Rational-legal authority is a form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a ruling regime is a largely tied to legal rationality, legal legitimacy and bureaucracy. The majority of the modern states of the twentieth century are rational-legal authorities, according to those who use this form of classification.
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 and charismatic 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.
According to Max Weber, a modern state exists where a political community has: an administrative and legal order that has been created and can be changed by legislation that also determines its role.
i. Binding authority over citizens and actions in its jurisdiction.
ii. The right to legitimately use the physical force in its jurisdiction.
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.