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In the broadest sense, authority is the reputation that is ascribed to an institution or person and that can cause other people to follow it in their thoughts and actions . It arises (through agreements or dominant relationships) in social processes (teacher / student, superior / employee) or through previous experiences of charisma (according to Max Weber based on characteristic sources of charismatization such as strength , competence , tradition or revelation ). The term has its roots in Roman law ( auctoritas ). A person recognized in a specialist field is also referred to as an authority (one then speaks of personal authority ). The teachings of such, ideally old (“ancient”) and well-known authorities were fundamental to medieval thinking based on hierarchical, patriarchal and personal-authoritative principles.

Forms of dealing with authority

Authority is not primarily to be understood as a quality, but primarily as a relationship quality; authority requires the recognition of others, the relationship of authority is two-sided. This can be a wide variety of forms of relationship, in particular the degrees of voluntary recognition can take many forms, in particular:

  • Voluntary admiration, recognition and respect for the professional, intellectual or moral superiority of others, up to and including negatively connoted authority
  • Actually accepted authority in social roles (e.g. parents, teachers, superiors, law enforcement officers, judges, trainers, scientists)
  • Pretending to accept the authority outwardly in order to avoid disadvantages, while at the same time rejecting it internally or in a narrower circle
  • Forced recognition of authority due to physical inferiority or physical coercion, for example in situations of imprisonment or massive fear of reprisals
  • Revolt and rebellion, for example against the authority of the state

Different views and effects of authority

New approaches in the field of teaching, for example in the constructivist teaching and learning theories, assume that the teacher does not only acquire their authority by virtue of the law / position, but also through the consent of the teachers. Authority can also be shared or delegated if the authority (as a person) is willing to do so.

In principle, however, authority creates a power imbalance or relationship of domination between - in the elementary case - two people (even if it is conceivable to be limited in terms of time, space or subject at will) .

Jane Elliott showed the power of a teacher through her experiment in which she mislead children into discriminating against other children by providing false information about the alleged importance of eye color for character. In addition to providing misleading information, she set a bad example by discriminating against those chosen as scapegoats . She later developed an anti-racism program aimed at raising awareness.

Erich Fromm describes the authority of the teacher in the teacher-student relationship as an example of a rational authority, as opposed to the irrational authority of the master in the master-servant relationship ( authoritarian character ). The rational relationship of authority dissolves the more independent the student becomes, until he has outgrown school. Originally, authority is viewed pedagogically as a conducive authority. Because of violent experiences, authority has a negative connotation. Socio-psychoanalytically, Gérard Mendel criticizes authority as a “deceptive mask of violence”, which shows its true punitive face in the case of insufficient or refused obedience .

The very ambiguous concept of authority contains further differentiations: charismatic authority, functional authority, personal authority, anonymous authority, factual authority, official authority, educational authority, etc.

You can go to Bocheński epistemic and deontic differ authority: Epistemic authority is the authority of the knower who knows particularly well in a specific field and is on the heard on issues that affect this area of expertise. Deontic authority refers to the authority of the superior who gives instructions from this position on the behavior of a person of lower rank. English-speaking authors represent similar distinctions in terms of content: “Cognitive” and “administrative” - “Epistemic” and “executive” - “By command” and “by expertise” (Jean Goodwin, who suggests the third type of authority “by dignity”).

A demonstration of authority or a demonstration of authority is understood to mean an act that is used to recognize and consolidate an authority.

If authority is demonstrated by a group of people who feel they belong together at the same time, the effects of the group dynamics usually help to strengthen the intensity of this demonstration.

The Milgram experiment shows that coverage in the sense that e.g. B. Advocate superior actions to demonstrate authority in general or in individual cases, further contributes to strengthening the intensity of the demonstration of authority . If there is as little contact as possible (e.g. opportunities for compassion ) between demonstrators and those affected, this also increases the intensity.

A display of authority can be, for example, through forbearance and respect or through the obvious search for a just consensus in conflict. This is currently viewed as positive by many people, as these demonstrations of authority are interpreted as signs of intellectual superiority.

