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Authority vs Power


Sep 22, 2014
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How do we define authority? And does authority mean you have power? Or can you have power, without the authority?

Recently, I have been questioning, whether in the sense of this community or in real life contexts, how does one have power? And what makes a person powerful?
In discussion with a few people I have discovered many meanings to these words, and have reached some conclusions.


Accepted power: power that people agree to follow, and a figure that people think are worthy of their respect. They also have the justification to exercise their power by being an authority figure.

Authority is a type of power: Those with authority have the power to influence the community, and people will listen

Authority can also be explicit or implicit:

  • Explicit, in this community’s sense, is the staff, who have the authority to handle trouble makers on their own
  • Implicit being, for example, a VIP who could have connections with the staff, and when an issue arises they can get the issue resolved possibly more easily and quickly
People with authority can use power, as they are in a position that we agree to follow them. This authority can imply that someone has position-based advantages over someone else. Someone with Authority, probably has it for a reason, and they are able to complete the job they have the authority to do.


The ability or potential of an individual to influence others and their actions. Anyone in the community can have power, and could possibly influence ideas and create movement in the community.

Does friendship give you more power?

  • As a person that is friends with a lot of staff members, will they listen to me more about something that goes wrong, than the average player?
  • The nice answer is no they’d treat everyone equally right?
  • But is the correct and more honest answer, that they will listen more to their friend in the community, and be more inclined to do something for them, rather than the same thing but for a community member they don’t know
Power can depend on your definition of Authority, being you can be the authority of electricity (in a sense that you have a lot of knowledge about the subject) or Authority with the power to do something

You can also have the power to do something, but not the authority.
· In Australia, we drive on the left
· However, you have the power to drive on the right if you want as you are in the car and have control of the car
· But you don’t have the authority to do that

A super villain has a lot of power over people, whereas a superhero could have both power and authority


This discussion that I’ve been having over the last few weeks has left me with a few questions?

Is Authority without respect just power? Or can you have authority without the respect?
For example, in this community:

  • A Moderator inherently has ‘power’, but to have ‘authority’ do you have to have respect?
Is a respected member of the community someone who has power over them? For example, a well-known member that posts a lot on the forums, are they someone with power to persuade the community?

Do you see major events being more frequently driven by inherent authority (like staff members) or people with implied authority (like reputable community members)? What are some examples, and can you isolate some of the driving factors?

From you!
I would like to know what you think about Authority VS Power?
How would you define them?

How would you answer some of the questions I have been left with?

People that influenced this thread: Mooclan SixZoSeven Sempiternal WitheredGold GetRidaHim G33ke and my Mum, Dad, Sister and Godparents x
Also a massive Thank You to Mooclan for helping me out with this thread and making it make sense!! I really appreciate it!


Aug 6, 2014
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Fascinating thread Alyssa,

It's funny actually diving into the differences between authority and power. I liked your driving example. It makes me think about my place as a Moderator. I have the power to punish, remove and manipulate anything I want. However, I only have the authority to do so in certain situations.

Before I talk about how power and authority relate to MCGamer, I think I want to point out what I call hard power and soft power. These are actual terms in Sociology but usually relate to more political ideas (military invasions, political power etc.). But as it relates to a community like this...

Hard power would be the ability to change or influence or manipulate something with your direct action and with your direct say so. When you want something changed, it changes.

Soft power is more the influence you wield and the skill you have at changing the decisions made by those with hard power. Someone who is skilled at manipulation, holds a high standing in a community; or has friends in high places, wields soft power. They can not directly change something, but through their words, reputation and connections, may be able to convince those who can.

Reputable members of the MCGamer community wield soft power; those who have been around for years. YouTubers who bring in many players for networks are also good examples of soft power wielders. When they are upset with something, the amount of people they can convince to support them, the more pressure it places on those with hard power. Obviously, staff members and especially owners, developers and administrators have hard power. An admin like Chad could flip a switch and drastically change the server. He has that direct power.

But, a large amount of reputable members or youtubers with soft power, might be able to convince Chad to flip said switch where he otherwise would not have.

Also, with your questions regarding authority and having respect to be able to have authority. I think that all Moderators have the power and some authority to perform actions in authorised situations. I think there is an extra amount of authority that can be obtained by having the respect of your peers and community, people may second guess your decisions less, people will listen to you more. But not having any respect doesn't remove the authority you have to punish people when breaking the rules etc.

Hopefully that all makes sense and helps answer some of the questions you have?


Forum God
Aug 19, 2012
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Wooh! General Discussions lives on. I was happy to work with you on the topic.

I'll begin by stating the first major point that came to mind when we started talking about the topic:

1. Authority is a form of Power.
(In my opinion)
In this discussion, "Power" is an umbrella category under which "Authority" sits. Something that would look like this:

These are just a couple forms that I could think of, and I believe that they are all tied to each other in many ways.
In this thread, I suppose Alyssa focuses primarily on the relationship between Authority (form) and Power (category. I see "Authority" as being a fairly middle-ground form of power - it's not entirely forceful, but it does have elements of force. It's not totally persuasive in nature, either, but it can be.
In fact, let me revise my first graphic, and change it to this:
Forms of Power Spectrum.jpg

Although this isn't a thoroughly-researched scientific graph, nor are the titles for each form entirely accurate, I think you get the idea.
On the left side, we have more forceful forms of power. Enforcement. Leverage.
On the right side, we have gentler (persuasive) forms of power. Expert opinion and influence.

