Authority/ies in Conflict

Authority is based on the recognition of those who follow the interpretations or directions of institutions, actors or persons. As known, Max Weber traced back authority to the belief in legitimacy which can be based on different basic principles, e.g. traditions, the attribution of charisma, procedures and universal norms. Those who are associated with authority do usually not need to justify their decisions or interpretations, but can have confidence that their interpretations are shared or accepted by others. In this respect authority generates power, thus the ability to achieve one’s own interests.

In political and social conflicts authority plays multiple roles. On the one hand, authority can contribute to ending or preventing conflicts because the conflicting parties accept a third party as an authority that ultimately decides about the conflict. This can be in form of legal institutions and international organizations but also personalities such as kings or elders. On the other hand, authority can get in the way of finding resolutions or ending (armed) conflicts. This becomes rather evident in cases in which leaders of armed groups obstruct peace processes because they fear the loss of their authority.

Moreover, authority can be challenged in conflicts, for instance, by contesting its legitimacy. This is the case in anti-regime wars but also in mass demonstrations against governments or non-governmental organizations such as churches. These conflicts, at the same time, reveal the limited range of influence of authority which, under certain circumstances, is possibly based on international norms or a legal state order but simultaneously is confronted by competing authorities in local environments.

And finally, under certain conditions, authorities can even be strengthened by conflicts if they can display the challengers or rivals as a threat to the population that needs to be protected.

As a consequence, questions like under which conditions actors and institutions will gain or lose authority in conflicts arise or what are the relevant characteristic (knowledge, gender, socio-economic status, representation) why authority is attributed to them?

29.-31.10.2014 | Program | Poster | Report

Organisers: Kristine Avram, Melanie Hartmann, Philipp Schultheiß, Timothy Williams