Basic Concepts of Government


Welcome to class! 

In today’s class, we will be talking about the basic concepts of government. Enjoy the class!

Basic Concepts of Government

Basic Concepts of Government


It is the capacity to affect someone else’s behaviour by the imposition and application of sanctions.  These sanctions may be negative or positive thus, the political people may have the ability to control others by promising those who support the government with wealth and honour or may threaten to deny such rewards to those who oppose them.  However, sanctions are used when there is no compliance.

Forms of power
  1. Political powers: the elected president or prime minister of a state possess political power. It is a power derived from the people and for the people
  2. Economic power: an individual in possession of economic resources produces such influential issues in a state.  It can also command respect and can control emotions and actions.
  3. Military power: the armed forces Army, Navy and air force controls the instrument of violence in a country.  This instrument can be easily manipulated to overthrow a civilian government and defence of the state against aggression.
  4. Physical power: it is the application of force to ensure obedience.  The outcome of this application could bring discomfort or even cause a disaster in the end.
The acquisition and exercise of power

Sources of political power

  1. Constitution: the constitution spells out how power should be acquired and exercised.
  2. Through elections: power held by the people is transferred to a body called government.
  3. Through coercion: power may be acquired through the use of force. Countries in Africa, Latin America have experienced severally through coups ie military interventions in government.
  4. Through charisma: power can be acquired and reacquired through intelligence or a person’s charisma
  5. Through economic resources: this may include money or property. An individual can acquire political power and respect through the possession of economic resources.
  6. Through the position of authority: authority and power are complementary. So positions of authority confer power on the person exercising it.
  7. Through inheritance: this is based on heredity. It most times is found in royal families.  Power is acquired when the. kingship or queenship is vacant.


This refers to the formal or legal rights to work and enforce laws and policies which citizens are expected to obey.  It contests the acceptance of the right to rule as conferred by the people irrespective of the sanctions.  The rulers, for example, may have the rights of legislation ie to make laws.  In democratic settings, the source of power and authority is still the will of the people.

Kinds of authority
  1. Institutional authority: This is a group of individual who legitimately occupy public offices with the capacity to determine public and direct the execution of goals and policies. For example the school principal, the authority of heads of state and government/native authority and official authority.
  2. Functional authorities: This is the power which is accurate to a group of people or an individual as a result of the position he holds in an organization.  It is the power which is lawful and conforms with the accepted norms.  It is a legitimate right to direct or command respect from humans and to gain other resources.
Types of authority

It must quickly be noted that while types of authority specify the differences there can be of authority they are not entirely different from the sources/origin.  As the differences stem from the origin.

  1. Traditional authority: this is found in simple traditional societies where chiefs or Council of Elders exercise authority based on customs and traditions of the people.
  2. Charismatic authority: This is an authority derived from the belief in the exceptional ability of a leader which inspires allegiance among the followers.
  3. Legal/rational authority: This is derived from the constitution, a modern democratic state excise through the organs of government.
  4. Delegated authority: this is given to someone to exercise functions and is responsible e for specific areas.  It is best described as a shared responsibility or division of powers.
  5. Political authority: this authority is conferred on a person holding political office.
  6. Technical authority: it is based on the level of expertise an individual acquires on the job.
  7. Coercive authority: it is the ability based on the use of force.  There are two types of coercive authority which are the de-jure and de-facto authority.
  8. De-jure authority: This can be defined as the right way to issue an instruction and to have them obeyed. The concept of de-jure authority often covers the force in cases where there is controversy about the advent of a person. Where such a person has acted excess of this authority.  Thus, when an official exceeds the limit and of such an act would be regarded in legal words as ‘ultra vires.  Another way of acquiring this type of authority is by the commission.  According to Thomas Hobbes, a person with de-jure authority acts on behalf of others who have commissioned him to do so.  Such action when performed, have validity.
  9. De-factor authority: This is a situation where one person acknowledges being entitled to command.  It presupposed that one is in such position to get others to do or believe what he tells them.
  • Has the capacity to affect another’s behaviour
Has a formal and legal right to make and enforce laws
  • Power could be legitimate or illegitimate
Authority is based on acceptance and mostly legitimate
  • Power cannot be delegated
Authority can be delegated with legitimized responsibility
  • Punishment is not as serious as the authority
Authority is legitimized and severe punishment goes with it


In our next class, we will be talking about Legitimacy and sovereignty.  We hope you enjoyed the class.

Should you any further question, feel free to ask in the comment section below and trust us to respond as soon as possible.

Get more class notes, videos, homework help, exam practice on Android [DOWNLOAD]

Get more class notes, videos, homework help, exam practice on iPhone [DOWNLOAD]

2 thoughts on “Basic Concepts of Government”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Don`t copy text!