REVIEWS

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1960.tb00578.x
Publication Date01 Jan 1960
REVIEWS
AUTHORITY.
Edited
by
CARL
J.
FRIEDRICH.
[Cambridge, Mass.
:
The Harvard University Press; London
:
Oxford University
Press.
1958.
viii and
304
pp.
40s.
net.]
THIS
is the first volume of
an
annual series which is to be published by the
American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy under the title of
Nmos.
Should its successors attain the same quality and interest as the
present work its yearly appearance will come to be looked forward to eagerly
by all those interested in the wider aspects
of
law and politics. Not that
the quality here reaches
a
standard of uniform excellence-indeed it is some-
what patchy-but that there is here much that is stimulating and thought
provoking, which is
I
think the primary desideratum in discussions of subjects
which have been under argument for centuries.
The contents of the volume are broadly indicated in the title: they
consist of papers read
at
a meeting of the Society of notes arising from
contributions to discussion, and of some specially wrltten articles. They
are
divided into three main groups which purport to cover
a
general philosophic
approach, the historical perspective, and the socio-political perspective,
though in fact there is some overlapping, as indeed was to be expected.
In early discussions of authority the attempt was seldom made to
demarcate it from power. Starting with Max Weber’s well-known contribu-
tion to the subject the nature of authority has become better realised, but
it cannot be said that any fully effective analysis has been produced, nor
has there been much in the way
of
full-length studies of the subject; though
recent interest in it, undoubtedly stimulated by the totalitarian conception
of authority associated with the names of Mussolini and Hitler, has led to
a
good deal
of
writing in the periodicals, particularly perhaps in the U.S.A.
It
cannot really be said that the authors of the articles in this book reach
any finality of agreement on the nature of authority or of its precise relation-
ship with power. Yet several of the discussions are
so
acute and fertile in
ideas that one feels that the ground has been well tilled, and is now ready for
the considered work of a master of political science.
As one would expect in
a
mid-twentieth century discussion the semantic
aspect is
a
good deal canvassed, and with valuable results, particularly by
Bertrand de Jouvenal in his
Authority
:
the Efficient Imperative.” Pro-
fessor Friedrich, too, in his “Authority Reason and Discretion” has some
sensible points to make on this aspect of the matter.
To me one of the most interesting points which emerges is that the whole
subject has until quite recently been obscured by the too great emphasis on
what may be called the classical conception of authority, which stems from
Plato. That philosopher’s political experience was pretty much bounded by
the Greek city state with its periodical irruptions of tyrannous power. He
was concerned to establish thc rule of reason; his uncond’tional major premise
no doubt being the dominant role which philosophers would then play. But
some tyrants were very reasonable beings, and the philosopher king was in
practice too much like them to be easily distinguishable in the world
of
affairs. Authority came therefore to be equated with reasonably wielded
power, and then in Roman times with constituted power, and later again
in medieval Europe with power according to law, and still later with divinely
granted power which merges without difficulty into the authoritarianism of
Mussolini and Hitler. Yet
according to Dr. Hannah Arendt, whose authoritative and fascinating chapter
113
The power element is only too obvious throughout this development.
VOL.
23
8
114
THE
MODERN
LAW
REVIEW
VOL.
23
“What was Authority?
is certainly one of the highlights of this volume,
and to whom we owe this illuminating historical disquisition, there
is
no
connection at all between authority and power,
or
rather with that kind of
power which is based upon external coercion. This view receives a good deal
of support from other contributors. Indeed it might be said that there is
fairly general agreement that in
the
modern liberal and democratic world
of
the West authority is principally concerned with the arrangements made
by the properly constituted leadership
for
organising the community, or
those of its subsections through which the modern community functions. As
Professor Friedrich indicates, it is largely a matter of communication,
a
communication which must
possess the potentiality of reasoned elabora-
tion,” which in essence means that the “authorities” must adjust their work
to what is in the long run acceptable to the community. And
Dr.
Arendt
therefore contends that the old power conception of authority is
a
thing of
the past.
It
is of course not difficult to find uses of the term authority in which it
is completely divorced from power, unless one uses that word in an extremely
metaphorical sense: thus the authority of
a
scholar
or
a
scientist is well
recognised. And here we might say that persuasion is the dominant element
rather than power. Yet it is not strictly accurate to describe such authority
as
persuasive because the essence of the situation is that it is accepted and
acted upon without argument.
It might be contended that such peripheral uses of the concept do not
really throw any light on it, but even in the political field the authority
of
rulers without real power has often been recognised. And the Roman senate
retained authority even
at
the time when Commodus included his horse
among its number. While today in England the House of Lords has no
real power though it is certainly not without authority.
Another fruitful line of exploration is the relationship of authority and
liberty. This is touched upon by a number of the contributors, though it
hardly receives the attention which it deserves. Professor Hendel’s
“Exploration of the Nature of Authority” is
a
good deal conditioned by the
growth of the American polity in which the problem of liberty has of course
been
of
outstanding importance. Professor Frank Knight in
Authority and
the Free Society” is impressed with the difficulty inherent in the “free
society
which is
largely
a
tissue of agency relationships.”
He
looks to the
authority of leadership to prevent the tissue from getting into a tangle, and
evidently feels that the prospects for the future are dim unless international
authorities endowed with a modicum of power can be brought into effective
existence. An aspect of this matter which in the U.S.A. naturally comes in
for some discussion is “Authority and Colonialism,” the essay on which is
contributed by
Mr.
W.
H.
Kraus. Here the power aspect of authority is
only too evident, and it is useful for the reader to be brought back
to
a
realisation that the classical conception still rules over much of the world.
Lawyers will naturally turn with lively anticipation to Professor Jerome
Hall’s “Authority and the Law.” This is obviously
am
important aspect of
the subject and although his contribution is short Professor Hall illuminates
it in more than one respect, and in others throws out suggestions which would
repay further elaboration, as in the paragraph on the “authority of legal
precedent.” But of course there are many lega€
uses
of the term authority
the
study of which throws light upon the general Conception. Another
fruitful field of exploration both for the lawyer and the political scientist is
discretion, on which Professor Friedrich has some useful remarks. The
position of
a
judicial officer exercising
a
discretion has hardly received
sufficient attention in the books on jurisprudence but it would repay analysis,
especially if considered in relation to the administrator’s discretion.
Finally some notice must be taken of the remarkable article on
Authority,
Legitimation and Political Action
by Professor Talcott Parsons. He is,
as
in most of his sociological work, particularly concerned with the social

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