What is the difference between power and authority in politics

What is the difference between power and authority in politics

Power and authority in politics are two very similar terms, however, they have some very significant differences. This post will teach you all you need to know about the difference between these two terms; keep reading to learn more.

power and authority in politics

Definition of power in politics

Power in politics can be defined as the ability to outrightly control the behavior of people. Power is often seen as an evil or unjust thing, however, it is perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be used to influence the behaviour of people.

Types of power in politics

trump in politics

1. Legitimate Power

This refers to the positional power of individuals within an organization. The legitimate power is the formal authority delegated to the holder of a certain position. It can also be provided by attributes like physical office, title, uniform, etc.

2. Referent Power

This is the ability of people to attract other individuals and build loyalty. It is usually based on skills and charisma. Good leaders are admired for their unique traits. Abuse of this power can also be possible by charismatic leaders.

3. Reward Power

Reward power is a kind of power that has been given as a gift or royalty. For instance, a king can provide power to a prince. At the same time, people can give power to a president or another leader by electing him or her.

4. Expert Power

This type of power is usually highly specific to particular areas; it comes with knowledge and skills. A good expert power is provided by wisdom! Individuals express this power by showing and demonstrating their expertise in any field.

5. Coercive Power

Coercive power can be defined as an application of negative influence. It also includes the ability to withhold or demote rewards. Threats and punishments are common tools for this type of power. It should be noted that an extensive use of this power is inappropriate in every organization. Relying only on punishment will only contribute to the loss of power.

Definition of authority in politics

Definition of Authority in Politics

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According to political philosophy, authority can be described as an individual’s rights and duties in the concept of the state. Political authority is provided to the government by the citizens of a country.

Types of political authority in politics

The first types of political authority were defined by Max Weber. He provided the definition of political authorities in his essay “Politics as a Vocation”. He also introduced some interesting hypothesis in 1919-1920. According to Max Weber, there are three types of political authority provided in the world:

Types of political authority in politics
  • Traditional Authority. It is the authority and power provided by long-established cultural patterns.
  • Charismatic Authority. This power can be defined as authority legitimized based on the extraordinary abilities of a personality in respect to obedience and devotion.
  • Rational-Legal Authority. It`s also known as the bureaucratic authority. This power is legitimized by the rules of regulations. It can be provided by the authority of the state or people.

Difference between power and authority in politics

Difference between power and authority in politics

Power can be defined as the ability to produce a change in the behaviour of others. It is also realized by the use of force or coercion. Authority recognizes real rights of the authority holder to regulate the behavior of the subjects.

Every power is either legitimate or illegitimate. Power is always based on the use of rough and naked force. Authority is mainly a legitimate power and legitimacy can always be a trademark of any authority.

Power is always based on force. Authority is provided by constitutions, traditions, and laws.

The usage of power always depends on its holder. The authority holder is always prescribed by his subjects.

What is the difference between power and authority in politics

Authority holders are always limited by something; it could be rules, constitution, government or upper-authorities. Therefore, authority in politics can also be defined as democratic in nature. Power is always dependent on the capabilities of the power-holder; therefore, it is possible that power is more related to tyranny.

Authority is provided with two main elements – legitimacy and power.

Power means the capacity and desire to change the behavior of people. It always involves imposition and decision. Authority is connected with the legal power which is recognized by all people.

What is the difference between power and authority in politics

Power can be illegitimate and legitimate. Authority is essentially legitimate; you will not find any illegitimate authority anywhere.

Every dictator has the power to rule but a democratic leader has the authority to rule (this authority is given to him by his subordinates). Dictators use power to control people, and this power becomes authority when it is legalized.


From this post, you can tell that power and authority in politics are two different terms. You can always conquer with power, but you have to be provided with authority. Power is always used by dictators to control the behavior of people. At the same time, authority can be defined as legal power. There is no such thing as illegal authority.

Power and authority can be used interchangeably, but people should always understand the difference. Therefore, Legit.ng hopes that our readers can now understand the true difference between these two terms.

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Source: Legit Nigeria

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