However, there are also methods and behaviors that are currently predominantly rated negatively, e.g. B. by appearing as impressive as possible: habitus , clothing , as imposing uniform as possible , gown , badge , weapon , etc., by language, such as a decided tone of voice, screaming, including threats ("saber rattling"), or insults , as well as violence Forcing authority to threaten or inflict physical or psychological pain , torment, torture . This also includes spreading fear and terror , e.g. B. demonstrative injury or killing of others (setting examples).

The concept of authority borrowed from the Frankfurt School played a major role in the student movement . A revolt can therefore also be described as an anti-authoritarian movement . The formulations "repressive" authority and "positive" authority come from this time. With repressive authority is meant the state and its institutions, especially the “administrative apparatus”, which is entitled to impose sanctions due to its legal status. The positive / facing authority that is lived in the school and preschool area wanted to contrast the negative connotation with a positive authority.

In the 1950s, social scientists such as Theodor W. Adorno examined the authoritarian personality that Erich Fromm had already developed as a sadomasochistic character in the 1930s while he was a member of the Frankfurt School .

Haim Omer is developing what he calls a new authority in Israel, which provides parents and teachers (in view of changed values) with attitudes, feelings and methods to "educate" children and young people appropriately. In doing so, Omer exchanges the relation to the power-based authority for present strength (“I am there and I stay there.”), Whereby the main component is “vigilant concern”. Instead of controlling the child / adolescent, it is now about self-control, whereby the authority does not depend on the adolescent. Instead of the pyramidal hierarchy, the new authority focuses on the networking of parents and teachers.

Authority in education


Psychologists have dealt in depth with the conceptual construct of authority in the context of research on educational styles. In typologically oriented research on the style of upbringing, a distinction has been made between an authoritarian and an authoritative style of upbringing since Diana Baumrind . The former is characterized by a low level of responsiveness of the educator, the latter by a high level. The level of authority is high in both cases. The vast majority of research findings indicate that an authoritative upbringing is far more beneficial for the child's development than an authoritarian one .

Since it is not clear in typologically oriented research on the style of parenting whether such findings can be traced back to the variance in the responsiveness dimension or a variance in the authority dimension , researchers of younger generations (e.g. Reinhard and Anne-Marie Tausch ) have suggested that the dimensions also be independent to consider each other. Under this concept of dimensions , which has been the rule in parenting style research ever since, studies have now emerged that show that authority can be beneficial for education; For example, Jerome Kagan showed in the 1990s that children with strict mothers are less emotionally unstable than children with compliant mothers. To this day, however, the operationalization of the theoretical construct of authority , which without a uniform and explicit measurement theory, is seen as an educational consequence, sometimes as rigor, sometimes as control or restriction of autonomy and sometimes as a tendency towards strict discipline, remains problematic .

The 21st century discourse on authority

In the social education discourse in the German-speaking area, the term “authority” once again plays a central role in the 21st century. The discussions were livened up and a. through the reality TV series Supernanny , which has been broadcast since 2004 and whose protagonist, the educator Katharina Saalfrank , of course, placed far less emphasis on strengthening parental credibility and authority than z. B. the British "Supernanny" Jo Frost. The school of those educators and psychologists who consider more authority not harmful but desirable, with the pedagogue Bernhard Bueb , who published his highly acclaimed book Praise of Discipline in 2006 , got a recognizable face . Bueb argued that young people only acquire the ability to self-determination if they experience discipline as well as love and authority as well as freedom. In 2008 Michael Winterhoff 's book Why Our Children Become Tyrants, written from a psychological point of view, followed . Winterhoff described in it how many parents, under the guise of partnership, delegate to their child all the authority they should actually exercise themselves, which amounts to serious emotional abuse of the child.

In the United States of America , Diana Baumrind demonstrated in the 1970s that educational desiderata such as a positive self-image, psychosocial maturity, self-control and willingness to perform are most likely to be brought about by an authoritative style of upbringing . H. when the parents are responsive to the child on the one hand, but also exercise authority and discipline on the other. The correctness of their assumption has since been proven in numerous studies.

Although neither Bueb nor Winterhoff had gone beyond what the American studies had presented with their theses, their books sparked protests from the German public and from many educators and psychologists; In heated debates, both authors were accused of having spoken out about outdated concepts of discipline and order and educational abuse.

