The principle aim of this paper is to analyze the social political landscape of Zambia today using Weber’s typology of authority. The essay will start by exploring key term and then proceed to the main body before the conclusion is finally given.
Social political landscape refers to an objective view of looking at a certain matter or given locality. Landscape in the fine arts refer to a work in which the main subject is nature, in either a pure state or somewhat altered by man. The landscape as a genre reflects much of man’s world view, representing man’s various emotional and, sometimes, practical relationships with his surroundings. Weber’s typology of authority looks at the flow of authority like a chain of command.
The Social political landscape of Zambia today is clear and justified. If you are a Zambian and ardent follower of Zambian political dispensation, you will agree with me that it’s marred with minimalism, popularize, tribalism, nepotism and massive corruption, which seems to be normal. What an interesting scenario we are subjected to. On the part of the general populace; we have witnessed with dismay great passivity, apathy and ignorance of how the state works.
It’s from such a background that politicians seemingly thrive at the expense of an ignorant, passive and apathetic citizenry. Politicians are so comfortable that they need not to brace themselves to be at pains to explain what they have or intend to do for the people; for they are pretty sure that not many will understand what they do. As for the few who understand, they have chosen the path of passivity and indifference; perhaps it’s due to hopelessness-who knows?
This has encouraged some politicians to keep the general populace in total ignorance by enacting laws that do not promote a speed, proficient and quality education system. This is in the quest to remain in the corridors of power, which is a source of livelihood for many of them, if not all. They are damn afraid to leave politics, not that they have passion for the people, but of what is going to sustain their tummies thereafter. So in an attempt to stick to the so called comfort zone, they will do everything possible to please the powers that be. Bootlicking is now the order of the day in Zambian political dispensation. People do things unimaginable to people of their age just to hold on to a position. It’s a sad situation in that we daily experience people saying and doing things in their autonomy and right state of mind would dare not say or do, but because of fear of poverty at the expense of integrity.
And when it comes to Belonging or joining of political parties, this is another area marred with nepotism, tribalism, popularism and corruption. At the end of the day it all translates into politics of benefits, if it benefits you and your close relations, why worry about the common good? For such people common good or justice starts with them and ends right back with them. Some people join political parties based on tribal lines, as long as the top leader comes from the same tribe as theirs, its enough for them, policy direction is secondary if at all it matters. As for others, especially a group that is not sure on which political party to follow, end up supporting or aligning themselves with the popular political party regardless of what it stands for, as long as many people seem to support it and making the loudest noise during elections.
Worse still, when you hear some people say I love that party not because of the good policy direction, but they are mesmerized by the leader’s oratory skill. In such a case, what is important is not what the leader says but how the leader says it. It’s feared that running a country is denigrated merely to oratory skills and some perceived humor.
What worries most in this country is that you will find adults with many and big children brace and endure the sun at a political rally only to hear somebody somewhere at the podium opening his or her mouth just to waste good and precious hours talking about another person. And all you hear from the masses is not ridicule or disgust but shouts of affirmation to what the speaker is saying.
In Zambia, the political landscape of characterized by a number of things signs and symbols. In the broadest sense to incorporate the physical contours of the built environment, the aesthetics of form, and the imaginative reflections of spatial representations contribute to the making of politics is part of political landscape. Shifting through the archaeological, epigraphic, and artistic remains of early complex societies, this provocative and far-reaching book is the first systematic attempt to explain the links between spatial organization and politics from an anthropological point of view. There is a claim of authority in Zambia and a feeling that they have a legitimate right to expect willing obedience to their command as explained by weber who illustrates his use of the ideal type as an analytical tool and his classification of types of social action. Weber distinguished three main modes of claiming legitimacy. Authority may be based on rational grounds and anchored in impersonal rules that have been legally enacted or contractually established. This type is rational-legal authority, which has increasingly come to characterize hierarchical relations in modern society. Traditional authority, on the other hand, which predominates in pre-modern societies, is based on belief in the sanctity of tradition, of “the eternal yesterday.” It is not codified in impersonal rules but inheres in particular persons who may either inherit it or be invested with it by a higher authority and these are similar to what is being experienced in Zambia today. Charismatic authority, finally, rests on the appeal of leaders who claim allegiance because of their extraordinary virtuosity, whether ethical, heroic, or religious, George (1997), Blau (1963).
