Reflecting on Authority in Today’s World

Pierre Verlyck, Director at Choiseul Advisory, had the opportunity to share his thoughts on the issues related to the “return of authority” in an article published by the French newspaper Les Echos, both in print and online. Highly present in the public debate, the theme of the return of authority was notably discussed by the President of the French Republic in the summer of 2023.

Authority through the Lens of Political Philosophy

Authority refers to the ability to command respect and obedience without resorting to force or persuasion. In “Economy and Society,” Max Weber highlights three sources of legitimacy from which authority derives: charismatic legitimacy, stemming from the exceptional character of a leader; traditional legitimacy, based on custom; and legal legitimacy, founded on competence and rationality. In 1961, Hannah Arendt already described a “more or less general, more or less dramatic” collapse of all traditional authorities. Pierre Verlyck argues in his opinion piece that we need to rehabilitate the notion of authority. “It is indeed authority that enables each and every one to enjoy their freedoms within a regulated framework. It is the authority of the state that facilitates mediation between divergent interests to uphold the common good.”

A Return Under Certain Conditions

However, let us acknowledge that the return of authority cannot be decreed. According to Pierre Verlyck, it is imperative for our institutions and their representatives to demonstrate even greater exemplarity, transparency, and openness to citizens. Education also plays a pivotal role in this process. Authority, essential to our “living together” and nation-building, is a crucial pillar for reshaping our collective destiny and preserving our freedoms, the author adds.

Find the opinion piece published in Les Echos on August 16, 2023, online.