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Keywords:

  • Authority;
  • social representations;
  • value orientation;
  • political culture

The concept of authority crosses many social sciences, but there is a lack of common taxonomy and definitions on this topic. The aims of this review are: (1) to define the basic characteristics of the authority relationship, reaching a definition suitable for the different domains of social psychology and social sciences; (2) to bridge the gap between individual and societal levels of explanation concerning the authority relationship, by proposing an interpretation within the framework of social representations. The authority relationship can be conceived as a negotiation of meanings and it is closely linked to shared value orientation and the attribution of meanings negotiated within a society. We assume that the authority relationship is socially constructed and represents both a shared representation of society and a normative principle of social life. A multidisciplinary approach is adopted, crossing definitions and studies provided in sociology, political science, law and social psychology.