History Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

What is the difference between a government's power and its authority?

Expert Answers info

Ryan Wellman eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write132 answers

starTop subjects are History, Law and Politics, and Science

There is a clear difference between a government's power and its authority. Power gives the government the capability to influence the country through policy. The government has the power to make crucial decisions in the country because of the people and the basic size of the government. The government has substantial knowledge, which is one of the major components of power. However, authority is what gives the government the right to exercise that power. Authority is the legal right to use power. Therefore, authority is legitimate and power is not. Without the authority invested by the people and a constitution, the government's power is obsolete. While power doesn't necessarily dissolve that easily, the lack of authority can handcuff the government. Think of power like the body of an extravagant sports car that simply cannot run unless the engine (authority) is working.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

aussienmiss eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write10 answers

starTop subjects are Literature and History

In the government, power is the influence politicians and other government officials have over others. While the two concepts are similar, they are also uniquely different. The public votes the politician into office, granting them power. Authority can therefore be seen as legitimate. It comes from the rights of the person placed in a position of power. Power is threatening sanctions, while authority is the right to enforce the sanction. Authority gives the government official the formal right to act. For example, politicians have the authority to make and enforce laws. They use their power to influence others to support the law. Government officials have legal-rational authority. Their authority stems from legislation and the laws of the constitution. Authority is more structured and formal, while power can stem from an ability to persuade others.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial