Legitimate Order

Action, especially social action which involves a social relationship, may be guided by the belief in the existence of a legitimate order.  The probability that action will actually be so governed will be called the “validity” of the order in question. (31)

This is related to but different than the existence of action based on custom or self-interest.  In this situation, individuals obey certain rules of behaving that they consider to be created from a legitimate form of order.  As opposed to not following customs (Twin Oaks norms) and being inconvenienced or annoyed as a result by community members as a result, this type of orientation is based on the belief of the legitimacy of the decision-making system of the community.  A team or manager makes a decision, and others follow it.  It is especially apparent that people follow these ‘orders’ not primarily because of their fear of punishment (although that may certainly be a factor), but because they view this as a legitimate directive given by the appropriate person in the system of legitimacy that they have accepted.  As Twin Oaks doesn’t have anything approaching the coercive system of punishment that dominant culture has (although there are still many options beyond simple social disapproval), this seems to be one area where Weber’s understanding of legitimate order is more clear looking at anti-authoritarian organizations than dominant culture, because we can still see the issues of legitimate versus non-legitimate order without the complicating factor of enforcement by the State.  Even without government in the modern sense, there is still some form of order in any social group.

An order which is adhered to from motives of pure expediency is generally much less stable than one upheld on a purely customary basis through the fact that the corresponding behavior has become habitual.  (31)

This seems generally correct.  If people are only following an order based on calculations of self-interest, they could somewhat easily decide to act otherwise if the situation seemed to warrant it for them, regardless of the implications of order, potentially leading to instability or other crises depending on the situation.  Systems like Twin Oaks, as opposed to that of that which rely on State enforcement, are much more susceptible to this kind of instability.  Again, lack of the same coercive apparatus means that the ability for the community to enforce decisions based on noncompliance is much more limited.  In addition, structural dynamics such as high turnover rates means that there is always a large portion of the community adapting to the existing social order, which by definition is not habitual compliance.  On the other hand though, it seems to me that the other side of this is that a society where order is followed out of pure habit would be less willing to adopt changes and potentially be less resilient overall when changes in their larger social or natural environment required such adaptation.

It is possible for action to be oriented to an order in other ways than through conformity with its prescriptions, as they are generally understood by the actors.  Even in the case of evasion or disobedience, the probability of their being recognized as valid norms may have an effect on action. (32)

I think this is pretty insightful.  We can still try to deduce what the nature of the order is, even by looking at people who appear to be disobeying it, because they will often take into account the existence of the order in their actions.  Almost everyone I know who has tried to think of ways to get around the property code of the community, which severely restricts the personal assets one can use as a member, has one way or another accepted the existence of those rules.  They may try to completely hide what they are doing, try to make the internal accounting look like they are following the rules, try to do what they want by using legalistic technicalities, and so on, but I don’t recall encountering anyone who actually did not accept the existence of those rules, that they were the legitimate governing rules of the community, and they had to some way adapt their behaviour to that.

For sociological purposes there does not exist… a rigid alternative between the validity and lack of validity of a given order.  On the contrary, there is a gradual transition between the two extremes; and it is also possible… for contradictory systems of order to exist at the same time.  In that case each is “valid” precisely to the extent that there is a probability that action will in fact be oriented to it.  (32)

Weber here is trying to allow for deviations from a given order, individuals existing within multiple contradictory orders, and how orders transition to another and are ultimately replaced.  The existing in contradictory orders is good to remember to prevent us from lumping everything together in one homogeneous ‘culture.’  For example, there are different ways one would behave at Twin Oaks towards the same person depending on their places in whatever order they happen to be in during that particular context: a particular work area versus another, living in the same building together, etc.  All of these have different and often overlapping orders and roles within those.

I know that Weber is going to go into detail about different types of order later on, so I’ll hold off anything more in depth until then.


~ by Ethan Tupelo on 02014.08.16.

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