Even Amy Chua's education book published in the United States , the mother of success advertises (2011), which recognized not for authority, but for a strictly performance-based education, was received as a plea for parental drilling in Germany.

In the course of the same authority discourse, however, the catchphrase of “ cozy pedagogy ” emerged, which has since had to put up with those educators who continue to vehemently reject authority, performance expectations and discipline. In Sweden, the "liberal" parenting style has been criticized by the psychiatrist David Eberhard since the 2010s .

In the United States, the family therapist Wendy Mogel contributed the very influential book The Blessings of a Skinned Knee to this topic back in 2001 , in which she not only criticized forms of upbringing that are supposedly partnership-based but in practice conceptless, but also developed them in detail Opposites alternative to character education.

See also


  • Joseph Maria Bocheński : What is Authority? Introduction to the logic of authority. Herder, Freiburg 1974, ISBN 3-451-01939-6 .
  • Theodor Eschenburg: About Authority. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 1976 (1st edition 1965).
  • Heinz Hartmann : Functional Authority. , Enke, Stuttgart 1964.
  • Walter Kerber : Social Ethics. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart a. a. 1998, para. 141-169.
  • Alfons Mandorfer : Authority today . In: Public Stiftsgymnasium Kremsmünster , Annual Report 116 (1973), pp. 7–29
  • Gérard Mendel: Plea for the decolonization of the child. Socio-Psychoanalysis of Authority. Walter-Verlag, Olten / Freiburg 1973, ISBN 3-530-56401-X .
  • Haim Omer: New Authority in Family, School and Community. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2010, ISBN 978-3-525-40203-0 .
  • Thomas Petersen: Authority in Germany. A study by the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy . Thoughts on the future 20, Herbert Quandt Foundation. Bad Homburg vd Höhe 2011, ISBN 978-3-937831-18-3
  • Richard Sennett: Authority. S. Fischer, Frankfurt a. M. 1985
  • Richard Toellner : On the concept of authority in Renaissance medicine. In: Rudolf Schmitz , Gundolf Keil (Ed.): Humanism and Medicine. , Weinheim 1984 (= Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft: Communications from the Commission for Research on Humanism , 11), ISBN 3-527-17011-1 , pp. 159-179.
  • Erich Weber: Authority in Transition - Authoritarian, anti-authoritarian and emancipatory education. Verlag Ludwig Auer, Donauwörth 1974, ISBN 3-403-00490-2 .
  • Frieder Otto Wolf : Authority . (PDF) In: Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism , Vol. 1, Argument-Verlag, Hamburg, 1994, ISBN 3-88619-431-0 , Sp. 784-800.
  • Robert Papazian Essay Prize: Four Philosophical Articles on Authority in the International Journal of Philosophical Studies Volume 23, 2015 - Issue 2

