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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
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The third period in the history of the idea of author-
ity comprised the era from the late sixteenth to the
late nineteenth centuries, the era in which the realm
of politics became its central arena and the contiguous
realm of nature was consistently invoked as its source.
The older hybrid traditions of authority as the titles
of one or another power-wielding hierarchy—family,
church, aristocracy—persisted in the new era, but
political authority now overshadowed them, paradox-
ically as the one kind of authority that underwent
change by being distinguished in principle from the
power it exercised. It was also the one idea of authority
that was to have a continuous history in the period,
hardening gradually into an attitude which subjected
political authority once more to the idea of power.
But if this rigidification of the idea of political authority
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was a fa-
miliar process, there was one development of authority
in its political period which was entirely unprece-
dented: a liberal response to politicized authority arose
which for the first time accepted the necessity of power
to authority, conceived human freedom as the anti-
thesis of rather than an assumption for the exercise
of authority, and rejected the very principle of author-
ity as a dominant value of the human community. The
categorical character of this break in the development
of the idea makes it advisable to distinguish the early-
modern from the modern phase of political authority.

1. The Early-Modern Idea of Political Authority.
The pioneering political theorists of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries detached human nature from its
upper linkages to the sources of divine, moral, and
ancestral authority and retained its lower linkage with


men's political communities. The cause of the detach-
ment was the conflict among the religious, ethical, and
familial principles of authority which vitiated their
crucial function of providing an unquestioned unified
basis of social organization, and the result was to con-
nect nature with politics as the rationally necessary
source of the social unity that states were achieving
in practice. Authority was now conceived to be the
voluntary creation of natural individuals for the ex-
pressly political function of providing the coercive
power of governments with an origin and a purpose
which transcended this power but was directly relevant
to it.

The idea of authority thus became the characteristic
principle connecting natural with political man; the
orbit of authority became an outermost ring of politics.
The establishment of this uncoercive sphere within an
expanded realm of politics meant more than the formal
dislocation of authority from the acknowledged supe-
riority of higher over lower realms in the human hier-
archy to the acknowledged superiority of the final over
the instrumental orbits of the same realm. The shift
also brought with it a substantive alteration in the
grounds of authority: whereas the older mediation had
stressed the origins of the authority as the primary
ground of its validity, the newer stressed the insepara-
bility of the origins of the authority and the ends for
which it was originated.

One of the consequences of this change, obviously,
was to prepare the way theoretically for the modern
emphasis on the attainment of ends as the dominant
criterion of the validity of authority. But a more im-
mediate consequence was the paradoxical authoritari-
anism of the early-modern phase whereby the political
authority produced by the joint decision of roughly
equal individuals was deemed by those individuals to
be more irresistible than had been the traditional au-
thorities who were part of the fundamental structure
of the universe. The obvious reason for the in-
tensification of a political authority theoretically
grounded in the free consent of its constituent subjects
was the voluntary factor originally built into it, but
more important for the irreversibility of this authority
was the stipulation of social unity as a final end for
this authority which transcended any particular exer-
cise or abuse of its coercive powers.

Integral as this distinctive idea of political authority
proved to be, its formulation was the gradual product
of the various emphases brought to bear by different
early-modern theorists on the several aspects of the
process. Machiavelli, for example, suspect and misun-
derstood as his apparent focus on naked power may
have been, did contribute the detachment of the au-
thority of divine providence, Christian morality, and
“ancestral usages” from politics. However ambiguous
his position on the ends of politics was, moreover, his
distinction between the insecurity of de facto princely
power, on the one hand, and the pre-coercive authority
of the people who empower their elected officials or
the uncoercive authority of the “legislator” who estab-
lishes the principles of government and then divests
himself of its power, on the other, adumbrated the
differential origins of political power and authority as

Jean Bodin, in turn, was ambiguous on the origins
of political authority, attributing it alternately to the
free choice of family-heads and “to all those who have
recognized power to command another,” but he con-
tributed to the conversion of old antitheses between
political and suprapolitical goals into a hierarchy of
instrumental and final ends, appropriate to the exercise
of political power and authority, respectively. From
the point of view of power—i.e., “necessity”—the
material activities of the state have priority, followed
by its moral activities and its intellectual activities in
that order. From the point of view of the state's au-
thority—i.e., “dignity”—the priorities are precisely
reversed (Bodin, pp. 5-18).

