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Traditional Authority

According to Weber, traditional authority is power that is legitimized on the basis of long-standing custom. In pre industrial societies, the authority of traditional leaders, such as kings, queens, pharaohs. emperors. and religious dignitaries, is usually grounded in religious beliefs and custom. For example, British kings and queens historically traced their authority from God. Members of subordinate classes obey a traditional leaders edicts out of economic and political dependency and sometimes personal loyalty However, as societies industrialize, traditional authority is challenged by a more complex division of labor and by the wider diversity of people who now inhabit the area as a result of high immigration rates. In industrialized societies; people do not share the same viewpoint on many issues and tend to openly question traditional authority. A5 the division of labor in a society becomes more complex. political and economic institutions become increasingly interdependent (Durkheim, 1933/1893 ).

Gender, race. and class relations are closely intertwined with traditional authority. Weber noted that traditional authority is often based on a system of patriarchy in which men are assumed to have authority in the household and in other small groups. Political scientist Zillah R. Eisenstein (J 994) suggests that radicalized patriarchy the continual interplay of race and gender-reinforces traditional structures of power in contemporary societies. According to Eisenstein (1994: 2). "Patriarchy differentiates women from men while privileging men. Racism simultaneously differentiates people of color from whites and privileges whiteness. These processes are distinct but intertwined." Although radicalized patriarchy has been increasingly challenged, many believe that it remains a reality in both postindustrial and industrialized nations. Class relations may also be linked to traditional authority in industrial nations such as the United States. In some upper-class families. for example, holding political office is considered to be a birthright and a family tradition. In families such as the Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Du Potts, capitalism and some degree of traditional authority in politics appear to have been mutually reinforcing (see Baltzell. 1958; Domhoff, 1983).

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