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The Classical Theories of Power

Thus it is important to remember that their views can be only understood in the context of these experiences.
Since, there is a progressive development in their ideas as time progresses, there is no point of comparison. Yet if one is asked to choose which among them is more relevant to understanding the present system of governance or the various leadership models found in the modern world, then there must be no hesitation to choose the classical theorist Max Weber. The following reasons supports this view.
Using these three questions as guidelines, it would be beneficial to have an overview of the different theories by the other philosophers to provide a point of comparison. By looking at their respective historical we see a linear development from Medieval period up to the more recent era. Max Weber continued writing even up to the 20th century and undoubtedly his ideas were shaped by the leapfrogging developments in politics and social sciences at the turn of the century.
Contrast Weber's background and experiences to Niccolo Machiavelli who lived in a period commonly known as the Dark Ages. This is a time before the Reformation, Renaissance and age of scientific progress. His magnum opus, a book entitled The Prince was written in 1515 AD, in the midst of a society where despots and authoritarian rulers are a norm (Wheeler, 2006, par.3, "The Prince").
Thomas Hobbes on the other hand was born a mere century after Machiavelli and his theory of power was based on the understanding of a world ruled by kings, queens and popes. His ideas supported the necessity of a monarchical government and even assert that order can be attained by following this type of rule. Hobbes was forced to support monarchy only because he believed that there should only be one ruler, that there could only be one supreme authority. And that power should never be shared (Landry, par. 10).
Whereas, Machiavelli and Hobbes world view is only limited to an authority either through a one man rule or an oligarchy, John Locke believes that power is in the collective desires of the people. The rule of majority and a democratic form of government was introduced to the whole world.
Uzgalis (2001), quoting Locke, on the philosopher's definition of power:
Political power, then, I take to be a right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in the defence of the common-wealth from foreign injury; and all this only for the public good (Uzgalis, 2001, Section 3, para. 6).
It was a major paradigm shift compared to Machiavelli and Hobbes insights on where ultimate authority lies and who has the right to rule. Yet aside from his novel idea about the authority emanating from a collective understanding of what is beneficial to the public good and the democratic process of choosing leaders, Locke's ...Show more


The classical theories of power by four great philosophers and sociologists, namely, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), John Locke (1632-1704), and Maximilian Weber (1864-1920) had provided so much in terms of foundational knowledge and a deeper understanding of the present socio-political world of the new millenium…
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