Authority : A Sociological History

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Concern with authority is as old as human history itself. Eve's sin was to challenge the authority of God by disobeying his rule. Frank Furedi explores how authority was contested in ancient Greece and given a powerful meaning in Imperial Rome. Debates about religious and secular authority dominated Europe through the Middle Ages and the Reformation. The modern world attempted to develop new foundations for authority - democratic consent, public opinion, science - yet Furedi shows that this problem has remained unresolved, arguing that today the authority of authority is questioned. This historical sociology of authority seeks to explain how the contemporary problems of mistrust and the loss of legitimacy of many institutions are informed by the previous attempts to solve the problem of authority. It argues that the key pioneers of the social sciences (Marx, Durkheim, Simmel, Tonnies and especially Weber) regarded this question as one of the principal challenges facing society.
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'A convincing and very knowledgeable study of the notion of authority throughout the history of western social and political thought. Spanning almost thirty centuries of western thought, it is profound, well-argued and an impressive tribute to the wealth of sociological and philosophical scholarship.' Mark Bovens, Utrecht University School of Governance
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Table of contents

Introduction: always in question; 1. Thersites and the personification of anti-authority; 2. Socrates and the quest for authority; 3. Rome and the founding of authority; 4. Augustus - a role model for authority through the ages; 5. Medieval authority and the investiture contest; 6. Medieval claim-making and the sociology of tradition; 7. Reformation and the emergence of the problem of order; 8. Hobbes and the problem of order; 9. The rationalisation of authority; 10. The limits of the authority of the rational; 11. Taming public opinion and the quest for authority; 12. Nineteenth-century authority on the defensive; 13. Authority transformed into sociology's cause; 14. The rise of negative theories of authority; 15. By-passing authority through the rationalisation of persuasion; 16. In the shadow of authoritarianism; Conclusion: final thoughts.
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About Frank Furedi

Frank Furedi is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, Canterbury, and Visiting Professor in the Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction, University College London. Dr Furedi has published widely on controversies relating to issues such as health, parenting children, food and new technology, and his books and articles provide an authoritative yet lively account of key developments in contemporary cultural life that have been widely debated in the media.
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