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Dieckmann, H. (1977). Some Aspects of the Development of Authority. J. Anal. Psychol., 22(3):230-242.

(1977). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 22(3):230-242

Some Aspects of the Development of Authority

Hans Dieckmann,

If We Consider the problem of authority from the viewpoint of analytical psychology, we should begin by first giving a phenomenological account of the structure of authority as we find it in the collective consciousness. After which we can raise the question as to how this structure came into being, how it developed, and what direction it may further take within the framework of our own practice; that is, which characteristic tendencies of such a development could be linked with the individuation process—if individuation is not to degenerate into a mere word in the vocabulary of a Brave new world.

Authority comprises three levels:

1.   Violence and power;

2.   Reputation and prestige;

3.   Knowledge and wisdom.

All these may be either personal or impersonal. Personal if authority is based on real personal superiority in relation to other people, be it of greater strength, position or wisdom; impersonal if authority is based on an institution, an office or on higher social position. As we all know, the man clothed in impersonal authority may himself be weak, of low personal reputation and even stupid. This is not very important so long as the institution works. There is a famous German proverb which says: ‘Wem Gott ein Amt gibt, dem gibt er auch den Verstand, es auszuüben’ (When God gives someone a position, it also gives him the intelligence to administer it). Only if the institution degenerates does the man also collapse.

Of these three levels of personal and impersonal authority, usually only one is accentuated, the other two playing a more or less secondary rôle like two auxiliary functions. An American President, for example, may have great power but can have a very questionable personal reputation and lack wisdom—as we have seen in recent years. The Pope has a solid reputation but less essential power and often less knowledge. An Indian guru has more of the third, and less of the first two, qualities.

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