Five basic forms of Authority (Paterson)

Five basic forms of Authority

Æsculapian Authority and the Doctor-patient Relationship

The complete article needs to be read by clicking on the link but here are some extracts from an article by Erik T. Paterson, M.B., Ch.B., D.Obst.R.C.O.G., F.B.I.S (with footnotes omitted) and first published in The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 15, 2nd Quarter 2000

“Authority as a term has bad public relations at this time because of the confusion between its meaning and that of the word “power”, the two often and incorrectly being used as synonyms.

Power is that which is used to change the way people function/behave without their consent.   In effect it makes slaves of them, denying them the rights and privileges of citizenship while imposing upon them merely duties and responsibilities.   Military people are familiar with this in the form of conscription, a conscript army being indistinguishable from a slave army.

This is an appropriate point to consider the term ‘Swanelo’.   This Ugandan word was identified by Paterson as expressing the essence of citizenship.   In return for voluntarily carrying out a person’s Duties and Responsibilities to society, society in return bestows certain Rights and Privileges upon that person.   However, a person who has only Rights and Privileges is a tyrant, and, currently, there are too many tyrants in society all demanding their Rights without consideration of what Duties they ought to perform to merit such Rights.   A slave has merely Duties and Responsibilities, having no say in how his or her life ought to be conducted.   Someone without either Duties and Responsibilities or Rights and Privileges is nothing, not even human as we understand it–see ‘nidding’ above.   A citizen has Duties and Responsibilities in perfect balance with Rights and Privileges, i.e. Swanelo.

An important aspect of Swanelo is Authority.   It is society, or a component of society such as a company or other organization, which bestows authority upon a person by common consent.   And it is that consent which distinguishes Authority from Power.   Which form of authority (or combination of forms) is given depends upon what function or role that person is to fulfill in society.   Understanding of the forms of Authority in a clear and unambiguous fashion helps us to use it constructively.   And it is a very potent tool which the group uses to make the decisions which it has to make, often to achieve the very survival of the group.

Paterson identified five basic forms of Authority and defined these in the following terms:

Structural Authority–the right to command (and discipline) by reason of a person’s position within an organization.   An example of this is the authority of the manager of a business.   The manager is required to secure the economic survival of the business.   An employee enters the business to perform some function which the business requires to further aim of the survival of the business.   And the employee voluntarily accepts that the manager has Structural Authority.   Without that authority the manager is unable to give the necessary orders to ensure that the business does survive, and the employee’s very livelihood, and ultimately survival, depends on that.   It also confers the right to discipline by reprimand, or even more severe sanctions, if the employee acts in a fashion which is contrary to the survival of the enterprise.

Sapiential Authority–the right to be heard by reason of a person’s superior knowledge and experience.   The wise manager recognises that the employee has knowledge about her or his job which the manager can-not possess.   While the ultimate responsibility for the outcome of the employee’s work lies with the manager, it is better for the business if that knowledge is recognised.   The unwise manager gives arbitrary orders without acknowledging the Sapiential Authority of the worker.   An important aspect of Sapiential Authority is advisability, the right to give advice.   But this does not confer the right to retaliate if the advice is not accepted.

Charismatic Authorityliterally God given Authority–the right to be heard by reason of the religious, or pseudo-religious, mantle borne by the person.   Commonly this is bestowed upon the clergy of the various world religions, but can be a feature of other ideologies.   It tends to be used to bring about correct behaviour within the tenets of the ideology.   The danger is always that of ‘righteousness’, a rigidity of thinking which cannot tolerate deviations from such tenets even though such deviations might bring about an improvement in a situation.   Currently many medical authorities and licensing bodies are guilty of righteousness.

Moral Authoritythe right to be heard because the person is trying to bring about a betteringness of the situation.   I hold frequent meeting between myself and the staff of my office.   First of all I do so to bring home that I recognise their Sapiential Authority.   But, more importantly, I invoke everyone’s Moral Authority to improve the service provided by my office, which is ‘a good thing’ and far from righteous.

Personal Authoritythe right to be heard by reason of a person’s personal qualities.   In the meetings referred to above, there are members of my staff who tend to speak up more on matters than others.   Necessarily they have more Personal Authority.

Either consciously, or unconsciously, humans seem to recognise these forms of Authority.   Perhaps that recognition is hard-wired into our brains genetically by evolution.   Certainly they are universal in all known human cultures, even those separated from each other by many millennia of separate development.   This is also true of Æsculapian Authority.

Æsculapian Authority

No individual is restricted to one form of authority.   Often, depending on the circumstances and the differing roles which we play, we may switch from one form to another or even adopt combinations.”


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