For the combination of these factors making for an
independent idea of political authority—that is, for the
combination of natural origins prior to the exercise of
power with the final ends exceeding the exercise of
power—we must look to Hobbes. Positing a natural
equality of human capacities, wants, and necessities
which abolished the natural and moral hierarchies
behind traditional authority and positing too an idea
of power as a natural force which “no man can transfer
... in a natural manner,” Hobbes developed an explicit
definition of political authority which was both consis-
tent with the presumption of extra-political equality
and indispensable to the establishment of a distinctively
political—that is, of transferred—power. Hobbes de-
fined authority literally and exclusively in terms of
authorization—that is, as the “right of doing any act”
which is commissioned by an “author,” who has the
original right, to a “representative,” whose actions in
this commission continue to be “owned” by the original
author and are thus “done by Authority” (Hobbes, pp.
83-85). This general definition of authority, moreover,
was obviously preliminary to the political definition
of the sovereign as the “common representer,” “one
person, of whose acts a great multitude, by mutual
covenants one with another, have made themselves
every one the author, to the end he may use the
strength and means of them all... ” (pp. 87, 89). The
authorities of individual men are thereby unified into
the one authority of the sovereign, since each member
of the multitude avows himself in advance to be “the


author” of the acts undertaken by the “one will” of
the sovereign. It is thus through the medium of author-
ity that “power and strength” are conveyed to and
legitimated in the sovereign.

This function of political authority in Hobbes and
his followers was obviously an attempt to re-think the
origins of temporal government so as to root it in the
new atomized and unhierarchical conception of reality:
political authority in this sense was the concept which
represented the conversion of ultimate individual wills
into the support of a single collective power. But the
function of political authority here was also crucially
related to the ends of temporal government. Ostensi-
bly, the end of the state in Hobbes is simple: “peace
and common defence” (ibid., p. 90). Actually, however,
this formula masks an apparent dilemma between the
prudential versus the moral character of this end and
of the obligations prescribed by it. On the one hand,
the sovereign power to achieve the common peace and
defence is the product of a positive calculation by
which individuals “confer” their natural power, in
exchange for the benefit of security; the obverse is the
negative calculation whereby each individual limits his
natural power over things in consideration of an
equally tangible “fear of punishment” by the sovereign
power. But, on the other hand, Hobbes also insisted
that when individuals “confer” their natural power
they do more than merely exchange it for visible bene-
fits or limit it in view of visible punishments. The
conferment of individual powers upon a sovereign
power creates a moral obligation of obedience over
and above any finite calculation of benefits because the
subject has “authorized” every action of the sovereign
in advance and because the subject is bound by his
own “intention” in instituting government. Both
grounds refer to a source of obligation which tran-
scends the public power—that is, to political authority.

The expansibility of the state by the dimension of
its authority so clearly implied in the curious flexibility
of the rigorous Hobbes, was precisely stated by his
follower, Samuel Pufendorf, in his correlative concepts
of the ruler's “imperfect rights” and the subject's “im-
perfect obligations” (Pufendorf, II, 289). These rights
and obligations referred to rulers' prescriptions and
citizens' compliance which were both valid and unen-
forceable. Here, exactly, was the operational increment
added by political authority to political power.

2. The Modern Idea of Political Authority. The
early-modern consensus on political authority as the
valid authorization of political power developed into
two opposing attitudes toward authority. A liberal
attitude, by and large predominant henceforward,
made authority an aspect of political power and re-
duced it to the status of a necessary evil, inevitably
opposed and normatively inferior to individual free-
dom. A conservative attitude resurrected the autonomy
of extra-political authority—that is, of the old social
and ontological hierarchies—and made political power
their logical consequence. This conservative version
stressed the voluntary and even spontaneous commit-
ment of subordinates to their authorities, and con-
trasted it to the potential reality of a democratic dicta-
torship which made the enforcement of equal liberty
an aspect of political power.

In each of these versions the inferior principle was
acknowledged as valid in its own sphere, however
inferior: the liberals reluctantly recognized a delimited
sphere of authoritative power, and the conservatives
admitted the validity of an individual liberty whose
exercise must be regulated. Despite their overt conflict
over the value of authority, liberals and conservatives
thus shared mirror images of the proportionate relation
between authority and liberty. They also shared a
susceptibility to the intellectual currents of the modern
period. The actual content of modern ideas of political
authority came from the succession of empirical, ideal-
ist, and scientist intellectual modes which affected
liberals and authoritarians alike. The sequence pro-
duced, as exemplars, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, and Mill
in the liberal school, and Burke, Hegel, and Comte
in the conservative school.

