The ideal type of authority in the United States and Germany

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Abstract

Using affect control theory, an ideal type of authority is developed from the literature identifying three dimensions of meaning. This ideal type is then used to compare U.S. and German subjects. Because their power is legitimated by cultural rules, authorities are positively evaluated despite their ability to coerce. Because it is understood, authorities need not engage in expressive action to demonstrate their power. The affective meaning of role identities reflects their structural meaning, such as authority. Role identities, rated on three-dimensional semantic differential scales of affective meaning, are classified using a K-means clustering algorithm to empirically generate clusters of structural meaning. The cluster discussed here corresponds to the ideal typical authority category of potent, positively evaluated, and not expressive role identities. In the two studies reported here involving more than 1,700 U.S. and German subjects, I find a high degree of cross-cultural agreement on what is classified as authority. However, U.S. and German youth differ significantly in confirming the ideal type of authority. German youth dislike the power potential of authorities more than their U.S. counterparts do.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-327
Number of pages15
JournalSociological Perspectives
Volume47
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2004

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