by Frank Caccioppoli
Sovereignty is a concept used in political theory and sociology and refers to the highest or final authority in a given jurisdiction. Sovereignty can refer to the authority of a head of state, such as a king or president, or any power with complete autonomy and legitimacy that is not superseded by any higher authority. Sovereignty as a concept is often the subject of national identity or international autonomy. Because sovereignty is a type of authority, whether that authority is truly legitimate is a primary concern for political theorists. Authority is not the same thing as power, and it is possible for a government to have power but be considered illegitimate due to a lack of authority.
In The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), German sociologist Max Weber studied the different ways that authority could be obtained and described three different types of authority. The first is rational or legal authority, which governments maintain through exercising the rule of law for necessary or rational purposes, such as banning criminal activity. The second type of authority is derived from custom or tradition- this authority comes from history, when things are done as they always have been. The third is called charismatic authority and is built on a claim to a higher power, such as an ideal, or divine approval. A sovereign power with authority is generally seen as legitimate and is followed without coercion or threat. However, instances of protest or unrest may be considered a sign that a government has power, but not authority. Without the legitimacy of authority, a sovereign power’s right to rule may be questioned, making it a primary concern for governments and theorists alike.
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