The initial assumptions of the liberal position were
set by Locke when he used the empirical employment
of reason to posit the primacy of intellectual freedom,
and the natural-law idea of government to posit the
primacy of freedom in politics. For Locke and the
empiricists who followed him, intellectual authority
was associated both with the repressiveness of sectarian
dogma and with the compulsion of deductive reasoning
from putatively self-evident axioms on the Cartesian
model. What was freely embraced as self-evident by
some must be taken on trust by others, and what was
necessarily concluded from it must take on the aspect
of coercion from the outside. In politics, analogously,
the empiricists associated authority with power and,
by virtue of this association, remained chronically sus-
picious of it. Locke persisted in refuting as invalid
“paternal power” that which Filmer justified as
“fatherly authority,” and Locke himself referred to the
legislative sovereign, which he so stringently limited,
indiscriminately as the “Supream Authority” and the
“Supream Power” (Filmer, pp. 58, 62; Locke, pp. 162,

But the generally hostile attitude of the empiricists
toward authority, based upon their view of it as an
aspect of power, was qualified by their acknowl-
edgment of an uncoercive dimension of it, transitional
and subordinate in scope but adequate to explain the


limited validity which was conceded to authoritative
power. Thus Locke implicitly accepted the temporary
intellectual authority of men who show the way to
truth through their exemplary use of the “natural
faculties” common to all over those who first receive
such truth as “imperfect and unsteady notions.” In
politics he explicitly provided for a valid if sporadic
autonomous role for authority when he legitimated the
exercise of supreme legislative power over society only
“by Authority received” from the society itself; and
the supreme power, therefore, was a trustee of this
authority (Locke, p. 374). Since Locke declared the
supreme power to be sacred and inviolable in its ex-
ecution of the trust, save for egregious violation, the
original authority was confined to an emergency role
while the transferred authority simply legitimated the
daily exercise of political power.

Rousseau pioneered the application of idealism to
the liberal idea of authority, laying down the doctrines
that would run as assumptions from Kant to Giuseppe
Mazzini. The anti-authoritarian cast of liberal idealism
was patent in Rousseau's use of equality to provide
the uniformity which had been the traditional function
of authority. He rejected any “natural authority” of
one man over another, and he made no distinction
between the invalid claims to such authority and the
invalid exercise of power by the claimant. Moreover,
his labelling of the general will interchangeably as the
“sovereign power” and the “sovereign authority” left
little autonomous scope for an idea of authority be-
tween the equal rights of the constituent individuals
and the collective legislative power into which they
were immediately converted. Thus an act of sover-
eignty on the one hand involves no “superior” and
“inferior” or even any conformity of one person's will
to another's; but on the other hand it is guaranteed
by “the public force” (Rousseau, II, 27-45). The social
contract produces, not authority as in seventeenth-
century theory, but the transmutation of one kind of
liberty (natural) into another (civil and moral).

But Rousseau did provide for one kind of exceptional
authority, distinct both from the citizen's rights and
the government's powers. In appearance an atavistic
classical revival, it foreshadowed the one generally
acceptable function of autonomous authority in mod-
ern times. Rousseau resorted to the initiative of the
unofficial, extralegal “Legislator” who, “capable of
using neither force nor reason, must recur to an au-
thority of another order, which can engage men with-
out violence and persuade without convincing them”
(Rousseau, II, 51-53). This was an archaic formulation
of the inimitable innovative role of authority. In the
form of a temporary dictatorship of the virtuous elite
who would inaugurate regimes of democratic freedom
Robespierre and Mazzini would modernize this role
of authority into the one kind of power that was not
reducible to men's liberties and yet would be a final
resort of liberals in search of a lever for change.

Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill, each in his own
way, applied the logic of science to the principles of
liberal idealism and thereby developed the liberal atti-
tude toward authority into a definite but compound
concept of authority. In this liberal concept authority
was indissolubly joined to power, but there was in it
a categorical distinction between the conservative
function of authority which subordinates it to the needs
of any established power and the innovative function
of authority which subordinates the executive powers
to its own transcendent design. For Marx, authority
in the first function was a simple rationalization of
oppressive power and material exploitation; as such,
it has characterized every stable society. Authority in
the second sense would be embodied in the dictatorship
of the proletariat, as the transitional agency with the
function of directing political power beyond the class
purposes which are essential to political power into
the classless society which dispenses with political
power. “Revolution,” admitted Engels in his article
“On Authority,” “is the most authoritarian thing there
is” (F. Engels, “Über das Autoritätsprinzip (Dell' Auto-
rità),” in Die Neue Zeit, 32, 1 [1914]).

Mill articulated his idea of authority as a principle
of control even more precisely when he pronounced
the most prominent theme in modern history to be the
persistent “struggle between Liberty and Authority”
in which liberty was the superior principle and author-
ity, in the sense of political power abetted by the social
tyranny of the majority, the threat to it (Mill, pp.
121-33). In the main line of Mill's argument, authority,
power, and compulsion were equivalent, and they
represented the collective antithesis of liberty—
conceived as exclusively individual—which must nec-
essarily either limit them or be limited by them. “The
authority of society over the individual” was inevitably
a coercive authority, using political power and social
constraints as equivalent means and validly employed
only in the compulsive function of enforcing the pro-
tection of its members from injury. In his essay “On
Liberty,” Mill denied the whole category of uncoercive
authority which had traditionally mediated between
official power and individual freedom, for he rejected
the functions it was designed to perform for individuals
in favor of functions to be performed by individuals
for themselves. When he addressed himself to the
time-honored function of authority in producing social
unity, Mill not only denied authority as a means but
repudiated the hitherto sacred quest for unity as an
end, exalting individuality and diversity in its stead.


For men to act “in a way prescribed to them by au-
thority, and, therefore, by the necessary conditions of
the case, the same for all,” is to follow “a narrow theory
of life” (Mill, pp. 177-78).

But like other liberals Mill too resurrected an auton-
omous authority as a kind of Rdeus ex machina to initiate
movement between the rigidly balanced spheres of
freedom and power. Mill's theoretical stasis resulted
from the antinomy in his theory of anti-authoritarian
democracy: the majority of the individuals whom he
declared liberated from superior authority themselves
formed a coercive uniform authority over the rest,
imposing thereby not only a new kind of egalitarian
tyranny but, by crushing originality, a paralysis of
human affairs. “No government by a democracy or a
numerous aristocracy, either in its political acts or in
the opinions, qualities, and tone of mind which it
fosters, ever did or could rise above mediocrity, except
insofar as the sovereign Many have let themselves be
guided... by the counsels and influence of a more
highly gifted and instructed One or Few” (ibid., pp.

Characteristically, in view of the political orienta-
tion of the period, Mill proposed that this innovative
authority occupy a higher, uncoercive level within
government itself. His formula for government was
“the greatest dissemination of power consistent with
efficiency, but the greatest possible centralization of
information and diffusion of it from the center,” and
he expected that in contrast to its limited “actual
power” the central governmental organ of this function
would issue “advice,” which “would naturally carry
much authority” (ibid., pp. 227-28). Thus in the final
analysis, even this remnant of independent innovating
authority remained connected with the authority in
power, with the effect of merely softening the harsh
impact of necessary coercion upon human liberty.

Conservative theorists of authority between the
mid-eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries re-
versed the relationships posited by the liberals and
emerged with a different idea of authority itself. Where
the liberals aligned authority with power and ac-
knowledged a subordinate place to both vis-à-vis free-
dom, conservatives aligned freedom with power and
acknowledged a subordinate place to both vis-à-vis
authority. Since the theory of conservatism (as distinct
from men's hoary conservative attitude) arose to
counter the offensive of liberal theory the corre-
spondence is hardly surprising. The conservatives, like
the liberals, acknowledged the association of authority
with political power—in view of the period's actual
focus on political and constitutional issues they could
hardly do otherwise—but where the liberals acknowl-
edged persistent authority as a function of power the
conservatives acknowledged power as an outgrowth of
persistent authority. And where liberals tended to con-
ceive the relationship of authority and liberty disjunc-
tively, as an opposition of coercion and freedom, rec-
oncilable 'only through the intermittent innovative
function of authority, the conservatives conceived the
relationship conjunctively. For them men's liberty and
the authoritative control over its valid extent were
complements; men's continuous assent to the perma-
nent ordering function of authority made for a constant
harmony between liberty and coercion.

