Traditional Authority definition

Traditional authority is one of the three forms of authority identified by sociologist Max Weber’s tripartite classification of authority, alongside charismatic authority and rational-legal authority.

The authority in traditional authority is derived from custom, tradition or established norms and is derived, says Weber, from the concept of patriarchal mastery in the family unit. Other family members respect the rule of inheritance and obey the patriarch, although he has no real means of enforcing obedience.

The divine right of kings is another form of traditional authority whereby the authority of a monarch is seen as pre-ordained by God and impossible to deny or challenge. Feudalism is another form of traditional authority, based quasi-military concepts of allegiance. Patrimonial government also relies on traditional authority – this is an expansion of the leader’s household to such an extent that it gives rise to ‘departments’ which handle the roles of government.