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The legitimacy of authority is one of the basic concept of Political Science. Political regime establishes its legitimacy when it meets the developed social support of major of population and has the «credit» of trust of people in point of its way of making policy.

Nevertheless, there is no consentement in respect of the definition of term «legitimacy». Some scholars [2, p.77], define this term as actual, optionally satisfying any normative criteria (that just distinguishes it from related term «legality»). But other ones, instead, consider this term rather as based indispensably (but not sufficiently !) without fail on certain legal criteria (the adherents of normative approach [1, p.9]).

The modern definition of concept of legitimacy above all is the one that was proposed by german sociologist Max Weber (1864 — 1920). According to him, an order is legitimate when it is «the subject of social respect, in virtue of that it dictates certain imperatives and establishes the sample of behavior» [6, p.637].

Weber’s typology of legitimate authority is strictly connected to his typology of social action. Sociological ideal type serves as the means of methodological analysis. Only three of four major types of social action, allocated by Weber, have their conformities in Weber’s typology of legitimate authority: «zweckrational» (goal-instrumental) action corresponds to the rational-legal type of authority, affective action – charismatic authority, traditional action – traditional authority.

We shall see, that proposed by Weber method of construction of sociological [3, p.545] ideal types sets the real hindrances to construct the type of legitimate authority [4, p.99-105] within the range of his theory, which could correlate to his «wertrational» (value-rational) type of social action, when the category of «Wert» (value), just in line with Weber’s view, is not regarded as one having absolute, extrahistorical character («übergeschichtliche Werte»).

Type of Social Action

Type of Legitimate Authority

«zweckrational» (goal-instrumental) legal
«wertrational» (value-rational) ?
affective charismatic
traditional traditional

So, if we assume, that such type could be constructed, then, according to Weber’s definitions, the «sociological ideal type» has to have the greater degree of generality than “historical ideal type” [6, p.549]. It is important to stress on the moment of abstraction from particular space-time situation (that means that given ideal type could be regarded just as the “instrument” of sociological science [3, p.545]).

Further, we should suppose some «Werten» (values) introduced by wertrational type of legitimate authority, by its definition. Weber considers «Werten» as the «constellation of interests» of any historical epoch [7, p.42-43]. The essential feature of Weber’s sociological approach is maximum of abstraction when dealing with any questions concerning the «sense» of «Werten», confessed by an actor. For example, in case of the charismatic action: «Weber’s consideration of charisma is absolutely regardless and indifferent to the content of action which charismatic person claimes; … Weber is accentuately indifferent to any «Werten», introduced in the world by the charismatic person» [7, p.87].

There exists almost reactive imitation in the matter of traditional as well as affective kind of action [3, p.551]. But in case of the «wertrational» type of social action, one should to express the question about «sense», which actor implies, acting in the range of system of «Werten», confessed by him. Actor is guided by that «sense» in his personal choice of means to attain his particular goal(s). So, this «sense», content of action, prevails here over the form that action proceeds. The «subjective motivation» of action, that makes it «social» [5, p.1], is the «subjective-practical evaluation » (or «Werten» – the term of Rickkert): an actor proceeds out of certain system of «Werten», confessed by him. Hence, the subjective «sense», related to any of «Werten» by the actor, is immanent to the nature of «wertrational» type of social action (and, consequently, to our hypothetically constructed «wertrational» ideal type of legitimate authority). It is important to keep in view, that the «relativistic Werten» (the «constellation of interests» of any historical epoch), taken into account by the actor’s subjective understanding of them, receive an additional, even more particular, local-historical character (for example, the priorities of «Werten», existing for any certain actor only).

So, on the one hand, in order to construct the sociological type of legitimate authority, one should to digress himself from any particular space-time course of events and aspire to the greater degree of generality during his analysis. But, on the other hand, the «wertrational» type of legitimate authority is supposed to be based on the personal trust to private, independent, particular-historical ground, because this type of legitimate authority is related to the wertrational type of social action, which «nature» is introduced by the element of subjective motivation of «Werten». That element is presented by reason, that the means that actor choose to attain his particular goal(s) correspond to the priorities of «Werten» he confesses. Those, according to Weber, have subjective significance only, that is the meaning or «sense» which actor attaches to «Werten».

