Power Or Authority In Government

power or authority

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Power : is the ability to control the actions of others through the possession of means of saction.
Implementation of power may forced others to change their actions against their will and compel obedience on their part.
Sanction : is a physical, social or political instrument of power which is used to influence the action of others and it is only applied when there is non-compliance.

non-compliance : is when people are not complying, agreeing or obeying the rules and law, that is, failure to comply with the power.top↑

Forms Of Power

1] Physical power : Physical power is also known as naked power which involves the use of physical force to compel obedience.
Application of physical power may cause pains, injury, inconvenience or even death.

2] Political power : this is the type of power exercised by a government in steering the affairs of a state. This type of power which resides in the three organs of government is derived from the constitution.top↑

3] Military power : it is the type of power exercised by those who control the instrument of suppression like armed forces.
Military power can be used to forcefully change a government, quell riots, defend the territory of a state against external attack, etc. And according to the former Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung, he says " Power Emanates From The Barrel Of Gun"

4] Economic power : it is the type of power involving the use of economic resources at a person's disposal in controlling the actions of others.
Economic power is more visible in capitalist states and those who posses economic power influence the policies of the government.top↑

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Means Of Acquisition Of Power

1] The constitution : in democratic states, the constitution specifies the modus operandi (law enforcement) of acquiring power through elections that are held periodically. This type of power that belongs to people is acquired through the ballot box.

2] Position of authority : one's position of authority can confer some elements of power on the person.
Such power of conferred on a person as a result of his position of authority ceases to exist when the person vacates such position.top↑

3] Through coercion : power can be obtained through the use of force especially military force, armed forces in some West Africa and other Third World countries have through coup d'etat(replacement of a government) acquired political power.

4] Through inheritance : this type is the common means of acquiring traditional power.
Those born in royal families have the right of ascending to the throne vacated by their ancestors which gives them some elements of power.

5] The use of charisma : many people acquired power through their personal influence and capacity to inspire devotion and enthusiasm, such charismatic attribute goes with persuasion.top↑

6] Control of economic resources : Those who control economic resources use such opportunity to acquire political power.
This is in line with the principles of economic determinism.


Authority can be defined as the power or right to give orders and enforce obedience, authority gives one the right to command others to obey as a duty.
The power of authority is derived from one's office and the role the person plays in a given society. Authority which is on many occasions derived from the consent of the people commands respect, influence and confidence, authority vested on certain individuals through the consent of the people serves as a test of a government's popularity. In a democratic society, the electorate constitutes the source of political and power authority.top↑
That is why even the military government tries to legitimize its authority by seeking the consent of the people.

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Means Of Political Authority

There are three means of political authority stated by a german sociologist Max Weber.

1] Traditional authority this means of authority is derived from hereditary families based on the existing customs and tradition. It is through this source that queen Elizabeth in England, Obas in the west of Nigeria, Obis in the east of Nigeria and Emirs in the North Nigeria derive their political power.

2] Legal authority : this type of authority is derived from a body of rules and regulations governing a given society, e.g The Constitution.

3] Charismatic authority : this is an extraordinary quality of a person which gives rise to the acceptance of the person as a leader.
This means of authority is the exceptional personal characteristics.top↑

Types Of Authority

1] Coercive authority : this is the type of authority involving the use of force e.g Military authority.
The reason why this type of authority is accepted is because it is the type of authority that is done out of fear.

2] Technical authority : this is the type of authority one exercised based on his technical know-how, this type of authority is accepted because he is a recognised expert in the field concerned.

3] Political authority : this is the type of authority impose on a group of individuals by a written document such as constitution to make decisions and policies and to enforce obedience.

4] Traditional authority : this type of authority is define and legitimize by customs and tradition .
This type of authority is held by those qualified by tradition and is normally acquired through inheritance.top↑

5] Positional authority : this type of authority is exercised as a result of the position the person holds.

6] Charismatic authority : this is the type of authority that is based on the extraordinary personal qualities of the individual, such extraordinary personal qualities of the individual influence others to accept orders of the individual and obey them.

7] Legal rational authority : this type of authority is legitimize and define by law and held by those who are legally qualified.

8] Delegated authority : this is the type of authority conferred on a subordinate to exercise certain powers on specified matters.

Difference Between Power And Authority

a] Power requires some elements of force and sanction while authority does not require any application of force or sanction.

b] Possessor of power has the right to order the death of a citizen while possessor of authority has no right to order the death of a citizen but can discipline the offenders.top↑

c] power cannot be legitimate while authority can be legitimate ( main attribute of authority is legitimacy).

d] In power, the fear of sanctions is what compels the people to obey order while legitimacy and the existing laws and regulations is what compels the people to obey order in authority.

e] Power cannot be delegated, that is, a person cannot be represented or authorized the Power while authority can be delegated, that is, it can be represented or authorized to a person.top↑

Let stop here guys, next class will be on Legitimacy

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