Web links

Wiktionary: Authority  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Arne Holtorf, Kurt Gärtner : 'Authorities' (rhymed). In: Author's Lexicon . 2nd Edition. Volume 1, Col. 557-560, here: Col. 559.
  2. Gundolf Keil: Ipokras. Personal authoritative legitimation in medieval medicine. In: Peter Wunderli (Ed.): Origin and Origin. Historical and mythical forms of legitimation. Files from the Gerda Henkel Colloquium, organized by the Research Institute for the Middle Ages and Renaissance at the […] University of Düsseldorf, October 13-15 , 1991. Jan Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1994, pp. 157–177.
  3. On supposed authorities cf. also Joachim Telle : experienced recipe authors. In: Medical monthly. Volume 23, 1969, pp. 117-121.
  4. Axel W. Bauer : Therapeutics, Therapy Methods. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , pp. 1388-1393; here: p. 1388 f. (Equation of auctoritas and antiquitas ).
  5. On Jane Elliott's training concept, further information in German
  6. Patrick Wilson: Second-hand knowledge. An inquiry into Cognitive Authority. Westport 1983.
  7. ^ Richard T. De George: The Nature and Limits of Authority. Lawrence, 1985.
  8. ^ Jean Goodwin: Forms of Authority and the Real Ad Verecundiam. In: Argumentation. 12 (1998), pp. 267-280.
  9. Cf. Haim Omer, Arist von Schlippe: Strength instead of power. New authority in family, school and community. Göttingen 2015.
  10. ^ A b Diana Baumrind, Allen E. Black: Socialization practices associated with dimensions of competence in preschool boys and girls . In: Child Development , Vol. 38, 1967, pp. 291-327. Diana Baumrind: Child-care practices anteceding three patterns of preschool behavior . In: Genetic Psychology Monographs , Volume 75, 1967, pp. 43-88. Diana Baumrind: Current patterns of parental authority . In: Developmental Psychology Monograph , Volume 4, Issue 1, Part 2, 1971. Diana Baumrind: The development of instrumental competence through socialization . In: A. Pick (Ed.): Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology . University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1973, pp. 3-46. Diana Baumrind: Some thoughts about childrearing . In: U. Bronfenbrenner, MA Mahoney (Ed.): Influences on human development . The Dryden Press, Hinsdale, IL 1975, pp. 270-282. Diana Baumrind: The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use . In: Journal of early adolescence , Volume 11, Issue 1, 1991, pp. 56-95
  11. Jerome Kagan: Galen's Prophecy: Temperament in Human Nature . Westview Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8133-3355-5
  12. ^ Earl S. Schaefer: Children's Reports of Parental Behavior: An Inventory . In: Child Development , Volume 36, 1965, pp. 413-424. L. Steinberg, NS Mounts, SD Lamborn, SM Dornbusch: Authoritative parenting and adolescent adjustmunst across varied ecological niches . In: Journal of Research on Adolescence , Volume 1, 1991, pp. 19-36
  13. ^ Barry M. Wagner, Patricia Cohen, Judith S. Brook: Parent / Adolescent Relationships: Moderators of the Effects of Stressful Life Events . In: Journal of Adolescent Research , Volume 11, Issue 3, 1996, pp. 347-374
  14. Theo Herrmann , Aiga Stapf, Werner Deutsch: Data collection without end? Notes on parenting style research . In: Psychologische Rundschau , Volume 26, 1975, pp. 176-182. Helmut Lukesch: Research strategies in the field of parenting style research . In: Klaus Schneewind , Theo Herrmann (Hrsg.): Educational style research: Theories, methods and application of the psychology of parental educational behavior . Huber, Bern 1980, pp. 57-88. Heinz Walter Krohne: Education style research: Newer theoretical approaches and empirical findings . In: Journal for Pedagogical Psychology , Volume 2, 1988, pp. 157-172. Klaus Schneewind, Reinhard Pekrun : Theories and models of educational and socialization psychology . In: Klaus Schneewind (ed.): Psychology of education and socialization . Hogrefe, Göttingen 1994, pp. 3-39; Heinz Walter Krohne, Michael Hock: parenting style . In: DH Rost (Hrsg.): Concise dictionary of educational psychology . Beltz, Weinheim 1998. Elke Wild: Parental upbringing and school learning motivation . Habilitation thesis, Mannheim 1999
  15. ^ Eleanor E. Maccoby , John A. Martin: Socialization in the context of the family; Parent-child interaction . In: PH Mussen, EM Hetherton: Handbook of child psychology , Volume 4: Socialization, personality, and social development . 4th edition. Wiley, New York 1983. Eleanor E. Maccoby: The role of parents in the socialization of children: A historical overview . In: Developmental Psychology , Vol. 28, 1992, pp. 1006-1017. Laurence Steinberg, Nancy Darling, Anne C. Fletcher, B. Bradford Brown, Sanford Dornbusch: Authoritative parenting and adolescent adjustment: An ecological journey . In: P. Moen, G. Elder, Jr., K. Luscher (Eds.): Examining lives in context: Perspectives on the ecology of human development . American Psychological Association, Washington DC 1995, pp. 423-466. Marjorie R. Gray, Laurence Steinberg: Unpacking Authoritative Parenting: Reassessing a Multidimensional Construct . In: Journal of Marriage and the Family , Volume 61, 1999, pp. 574-587
  16. The end of cuddle education Die Welt, January 30, 2008
  17. David Eberhard: Hur barnen tog makten , Bladh by Bladh, 2013, ISBN 978-91-87371-08-0 ; Interview with the author: “This is how we pull snot spoons” , Die Zeit, March 29, 2015
  18. Search results | Taylor & Francis Online. Retrieved March 25, 2017 (English).