Possession of Moral Authority

Some people have been granted possession of moral authority by virtue of their status in a particular sphere of influence.

There are different types of status that can empower people to persuade or coerce others.  For example:

●  Some individuals are recognised as leaders within a family.

●  Some are esteemed for their knowledge or perceived wisdom.

●  Religious leaders are accepted as being in possession of moral authority over their adherents. And some apply religious law, which is discussed in the next chapter (5.3.3).  As noted below (, religious authority is very powerful but can be merely a personal attempt to seize power.

●  If religious leaders want to be directly involved in governing the country, they may become politicians – in which case they are exerting two kinds of power: Moral and Political. Ayatollah Khomeini’s seizure of power in Iran is a well-known example of this phenomenon.

●  The UN has some influence, based on the legitimacy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Appendix 1).

●  Some people – such as politicians, managers and those in some professions – have been granted a leadership position in their sphere of influence. Even if they were not appointed for moral leadership as such, they might be looked up to by those over whom they wield power and might therefore be able to exercise moral persuasion.

The amount of power wielded by these different forms of authority varies between cultures.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/4311a.htm