"Its authority, not truth, that makes the law". This famous principle of Thomas Hobbes signals the advent of political modernity. But what is the specific nature of authority in the modern world? After the crisis of late medieval universalism, authority cannot be construed to be a source of substantial legitimacy guaranteed on traditional or transcendental bases. Authority is thus interpreted as "legitimate power", as utmost sovereignty which proves its effectiveness by building an artificial order. Our contemporary political-legal lexicon evolved within this paradigm. The volume describes the history of the concept of authority, from its origins in Roman law to the conflict between auctoritas and potestas in medieval Christianity, until the modern rationalization of power. In the 20th century this evolution produced a deep crisis of authority, fed by mass political regimes and global capitalisms technocratic tendencies.
Geminello Preterossi teaches Human Rights in
the Faculty of Law at the University of Salerno.