The conservative theory of authority first arose from
Edmund Burke's empirical approach to the stratified
reality of the eighteenth-century political society in
his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). He
made ideas out of the facts of most men's persistent
loyalties to their traditional institutions, and deliber-
ately opposed them to the despotic union of freedom
and force. Declaring that “liberty, when men act in
bodies, is power,” Burke invoked an organic compound
of accepted institutions, traditions, and beliefs—a
compound covered by the idea of autonomous authori-
ties—to restrain the liberty and shape the power. When
it acts “as if in the presence of canonized forefathers,
the spirit of freedom, leading in itself to misrule and
excess, is tempered with an awful gravity.” The gov-
erning power, similarly, should be viewed as consti-
tuted by a whole series of “establishments”—“estab-
lished church,” “established monarchy,” “established
aristocracy,” and “established democracy”—whose
function is to build the authority of religious principle,
fundamental law, permanent property, and local at-
tachment into the very exercise of political power.
Thus is “power” rendered “gentle” by the support of
“ancient opinions and rules of life” (Burke, pp. 19, 33,
43, 62, 90-91, 105-08).

The same idealistic impulse which developed the
idea of liberty into the doctrine of freedom elaborated
the revived appreciation of tradition into a new phi-
losophy of authority. Starting from the insight vouch-
safed by the individualistic premisses of the liberal
spokesmen, conservative idealists approached authority
as a fundamental type of interpersonal relations. The
most profound of these—indeed, the most penetrating
and fruitful analysis of authority ever written—was
undoubtedly in Hegel's discussion of “Lordship and
Bondage” (Herrschaft und Knechtschaft) in his Phe-
nomenology of Mind
of 1807 (Hegel, Phenomenology,
pp. 228-40). As in the rest of the Phenomenology the
reference of the analysis was at once historical and
ontological: the master-servant relationship of a past
era was the historical form of the universal relationship
of independence and dependence among individuals
which has been built into every consciousness as a


persistent category of human experience. The differen-
tiation of individuals into superiors and subordinates,
in this analysis, is a necessary moment in the essential
process of the individual's realizing his own identity
by becoming conscious of himself as an independent
being. This process is a common social enterprise be-
cause individuals can become certain of their own
identities only when they are confirmed by the recog-
nition of others, and the distinction between superior
and subordinate consciousnesses is an essential mode
of recognition in this common enterprise. The distinc-
tion is essential originally because there is an inevitable
superiority of the individual who secures recognition
of his independence over the individual who recognizes
it by serving him. But if the ascertainment of individual
identity through recognition thus starts from an initial
one-directional hierarchy of independent and depend-
ent individuals, with equal necessity its realization
requires the development of reciprocity and of mutual
recognition. The relationship thus begins to assume the
character of a division of function within the common
enterprise of achieving the self-identity of all individ-
uals. For the master becomes dependent upon the
servant for the recognition of his independence and
requires an independence in the servant for this exter-
nal recognition; the servant, analogously, internalizes
the independence he recognizes in the ruler and con-
firms his own identity in the external form which he
gives to his labor for the master.

The crucial features of Hegel's analysis were, first,
the demonstration that the recognition of the superior
by the subordinate for his function in an enterprise
common to both is the fundamental factor in an au-
thoritative relationship and, second, his explicit infer-
ence that this relationship must inevitably transcend
the power of the master over the servant to entail the
mutual dependence of their functions and the recipro-
cal independence of their identities as superior and

Thus unlimited hierarchical power, the original form
of authority, was essentially modified in Hegel's scheme
by the equalizing exchange of its qualities between the
superior who becomes dependent and the subordinate
who gets oriented toward independence as each looks
to the other in their joint realization of authority. From
this scheme two consequences could follow: the master-
servant dialectic could proceed to the complete equal-
ization and mutual identification of the parties or the
original hierarchy and determinate identities of supe-
rior and subordinate could be synthesized in an open-
ended process which would preserve the essential ele-
ments of both. The Young Hegelians, including Marx,
would draw the first conclusion. Hegel himself pro-
ceeded to draw the second. He produced the standard
conservative philosophy of political authority, in which
the publicly recognized political power of the sover-
eign over his subjects was the mold which gave a
hierarchical form to the ultimate values of free indi-
viduals. Political authority furnished the only principle
of hierarchy whose origin was acceptable to free indi-
viduals and whose purpose transcended the range of
its original power. For Hegel, this authority of the
state, vis-à-vis its constituent individuals and families,
was both “their higher power” and “their immanent
purpose.” The function of the sovereign monarch is
precisely to unite authority and power in the state.
The princely power, and the other powers of the state
a fortiori, are valid only as organs in the service of
the “unconditioned,” “self-starting,” and “self-deter-
mined” authority of the monarch to realize the
moral unity of the state (Hegel, Philosophie des
pp. 209-16, 240-45). For Hegel, and for
conservative idealists in general, the coercive powers
of these organs are appropriate instruments of this
moral authority.

