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A system where the rules are enacted and obeyed as legitimate because they are in line with other laws on how they can be enacted and how they should be obeyed. Further, they are enforced by a government that monopolizes their enactment and the legitimate use of physical force.
Different forms of authority transfer power in different ways. In traditional authority, power is usually passed on through a family line. In rational-legal authority, power is passed on according to a set of rules. In the United States, for example, presidential power is passed on through elections. Elections must follow specific rules to ensure they are fair: all eligible voters must be allowed to vote, no poll tax can be charged because it would discriminate against those who could not pay, and so on. Although individual voters may choose which candidate they favor based on a candidate's charisma or family background, the election itself must follow rational-legal requirements. When election results are disputed, they are decided by referring back to those rules. Thus, for example, when the 2000 election between Bush and Gore came down to a very close vote, it was decided by a careful review of ballots and voting procedures, not by anything having to do with the qualifications of the candidates.
Rational-legal authority is a form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a ruling regime is largely tied to legal rationality, legal legitimacy, and bureaucracy. It is the second of Max Weber's tripartite classification of authority. The majority of the modern states of the twentieth century are rational-legal authorities, according to those who use this form of classification .
Unlike charismatic authority and traditional authority, rational-legal authority derives its powers from the system of bureaucracy and legality. Weber defined legal order as a system wherein the rules are enacted and obeyed as legitimate because they are in line with other laws on how they can be enacted and how they should be obeyed. These rules are enforced by a government that monopolizes their enactment, while holding the legitimate use of physical force.
Weber wrote that the modern state based on rational-legal authority emerged from the patrimonial and feudal struggle for power uniquely in Western civilization. The prerequisites for the modern Western state are the monopoly by a central authority of the means of administration and control; the monopoly of legislative authority; and the organization of officialdom, dependent upon the central authority.
According to Max Weber, a modern state exists where a political community has three elements. First, an administrative and legal order that has been created and can be changed by legislation that also determines its role. Second, it must have binding authority over citizens and actions in its jurisdiction. Lastly, it must possess the right to legitimately use the physical force in its jurisdiction.