11 Differences between “Power” and “Authority” in Politics

The Differences between Power and Authority in Politics are:

1. Power is the ability to produce a change in the behaviour of others through the use of force or coercion or threat of use of force. Authority is the recognised power/legal right of the authority-holder to direct and regulate the behaviour of his subjects.

2. Power may or may not be legitimate. It can be illegitimate also. Power based on naked force, dominance and suppression is illegitimate power. As against this, what is called Authority is essentially a legitimate power. Legitimacy is the hall-mark of Authority.

3. Power is based upon force. Its basis is force or threat of use of force. Authority is based upon the constitution, laws or rights or traditions. It enjoys the status of being a rightful power.

4. The exercise of power depends upon the power-holder to act and use his resources for securing the desired results in respect of the behaviour of others. The exercise of authority involves the prescribed and willing acceptance of power of the authority- holder by the subjects. It is the acknowledged and recognised power of the authority holder.

5. Scope of authority is defined, recognised and limited. Authority-holder is responsible as well as accountable in respect of the exercise of his authority. Hence Authority is democratic in nature and scope. Power depends upon the ability and capability of the power-holder. Its use can be democratic or undemocratic.

6. Since the scope of authority is always defined and the authority-holder is J responsible and accountable, it is very effective in securing the desired change in the behaviour of the subjects. The chances of its misuse are less than the chances of misuse of power. Power is limited only by the resources and will of the power- holder.

7. Authority has two essential elements. Power and Legitimacy. It is a power backed by recognition or belief that it is legal, just, good and beneficial for those upon whom it is used.

Power means the ability and capacity to get the desired change in the behaviour of others. It is backed by the coercive power of the state. Power involves imposition of decisions. Authority involves enforcement of decisions which are recognised by the people as legal, just and essential.

8. Whereas authority bears the quality of being, recognised, just, accepted and legitimate power of the authority-holders, Power denotes the ability and capacity, legal or extra legal, to impose decisions on others by dependence upon the sanction of force or threat of use of force.

9. Power can be legitimate or illegitimate, Authority is essentially legitimate. There can be no such thing as illegitimate authority.

10. Authority can have its basis on constitution, law, tradition, ideology, position in government or social/religions status. Power is basically the ability or capacity, legal or otherwise, to carryout desired functions in society.

11. A dictator has the power to rule, a democratic ruler uses the authority to rule. Analysing the difference between power and authority, Lasswell observes “Power becomes authority when it is legalised (legitimised). Capacity to issue orders is power, whereas authority is that point where the decisions are taken.”

Submitted by : Dr. Gulab, Category : Knowledge