With regard to Zambia, it should be kept in mind that here, as elsewhere in his work, Weber was describing pure types; he was aware that in empirical reality mixtures will be found in the legitimation of authority. Although presidential domination in third world countries is based on a considerable extent on their charisma, elements of rational-legal authority remains in the citizens of the countries.
For Zambia, Weber’s typology of various forms of authority relations is important on several counts. Its sociological contribution rests more especially on the fact that Weber, in contrast to many political theorists, conceives of authority in all its manifestations as characteristic of the relation between leaders and followers, rather than as an attribute of the leader alone. Although his notion of charisma may lack rigorous definition, its importance lies in Weber’s development of the idea that the leader derives his role from the belief his followers have about his mission and this perception has been demonstrated in the political landscape of Zambia.
One would can describe Zambia today as a world in political turmoil, where the parliament and the leaders of the dominant power, politicians, are trading places in influencing people lives by overthrowing each other periodically. People are crying out for a new and concise guideline of how to govern their nation. Alongside with Weber there emerged one, John Locke, who introduced a unique and effective political theory. He based it on the most fundamental and natural right of the human being his freedom. Locke takes the concept of freedom to a plateau never attempted before, placing it as the very core of living in a civil and just society. Locke demonstrates flawlessly how freedom is essential to proper government by describing the contract between the ruler and the ruled, the inconveniences in the state of nature that just government rectifies, and elucidating that all mankind is inherently born free and equal. John Locke introduces an effective political theory where the people enter into a reversible contract with the government that they themselves erect, in order to protect their freedom.
The political landscape of Zambia is dominated by the hungriness of power and authority from those who want to rule others. A simple definition of power could be the ability both to demand that people do something, and to say how a thing should be done or organised. Authority, however, is where power is granted by consent; and when an individual or committee is said to have authority, the reason that justifies this authority is known as legitimacy. In general, the government has authority because it has legitimacy through: tradition, as Parliament has existed for hundreds of years; charisma, as many people may follow present president Rupiah Bwezani Banda through the strength and attraction of his personality; and democratically through the people, as they vote in elections for the MP or party they wish to form the government. An example of an organisation that has power but not necessarily authority would be the American embassy in Zambia, which exercise their power by sometimes using violence and force, or money, status, education or sex. In Liberal Democracies such as south africa, power is split into three types: legislative power, which is the power to make laws; executive power, which is the power to implement laws; and judicial power, which is the power to interpret laws.The two concepts of power and authority can be understood in different ways in the case of Zambia.
