Government and Politics

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that does not matter. For the traditional leader, authority rests in custom, not in personal characteristics, technical competence, or even written law. Traditional authority is absolute in many instances because the ruler has the ability to determine laws and policies.

Since the authority is legitimized by ancient custom, traditional authority is commonly associated with preindustrial societies. Yet this form of authority is also evident in more developed nations. For example, a leader may take on the image of having divine guidance, as was true of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, who ruled during World War II.

On another level, ownership and leadership in some small businesses, such as grocery stores and restaurants, may pass directly from parent to child and generation to generation. Legal-Rational Authority Power made legitimate by law is known as legal-rational authority. Leaders of such societies derive their authority from the written rules and regulations of political systems.

For example, the authority of the president of the United States and the Congress is legitimized by the American Constitution. Generally, in societies based on legal-rational authority, leaders are conceived as servants of the people. They are not viewed as having divine inspiration, as are the heads of certain societies with traditional forms of authority The United States, as a society which values the rule of law, has legally defined limits on the power of government.

Power is assigned to positions, not to individuals. Thus, when Ronald Reagan became president in early 1981, he assumed the formal powers and duties of that office as specified by the Constitution. When .

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