Thus, the main reason, that Weber does not construct the model of ideal type of legitimate authority, which would correlate to the wertrational type of social action, consists, as we assume, in the fact of impossibility to coordinate two of above presented opposite points of view in the range of his theoretical model. There exists the opposition of requirements: the «wertrational« type of legitimate domination cannot simultaneously carry both general, extrahistorical and local, intrahistorical character.

There exits one related problem: which one of above presented opposite requirements predominates (in the sense of «responsibility») for impossibility to construct the type of legitimate authority based on wertrational type of social action in the range of Weber’s model?

The consequent order of four major types of social action (ranged by the decrease of zweckrational (goal-instrumental) content of social action) is such: «zweckrational», «wertrational» (value-rational), affective and traditional action [3, p.551]. As it appears, wertrational social action precedes affective and traditional one as well. Those, (affective and traditional types of social action), as Weber asserted, just stay closer to the border of «irrational» than rational «sense» of meaning [3, p.551]. However, inspite of their less (than wertrational type would have) rational content, Weber, anyway, delivered the charismatic and traditional types of legitimate authority in correlation to the extreme (more close to the “border” of rationality) kinds of social action (ranged by the decrease of «zweckrational» content of social action). But he does not find any similar conformity to his «more rational» (in the sense of Weber’s range of types of social action), the «wertrational» type of social action.

So, just specific Weber’s approach to the interpretation of «Werten» (as the “constellation of interests” of any historical epoch) [7, p.42-43] should be considered as reason, that Weber does not construct the type of legitimate authority, appropriate for the wertrational social action.

Theoretical methodological apparatus presented by Weber for the needs of sociological analysis of the problem of authority (Max Weber’s theory of legitimate authority), where the ideal types of legitimate authority, being free of any «Werten» components by their construction, serve as the “sociological instruments”, gives us a hope to address an opportunity for the impartial scientific analysis of question of legitimacy.

Note: It must be kept in mind, that famous Weber‘s principle, according to which the sociology, as science, must be free of «Werten» (in conformity with Weber, “Wertbeziehung” (term of Rickkert), or the unimpassionate, objective study of influence of “Werten” at the actor’s personal choices is appointed for the needs of scientific approach only [6, p.497]) relates to the method of study in sociology. So, it could not be anyhow assumed as the explanation of above presented problem of correspondence between Weber’s typology of social action and his typology of legitimate authority –  the problem my article deals with – because that is not the problem of method, strategy of study, but the problem related to the correlation between Weber’s theory of social action and his theory of legitimate authority.


  1. Beetham, D. : The Legitimation of Power, London: Macmillan, 1992.
  2. Lipset S. M. : Political Man : The Social Bases of Politics, New York: Doubleday, 1960.
  3. Weber, M. : Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre, Tübingen 1951.
  4. Weber, M. : Staatssoziologie. Soziologie der rationalen Staatsanstalt und der modernen politischen Parteien und Parlamente, Berlin 1966.
  5. Weber, M. : Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Tübingen 1956.
  6. Вебер М. Избранные произведения: Пер. с нем./Сост., общ. ред. и послесл. Ю. Н. Давыдова; Предисл. П.П.Гайденко. М.: Прогресс, 1990. – 808 с.
  7. Гайденко П.П., Давыдов Ю.Н. История и рациональность: социология М.Вебера и веберовский Ренессанс. М.: Политиздат, 1991. – 367 с.[schema type=»book» name=»WHY THERE IS NO TYPE OF LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY APPROPRIATE FOR THE «WERTRATIONAL» (VALUE-RATIONAL) TYPE OF SOCIAL ACTION WITHIN THE MAX WEBER’S TYPOLOGIES OF SOCIAL ACTION AND LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY» description=»This article is devoted to the analysis of the methodological problem of junction between Max Weber’s theories of Social Action and Legitimate Authority. The author considers the existing asymmetry between M.Weber’s types of social action and ideal types of legitimate authority in connection with M.Weber’s viewpoint at the problem of “values” (“Werten”).» author=»Katasonov Anton Vladimirovich» publisher=»БАСАРАНОВИЧ ЕКАТЕРИНА» pubdate=»2017-04-07″ edition=»ЕВРАЗИЙСКИЙ СОЮЗ УЧЕНЫХ_30.04.2015_04(13)» ebook=»yes» ]
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