From the Zambian political landscape, we can also look at weber’s typology of authority from the decision making perspective or using power to prevent certain decisions or discussions from being made in Zambia. The distinctions made by Weber between different types of authority oppose those of many other political theorists due to the fact that his idea of authority was based on the characteristics of the relation between leaders and followers, rather than the attributes of the leader alone. Also, Luke’s theory believes that power only occurs when there is a conflict of interests, such the conflict between working class interests and middle/upper class interests. In this decision making process, power lies in the Government. Although traditional authority may be associated with pre – modern societies due to the undemocratic nature, Britain and many other countries have the tradition of a hereditary monarchy, which demands that a new monarch commands as much obedience and loyalty as the previous monarch commanded. The third and final dimension or ‘face’ of Lukes’ Marxist view on power is different from the above two; it believes people in positions of power have the ability to shape and manipulate desires of different social groups, Weber (1958), Spencer (1970). An example of this in practise would be the government proposing a law; it would be thoroughly debated in both chambers and in the Cabinet, and eventually the bill may become and Act. The statement ‘A has power over B to the extent that they can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do’ can define Lukes’ Marxist theory. Rational – legal authority depends upon a formal set of rules that give those who hold authority the right to command others. A social group may be persuaded to accept or wish for certain situations without realising that sometimes it is not for their benefit. The last type of authority defined by the functionalist is rational-legal authority. These two sociologist’s theories discuss the concepts of power and authority in three stages; Weber distinguished three main modes of claiming legitimacy, and Lukes derived a definition of power in three stages. Although this notion of charisma may lack a straight definition, its importance lies in Weber’s development of the idea that the leader derives his role from the belief that his followers have about his mission. Also, many people think that the Government’s use of referendums falls into the category of ‘non- decision making’ as they public feel that they are being involved with the running of the country and so democracy is increased whereas the Government is still in power as they are not obliged to follow the referendum’s decision. The same example applies: the Government could be accused of doing this in referendums as they sometimes hold them to make the public believe it is democratic when they are actually taking place for their benefit.
Using the typology of authority in accord with Weber, we can see the social political landscape of Zambia today in the different spheres of influence. For example, the legal or rational authority is rooted in rules that have been legally established. In legal or rational authority, a system of legal rules are use to guide all members of the group. This practice is followed by all levels of the hierarchy from the superiors to the subordinate. The persons appointed at the top are elected into that position by following legal procedures and are expected to follow the legal rules to limit their power. These legal rules usually develop over time as the needs of the group change.
This form of authority is most effective in modern corporate culture. The structure in place creates checks and balances amongst all levels so that one party does not venture off onto their own agenda. Policies are enacted to ensure that employees within the company adhere to methodologies created to guide that company’s performance and success.
Western world government is much known for their use of legal or rational authority. Having a structure in place that is based on laws to govern all hierarchical levels ensures that members are adhering to a concise format of governing.
Traditional authority is mainly based on traditions of the past. Groups under this structure feel that their guidance is based on the sanctity of age-old custom and influence. Unlike legal or rational authority, traditional authority is not governed by rules, but is usually inherited with historical ties. Traditional authority has existed around the world since the beginning of documented time.
A modern-day form of this authority still exists in Zambia, with the president elected in top control. However, the governing powers have since moved to legal or rational authority.
One could say that your typical traditional family encompasses traditional authority in that it is customary for the man of the house to provide the structure and guidance within that family.
For many years, businesses have been comprised of leaders put into place by their Fathers, relatives or close friends. We tend to still see this traditional authority in smaller companies in Zambia where there is little need for legal or rational authority in Zambia.
Charismatic authority is based on the idea that one is in a position of power due to his or her magnetism. That is, his or her charisma is a quality that is considered extraordinary. The collections of people that would consider this person to be their leader are at times called disciples or followers. These followers may consider their leader to be gifted with supernatural or superhuman powers or qualities. In reality, the true presence of these powers are irrelevant, it is the fact that the followers believe these qualities to be true is what is important. Devoted members are usually appointed into positions of power within this structure based on their own charisma and devotion to the person seen to be in charge.
Rupiah Bwezani Banda would be considered a leader with charismatic authority as he has political powers.
In Zambia’s political landscape with regard to typology of authority, it is clear that the influential sociologist Max Weber proposed a theory of authority that included three types. He pioneered a path towards understanding how authority is legitimated as a belief system. His essay “The three types of legitimate rule”, translated in English and published posthumously in 1958, is the clearest explanation of his theory. Spencer interpreted Weber’s theory to say that legitimate order and authority stems from “different aspects of a single phenomenon – the forms that underlie all instances of ordered human interaction”. There are two fundamental components of order, norms and authority. Spencer explained that “authority and norms represent polar principles of social organization: In the one case organization rests upon orientation to a rule or a principle; in the other instance it is based upon compliance to commands” (Spencer 1970: 124).