In the middle I put Authority, though I'm not sure exactly where I should've placed it. The reason I placed it there is to roughly demonstrate my view of how Authority relates to the other forms of Power (mentioned above the graph). Maybe I'd consider making a Venn Diagram as well.

In this, my opinion somewhat differs from Alyssa's, such as where she says:
Accepted power: power that people agree to follow, and a figure that people think are worthy of their respect.


Authority is a type of power: Those with authority have the power to influence the community, and people will listen


People with authority can use power, as they are in a position that we agree to follow them.
I more feel that Authority and Influence are two different forms of Power that are distinct, but often manifest hand-in-hand.

Is Authority without respect just power? Or can you have authority without the respect?
For example, in this community:
  • A Moderator inherently has ‘power’, but to have ‘authority’ do you have to have respect?
Tying it back to MCSG: Moderators have power in many forms. Let's dissect it a bit further!
  • The rank gives the ability to enforce things (the rules).
  • The ability to enforce creates intrinsic offshoots into other forms of power: people will often behave more carefully around, show more respect to, or value the opinions of people with Moderator rank.
  • Many Moderators are also experienced or well-known & well-connected community members, both before, during, and after their tenure. This adds to the general idea that staff members have other, more persuasive forms of power such as Influence and Expert Opinion.

In this role, I feel that the "core" form of power is not authority, but "enforcement". Things like influence come second, but are still involved.
However, some Moderators may be isolated (unsocial), inexperienced (new recruits), and not well-recognized. In these cases, they lose the offshoot forms of power (Influence, expert opinion) but keep the core ability to enforce the rules.
This is one theoretical situation where a moderator may not have the full extent of authority that is typically associated with the moderator role. This is one example of why I feel that authority is a form of power.

First Question: What are the main "Forms of Power" and how do they relate to each other?

2. The Intent of Authority
Oh hey, I figured out how to get your font size back to normal - hit the "Remove formatting" button! (First button)

If we look at Authority and Power as two forces on a similar level (unlike what I talked about in 1. Authority is a form of Power), then we can compare and contrast them directly (since the title of the thread is "Authority vs Power").

In this interpretation, I see the first defining difference as: The intent.
A couple words to describe the intent of Authority: Purposeful, directed, duty-bound, obligations.
Words to describe the intent of Power: Formless, willful, instinctive, raw & unrefined. Or rather, there is no clear intent.
Authority is often given by someone, to someone. When that authority is being given (and the corresponding abilities), it typically has a purpose. For example, governing authorities are instated, defined, and limited by the ruling powers, whether a monarch, organization, or the voting masses. (This is a very brief and crude explanation of government, please forgive me LOL)
That purpose is the intent of the authority that I'm referring to.
Moderators are another example. In this case, their authority is given to them by the owner of the server, who works with developers to create the platforms on which players interact. The intent behind their authority is to moderate the platforms.

Simple, right?

And then let's take a look at Power, for the sake of comparing and contrasting.
The words I used to describe it were meant to indicate that power isn't restricted by the same limitations, but is also harder to accumulate or grow because it isn't given - it's taken or created. It is not as clearly defined - think of a Founding Father of the United States (or another country), versus the subsequent Presidents or cabinet members. The Founders had to create the Constitution, assign themselves and their peers roles, and form a system of government. Not to mention fighting to gain independence from England!

In contrast, the following Presidents and other leading members operated on the premise of the authority that they were given by their predecessors and the people who worked with them.
This is an example of power that was used effectively - but what if their new country had collapsed quickly because they had not written the constitution carefully, or formed the government with a system of checks and balances? (It's been a long time since I've talked about US government/history... the last time I took a class on it was when MCSG was still up in 2016).
If that had happened, this would have turned into an example of power that was ineffectively directed, and would not have given birth to opportunities for authority.

Okay, well, this sort of turned into something I wasn't really intending - I had the power to write about the topic, but didn't effectively plan it out, and no one told me exactly what I question I had to address, so here we are without a TL;DR.

I was planning to talk about this example:
A super villain has a lot of power over people, whereas a superhero could have both power and authority
I occasionally hear something along the lines of, "The only difference between a villain and a hero is whether society agrees with them."
Like if Superman no longer shared and acted upon ideals that were in line with the majority of society - he would no longer be viewed as a hero, he'd be a villain.

Alright, cutting it here. No part 3 from me for now.


Mapping Team Lead
Oct 6, 2012
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A fascinating idea, one that reminds me a lot of the movie Schlinder's list. In the movie, power is defined as the possession of control or command over others (IE authority). While one character, Amon shows power by killing the workers of the camp who dont work hard enough, and Schindler shows authority by not doing the same, and the workers feel they should work hard in return. He defines power as having the justification to kill, but dont. They have contrasting ideas on the definition of power and authority.

I also cant help but think of the meme from lord of the rings, where Thèoden tells Gandalf "you have no power here". While he is specifically referring to his magical abilities, it's an interesting idea that he laughs it off, and doesn't recognize his power over him until Gandalf throws off his robe to reveal his white clothing, to which Thèoden is terrified. Power here is merely an opinion, much like the power governments hold. We the people can easily remove it by voting them out, so who really has the power? Whereas the authority lies with said government.
Power is subjective, and has multiple meanings, and is usually pretty malleable. Authority is often tied with those who have power, but they can be seperate, and is usually straightforward.

I'll leave you with a picture of the lifts in the commerce building in the Uni here. I think a dad made them...


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