As Nietzsche said, “life simply is the will to power.” What he meant by this was, that in everything humans do, it is always to gain more and more power – as Hobbes wrote in The Leviathan, “we desire power after power that only ceaseth in death.” Power then, is a natural force. Authority is, consequently, there to give those who deserve it legitimacy in holding power.
DPA is said to be possessed by a state if it can maintain civil order. NPA is said to be possessed by a state if it has legitimacy in holding DPA. A philosopher such as Hobbes, would claim that the ‘State of Nature’ is so awful, stating it would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” that any rational being would give up all their freedom to an absolute monarchy. A state then, has authority, and thus legitimacy, if it can maintain public order – DPA, a defacto judgement, gives NPA: North Korea in this light be said to be rightful or legitimate in holding its power.
Other philosophers, such as John Locke, do not believe that the ‘State of Nature’ would be as bad as Hobbes made out. He instead thinks that because we have Natural Rights, inalienable and discoverable by all rational beings – bestowed from God – the ‘State of Nature’ would not be a “state of licence.” Be that as it may, he presented the argument that only a state could protect these Natural Rights of “life, liberty and property” effectively. A state limited by a constitution, and protecting these rights as a “neutral umpire” in the case of disagreement between individuals, would therefore possess NPA. In contrast to Hobbes vision of the correct state, Locke asserts that in his opinion the state should have less authority over its citizens; and thus less power.
On the other hand, an anarchist, such a Thoreau, would claim that “that government is best which governs not at all.” This is due to the fact that anarchists believe the power put into the hands of the governing elite by a state is corrupting – checks and balance, such as a constitution, do not cut it for them – thus the conclusion is that states can never have authority in their possession of power: they can’t hold NPA.
If we take the view of Marx Stirner, an individualist anarchist, one can only have authority over one’s own power – in other words – one makes one’s own choices according to ones ethics and conscience. Only they, the individual, can give legitimacy to their actions: each person is at the centre of their own moral universe.
Overall, as we have seen, to not talk of authority when it comes to human and/or state action is impossible. Authority does not masks power, but gives it legitimacy: whether this legitimacy applies to a state or person differs from thinker to thinker. One thing we cannot do, however, is talk of power without legitimacy or authority – remember, “life simply is the will to power.”