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A structure or organization established for a certain purpose with the legitimacy to carry out said purpose. In a business context, certain organizations have authority to police, and, if necessary, punish certain business activities. For example, the SEC has authority to regulate any and all business transactions occurring in the United States. These organizations derive their authority from the ruling government and international conventions.


A government organization created to perform a certain function. A state or region, for example, may establish a public power authority to provide low-cost electricity to people living in a certain geographical area. The activities of an authority and its fundraising methods are ordinarily limited.


the capacity to give commands which are accepted as legitimate by others. In the modern ORGANIZATION the manager's authority to give instructions to subordinates is drawn primarily from his formal position as a manager, and the set of rights and obligations formally associated with the post, rather than from the manager's individual leadership qualities. However, both sources of authority can be important. Managers whose personal standing with their subordinates is low may find that their authority is not fully accepted. Equally, some managers claim that they are given insufficient powers to exercise their authority fully.

Modern analysis of authority relationships owes much to German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920). He discerned three forms of authority:

  1. traditional authority, where people obey those who occupy religious or monarchical positions;
  2. charismatic authority, where people obey those who have special inspirational personal qualities;
  3. rational-legal authority, where individuals obey laws or rules which have been devised as a result of the application of reason to achieve certain objectives.

In Weber's view the last is the distinctive form of authority in modern industrial societies, and is exemplified in the workings of the modern ORGANIZATION or BUREAUCRACY.

References in periodicals archive ?
5 should be amended to prohibit lawyers and law firms in ads from using actors portraying authority figures such as judges and police officers and who otherwise endorse the services of the advertising lawyer or law firm.
That means they want to impress authority figures who might help or protect them later; they also want to maintain relationships at all cost.
When I described him as "the grand old man of English criticism and the authority figure around whom pivots this strange dance of old-school studio artists and new-media practioners," I meant that as recognition of his current importance to a scene over which he has presided for some fifty years.
Through this parody of the Second Coming, Reed ridicules white justice by equating it with the process of bodily elimination, and he mocks the notion of racial superiority deriving from any identification of white authority figures with Christ.
Gold said a super who is having trouble with an authority figure can put pressure on the building and the managing agent.
Washington, Dec 19 (ANI): Replicating a nearly 50-year-old controversial behavioural experiment, a social psychologist has found that people, when urged by an authority figure, can go to the extent of administering painful electric shocks to others.
Thus, while American modernists generally get short shrift--Harold Rosenberg merits only an epigraph and a mention; Clement Greenberg several mentions and five pages of text--and writers like John Updike and Calvin Tomkins make what can only be called cameo appearances, David Sylvester, the grand old man of English criticism and the authority figure around whom pivots this strange dance of old-school studio artists and new-media practitioners, weighs in with nine entries.
Whenever some authority figure would make a pronouncement, they would finish it with a side-mouthed "under the sheets" and crack themselves up.
In fact, she is given the dominant position in the play, first as the incontestable, unseen authority figure behind the stated action (giving her the equivalent of the absent male position held in earlier plays), then as the dynamic fulcrum of action, and finally as the major grantor of money (her conferral over-shadows those of the Cobb sons E.
It is through a similar shared-but-subjective process that the dollar becomes a valuable token instead of a pretty piece of paper, that a policeman becomes an authority figure instead of a man in a funny blue suit.

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