Weber’s three types of authority are traditional, charismatic, and legal-rational authority. Coser points out that Weber wrote about “pure” types of authority, and that “he was aware that in empirical reality mixtures will be found in the legitimation of authority” (Coser 1971, 227). As such, many examples of the following authority types may overlap. Traditional authority is legitimated by the sanctity of tradition. The ability and right to rule is passed down, often through heredity. It does not change overtime, does not facilitate social change, tends to be irrational and inconsistent, and perpetuates the status quo. In fact, Weber states: “The creation of new law opposite traditional norms is deemed impossible in principle.” Traditional authority is typically embodied in feudalism or patrimonialism. In a purely patriarchal structure, “the servants are completely and personally dependent upon the lord”, while in an estate system (i.e. feudalism), “the servants are not personal servants of the lord but independent men” (Weber 1958, 4). But, in both cases the system of authority does not change or evolve. Charismatic authority is found in a leader whose mission and vision inspire others. It is based upon the perceived extraordinary characteristics of an individual. Weber saw a charismatic leader as the head of a new social movement, and one instilled with divine or supernatural powers, such as a religious prophet. Weber seemed to favor charismatic authority, and spent a good deal of time discussing it. In a study of charisma and religion, Riesebrodt (1999) argues that Weber also thought charisma played a strong – if not integral – role in traditional authority systems. Thus, Weber’s favor for charismatic authority was particularly strong, especially in focusing on what happened to it with the death or decline of a charismatic leader. Charismatic authority is “routinized” in a number of ways according to Weber: orders are traditionalized, the staff or followers change into legal or “estate-like” (traditional) staff, or the meaning of charisma itself may undergo change. Legal-rational authority is empowered by a formalistic belief in the content of the law (legal) or natural law (rationality). Obedience is not given to a specific individual leader – whether traditional or charismatic – but a set of uniform principles. Weber thought the best example of legal-rational authority was a bureaucracy (political or economic). This form of authority is frequently found in the modern state, city governments, private and public corporations, and various voluntary associations. In fact, Weber stated that the “development of the modern state is identical indeed with that of modern officialdom and bureaucratic organizations just as the development of modern capitalism is identical with the increasing bureaucratization of economic enterprise (Weber 1958, 3).
In addition however, no authority structure, Weber wrote, could actually be exclusively bureaucratic, because some positions would be held by a variety of charismatic leaders. He also stated that non-bureaucratic legal authority could be found in organizations that have rotating office holders, such as “Parliamentary and committee administration and all sorts of collegiate and administrative bodies” (Weber 1958, 3). Weber’s feelings about bureaucracies sometimes came through in his writing and he tended to view the move towards legal-rational authority as a move into an “iron cage”. Weber’s theory of authority is very rich and intricate. Weber and others have detailed many interesting relationships and processes occurring between the types. Blau’s “Critical Remarks on Weber’s Theory of Authority” (1963) explains two of these in particular, components that either strengthen or weaken an authority type in regards to another.
The three authority types may be re-enforced by traits that differentiate them from other types. Traditional authority is impersonal (unlike charisma) and non-rational (unlike legal-rational). Charismatic authority is dynamic (unlike tradition) and non-rational (again, unlike legal-rational). Finally, legal-rational authority is dynamic (unlike tradition) and impersonal (unlike charisma). Conversely, Blau means to say that traditional is un-dynamic, charisma is personal, and legal-rational is rational. The likelihood of retaining a particular type of authority may depend on the ability of that authority system to retain the traits that make it unique and reject the traits that make it more conducive to another authority type. To elaborate, particular authority types can lose their power to and thus transition into other types by some of the following ways. Revolutionary ideals can be advocated by a charismatic leader or the rational pursuit of ends via abstract formal principles can both weaken traditional authority. Revolutionary charismatic movements can be crystallized into a traditional order or bureaucratized into a rational formal organization. Finally, the irrational forces and powers of tradition or charisma can weaken legal-rational authority.
