Max Weber was well known for his contributions on “verstenhen.” However, he was also interested in the structures of authority. According to the article, it says, “While Weber preferred democracy as a political form not because he believed in the masses but because it offered maximum dynamism and the best milieu to generate political leaders” (Mommsen, 1974). Dynamism means the quality of being positive in attitude, which benefits the political leaders as they earn the respect from the masses. Through a democracy, Weber believes the masses will listen to their actions. While Weber lists three forms of authority that are legitimate, I will focus on the rational legal authority. Then, I will explain how the Police relates to that form of authority.
In the article, Weber explains the rational legal authority through a bureaucracy. He says, “A bureaucracy is capable of attaining the highest degree of efficiency, and is in this sense formally the rational known means of exercising authority over human beings” (Weber, 126). According to the Oxford dictionary, rational means based on accordance with reason or logic. Weber infers that the use of a rational legal authority should enforce laws and restrictions that are within reason to the people. Along with a bureaucracy, I believe the Police are another representation of a rational legal authority. The Police practice a rational legal authority because their job is to protect the public from crime and enforce regulation within reason. For instance, several examples of violations are stealing valuables, harassing others, and speeding. In all, a Police Officer’s job is to keep order in the vicinity; which is vital for the safety of the people.
Secondly, the Police is a representation of a rational legal authority because they are “escape proof”. By Weber’s interpretation, he says, “He described bureaucracies as ‘practically unshatterable,’ and among the hardest institutions to destroy once they are established” (Weber 126). Weber infers that bureaucracies are hard to destroy because the organization is a form of government that must exist to enforce regulation to keep order; which is what the Police strive as well. If these organizations were to be destroyed, there would be no order and crime would corrupt the community.
Through the reasoning provided, the Police can be seen as a institution that practices the use of rational legal authority. However, there are times when their authority may be misused. Roger’s Brubaker discusses about the “ethics of responsibility” that takes place. He defines it as, “the passionate commitment to ultimate values with the dispassionate analysis of alternative means of pursuing them” (Brubaker, 108). In relationship to the Police, it can be inferred that though the Police have the ultimate goal to provide safety to the community, they may sometimes misuse their power against wrongdoers in the process.
For example, in 2010, a Philadelphia Phillies fan at the game jumped the stands and ran on the field because he thought it would be fun. However, to end the nonsense and resume the game, the Police decided to use a taser to capture and arrest the fan. While many people agree the fan should be arrested for disrupting the game, many believed the Police went overboard and shouldn’t have used a taser to do so. This is because he was still under eighteen years old, wasn’t harming anyone except for delaying the game, and a taser could permanently injure someone. However, after reviewing the tape, Police Commissioner Ramsey said that officer acted within department guidelines; which was the use of taser on fleeing suspects. Though the Police can be seen as a vital institution for our safety, their authority can be used in the wrong way. Now if the teen was running from the police after stealing something of value, the use of a taser would probably be more acceptable. In all, while the police have their own guidelines that they must follow, it may not always be in terms with the people of the community define as rational; which creates a miscommunication between the two groups.