logically consistent and claiming to cover all possible ‘cases’ of conduct within the jurisdiction of the Verband as well as to define the limits of that jurisdiction.


These rules are universalistic in that they apply impartially to all persons meeting the locally formulated criteria of their definitions, and impersonal in that the status and qualities of individuals are treated as a function of the application of the generalized rules to them and so far as they do not fall within them must be treated as irrelevant.


The fundamental source of authority in this type is the authority of the impersonal order itself. It extends to individuals only in so far as they occupy a specifically legitimized status under the rules, an ‘office,’ and even then their powers are limited to a ‘sphere of competence’ as defined in the order. Outside this sphere they are treated as ‘private individuals’ with no more authority than anybody else.


There is thus in principle a separation of the sphere of office and that of private affairs [….] Where authority includes, as it very generally does, command over the use of property, there is clear segregation between the property of the Verband, over which the incumbent of office has certain powers by virtue of his office, and his personal possessions which are controlled according to entirely different criteria.


Often this extends to segregation of the premises of work from those of private life. Where rational-legal authority involves an organized administrative staff, according to Weber it takes the form of a bureaucratic structure.’ Here each member of the staff occupies an office with a specific delimitation of powers and a sharp segregation of the sphere of office from his private affairs.






Filed under Anthropological Awesome, Anthropology

2 responses to “Quoting Weber on ‘rational-legal’ authority and bureaucracy

  1. Bigguns

    I wish for apocalypse. Back to the dawn of time and creation.

  2. I wish for a soy iced coffee.

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