Collins observes that, for Weber, these categories of authority “do not exist merely for the sake of labeling and classifying history; they are embedded in a larger network of concepts and in an image of how they work” (Collins 1986, 6). As such, Weber’s three types of authority match up to his three categories of inequality: class, status groups, and parties. Traditional authority is the basis for status groups. Charismatic authority lends itself to a market scheme (such as the potential for life chances), and Weber considered it to be the outcome of class. Finally, parties are the codification of legal-rational authority, especially in the case of bureaucracies.
For Zambia, traditionally, legitimated norms or rules with historic legitimacy and precedent – are found in anarchist predilection for specific types of organizing, such as the use of affinity groups, a practice common in most street kinds in Lusaka. Individual anarchists also have quite a swaying power, an influence that approaches charismatic authority, but still falls short – partially due to a general repulsion of leadership and partially due to a rejection by these individuals of being used as idols.
The only sense in which Weberian authority might intersect with anarchism in Zambia is with legal-rational. Although anarchists oppose the hierarchically-ordered modern state, they do practice a form of legal-rational authority within small organizations. In collectives, for instance, there are often rules or guidelines that must be followed, or else sanctions are lobbied. This is a voluntary reverence to authority, though, since any member of the collective can leave at any point. Also, it differs from most other forms of legal-rational authority in that individuals make a conscious effort to accept these rules, or even are involved in the rule formation themselves.
Even though it seems plausible to place some anarchist organizational structures within the legal-rational framework, Weber’s work suggests otherwise. He writes that although “legal rule” can be found in voluntary associations (such as anarchist collectives), it needs “an extensive and hierarchically organized staff of functionaries” (Weber 1958: 2). Since there is no hierarchy present in a collective, nor permanent functionaries, Weber’s own criteria discounts this possibility.
Over the past four years, the Zambian electorate has been dealt a series of body blows, each capable of altering the political landscape. The voting system broke down in a presidential election. A booming economy faltered, punctuated by revelations of one of the worst business scandals in the Zambian history. George (1997).
National unity has been the initial response to the calamitous events of hunger in many Zambians but that spirit has dissolved amid rising political polarization and anger. Perhaps the most striking evidence of a growing partisan disparity is the extent to which patriotic front, United National Party for Development and others now judge their personal influence and financial situation differently. While Max Weber, a German economist and sociologist is considered to be one of the most significant classical theorists because of his methods that are still being implemented into modern sociological research, Weber is best known for his essay, The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism, as well as being highly regarded for his ideas on bureaucracy, his study on class, status and party, and for his theory of social action., Almost all of Weber’s writing’s have had some kind, if not, a major impact on modern sociology. Weber believed that sociologists can learn to understand the actions of individuals and groups. This type of understanding is known as verstehen or “interpretive understanding” (E & A p. 138). Verstehen was Weber’s main method of sociological analysis. He saw sociology as being a unique discipline because of its ability to be able to understand people. Weber saw this as an advantage over other disciplines, like science, which doesn’t provide the same level of understanding, Coser (1971).
In Zambian government, authority is often used interchangeably with “power”. However, their meanings differ: while “power” is defined as “the ability to influence somebody to do something that he/she would not have done”, “authority” refers to a claim of legitimacy, the justification and right to exercise that power. For example, whilst a mob has the power to punish a criminal, for example by lynching, people who believe in the rule of law consider that only a court of law has the authority to order punishment.
Coser (1971) says Since the emergence of social sciences in the wold and Zambia in particular, authority has been a subject of research in a variety of empirical settings: the family (parental authority), small groups (informal authority of leadership), intermediate organizations, such as schools, churches, armies, industries and bureaucracies (organizational and bureaucratic authorities) and society-wide or inclusive organizations, ranging from the most primitive tribal society to the modern nation-state and intermediate organization (political authority).
