In sociology, the concept of rational-legal domination comes from Max Weber's tripartite classification of authority (one of several classifications of government used by sociologists); the other two forms being traditional authority andcharismatic authority. All of those three domination types represent an example of his ideal type concept. Weber noted that in history those ideal types of domination are always found in combinations.
In traditional authority, the legitimacy of the authority comes from tradition. Charismatic authority is legitimized by the personality and leadership qualities of the ruling individual. Finally, rational-legal authority derives its powers from the system of bureaucracy and legality.
Weber defined legal order as a system where the rules are enacted and obeyed as legitimate because they are in line with other laws on how they can be enacted and how they should be obeyed. Further, they are enforced by a government that monopolizes their enactment and the legitimate use of physical force.
Weber wrote that the modern state based on rational-legal authority emerged from the patrimonial and feudal struggle for power (see traditional authority) uniquely in the Occidental civilization. The prerequisites for the modern Western state are:
Weber argued that some of those attributes have existed in various time or places, but together they existed only in Occidental civilization. The conditions that favoured this were
Weber's belief that rational-legal authority did not exist in Imperial China has been heavily criticized, and does not have many supporters in the early 21st century.
According to Max Weber, a modern state exists where a political community has:
An important attribute of Weber's definition of a modern state was that it is a bureaucracy.
The vast majority of the modern states from the 20th century onward fall under the rational-legal authority category.