Scientism, in the shape of French positivism, pro-
vided still a third dimension to the conservative doc-
trine of authority. Positivism as such, with its rejection
of belief and its insistence upon observation, experi-
ence, experiment, and a posteriori reasoning, seemed
to offer a hostile environment for ideas of authority,
as Mill's version of the doctrine attests, and even in
its native French form it would sponsor progressive
sociology as well as authoritarian politics. But the
conservative political line of positivist origin was not
therefore merely fortuitous. The commitment to au-
thority which seemed eccentric and ambiguous in
Auguste Comte, the founder of positivism, would be
regularized into firm political principle in later posi-
tivists like Hippolyte Taine, Charles Maurras, and Vil-
fredo Pareto. For the mechanics of scientific political
conservatism it is nonetheless to Comte that we must
look. His combination of the modern claims for social
science with the equally modern view of political
authority as the official exercise of power first revealed
the distinctive feature in the modern conservative idea
of political authority—the insistence both upon the
immunity of social superiors from political power and
upon their capacity to employ political power.

Comte explicitly posed the problem by declaring the
crucial issue for society to be precisely the relationship
between spiritual and temporal authority. Spiritual
authorities—i.e., the intellectual elite—direct social
belief through “neither force nor reason,” but rather
through the “confidence spontaneously accorded intel-
lectual and moral superiority.” Temporal authorities—
i.e., the political governors—control social action
through the application of “practical or material


power.” Comte's overt solution of their relationship
was to assign spiritual authority innovative priority in
the direction of social progress (in “dynamic sociol-
ogy”) and political authority conservative priority in
the maintenance of social order (in “static sociology”),
and to insist upon their mutual separation and inviola-
bility. Actually, however, he went beyond this nominal
solution, which scarcely differed in principle from the
liberal Mill's, to the characteristic conservative device
of connecting the uncoercive authority of the innovator
or the founder with the coercive authority of the organs
which would enforce the innovation. Comte created
the conservative model of this device by stipulating
the orderly mission of the innovation and the quasi-
political structure of the innovating authority. Thus
the function of spiritual authority in the static positivist
society of the future will be to educate men continu-
ously in the understanding of the social order as a
whole. As such, spiritual authority was associated with
temporal power in the sense of “attaching morality
to politics as the latter's point of departure.” By dint
of this attachment, in turn, spiritual authority assumed
the equivalent of a political structure. This authority
is a “moral government”; it “rules ideas and morals”;
it must “institute a system of public and private man-
ners (habitudes) favoring the growth of the feeling of
social solidarity, on the model of [medieval] Catholic-
ism”; it arbitrates social disputes and includes interna-
tional relations within its competence. In its social
monopoly over education, the intellectual authority is
“decisive,” as is the temporal authority in the sphere
of politics (Comte, II, 485-602).

Comte's innovative intellectual authority may be
viewed as the limiting case for the modern conservative
idea of authority in general. Whenever the function
of nonpolitical authority was conceived to be the ex-
tension of human community rather than training for
the rights of man, this authority was deemed both
continuous with and formative of valid political au-
thority. Whether such nonpolitical authority was pro-
gressive and intellectual like Comte's or traditional and
corporate like Taine's, its political role was made theo-
retically possible by the osmotic exchange through
which conservative theorists modified the principled
independence of social from political authority. They
admitted a social equivalent of political power in the
functioning of social authority and a moral equivalent
of social authority in the ultimate ends of political
power. They sought thereby to regularize and modern-
ize the principle of hierarchy which was being com-
pressed by the dominant liberal temper of nine-
teenth-century Europe to the status of a chronic
anachronism with at best a transitional validity.