Using the typology of authority in accord with Weber, the analysis of the social political landscape of Zambia today is impressing. It is inclined in authority and power. The definition of authority in contemporary social science is a matter of debate. According to Michaels, in the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, authority is the capacity, innate or acquired for exercising ascendancy over a group. Other scientists, however, argue that authority is not a capacity but a relationship. It is sanctioned power, institutionalized power.
Max Weber, in his sociological and philosophical work, identified and distinguished three types of legitimate domination (Herrschaft in German, which generally means ‘domination’ or ‘rule’), that have sometimes been rendered in English translation as types of authority, because domination isn’t seen as a political concept in the first place. Weber defined domination (authority) as the chance of commands being obeyed by a specifiable group of people. Legitimate authority is that which is recognized as legitimate and justified by both the ruler and the ruled, Spencer (1970).
Weber divided legitimate authority into three types:
The first type discussed by Weber is Rational-legal authority. It is that form of authority which depends for its legitimacy on formal rules and established laws of the state, which are usually written down and are often very complex. The power of the rational legal authority is mentioned in the constitution. Modern societies depend on legal-rational authority. Government officials are the best example of this form of authority, which is prevalent all over the world. The second type of authority is Traditional authority, which derives from long-established customs, habits and social structures. When power passes from one generation to another, then it is known as traditional authority. The right of hereditary monarchs to rule furnishes an obvious example. The Tudor dynasty in England and the ruling families of Mewar, in Rajasthan (India) are some examples of traditional authority. The third form of authority is Charismatic authority. Here, the charisma of the individual or the leader plays an important role. Charismatic authority is that authority which is derived from “the gift of grace” or when the leader claims that his authority is derived from a “higher power” (e.g. God or natural law or rights) or “inspiration”, that is superior to both the validity of traditional and rational-legal authority and followers accept this and are willing to follow this higher or inspired authority, in the place of the authority that they have hitherto been following. Examples in this regard can be NT Rama Rao, a matinee idol, who went on to become one of the most powerful Chief Ministers of Andhra Pradesh, Weber (1958).
In the Zambian political landscapes, history has witnessed several social movements or revolutions, against a system of traditional or legal-rational authority, which are usually started by Charismatic authorities. Webber states that what distinguishes authority, from coercion, force and power on the one hand and leadership, persuasion and influence on the other hand, is legitimacy. Superiors, he states, feel that they have a right to issue commands; subordinates perceive an obligation to obey. Social scientists agree that authority is but one of several resources available to incumbents in formal positions. For example, a Head of State is dependent upon a similar nesting of authority. His legitimacy must be acknowledged, not just by citizens, but by those who control other valued resources: his immediate staff, his cabinet, military leaders and in the long run, the administration and political apparatus of the entire society.
In Zambia just like any other state, every state has a number of institutions which exercise authority based on longstanding practices. Apart from this, every state sets up agencies which are competent in dealing with one particular matter through which authority is manifested.
It can be concluded that this essay has analyzed the social political landscape of Zambia using the typology of authority in accord with Weber. It was pointed out that there are so many unprofessionalism in the manner in which politics are conducted in Zambia where they keep on publicly insulting each other on issues that matters little just to show authority and power.
Blau, P. M. (1963). “Critical remarks on Weber’s theory of authority”. The American Political Science Review, 57 (2): 305-316.
Coser, L. A. (1971). Masters of sociological thought. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
George, D. A. R. (1997). “Self-management and ideology”, Review of Political Economy, 9 (1): 51-62.
Spencer, M. E. (1970). “Weber on legitimate norms and authority”. The British Journal of Sociology, 21 (2): 123-134.
Weber, M. (1958). “The three types of legitimate rule”. Berkeley Publications in Society and Institutions, 4 (1): 1-11. Translated by Hans Gerth.