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Conceptual framework for a study of authority

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Despite significant vagueness, Weber's empiricist concept of authority has had a prominent position in social theory, which reflects a need for concepts of legitimacy and authority developed for the purpose of understanding subjective reasons for obedience. Since Weber's day, the philosophies of language and law have provided insights capable of enhancing the potential of these concepts as analytical tools. Austin's distinction between locutionary and illocutionary acts enables us to define these concepts more precisely than Weber did. Hart's distinction between primary and secondary rules is a key to understand why the question of legitimacy often becomes pressing in relation to law. When supplemented with clarification of the nature of authority-based obligation, the insights of these scholars pave the way for concepts of authority and legitimate command that may not only be useful in general theories of the state, but also in empirical research aimed to understand the subjective aspects of law-abidingness.Acta Politica (2009) 44, 241–258. doi:10.1057/ap.2008.40

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Norwegian Agricultural Economics Research Institute (NILF), PO Box 8024 Dep, Oslo NO-0030, Norway.

Publication date: 2009-07-01

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