A product of the nineteenth-century age of “isms,” authoritarianism describes a worldview that promotes the establishment of a hierarchical relation whereby one person or group dominates and governs another without recourse to either physical force or persuasion. Authoritarianism is the advocacy of authority as a source or origin that compels voluntary obedience without question. A person has authority if he or she can command someone to do something without having to do anything other than issue a command; which is to say that the person who obeys recognizes the authority of the person who commands as legitimate or correct. The word authority comes from the Latin, auctoritas, which Cicero employs to characterize the distinctive influence of the Senate in ancient Rome: “Power is with the people, authority with the Senate.” Whereas power (potestas) is political and relies on force or persuasion to command obedience, authority enjoys unequivocal obedience as a source beyond the contested realm of politics.
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