Weber defines politics as a form of "independent leadership activity". In this essay, the "state" serves as the placeholder for the analysis of political organizations. The grounds for the legitimate rule of these political organizations, according to Weber, fall into three major categories, or types:
- The authority of "eternal past," based on habit. Weber defines custom as largely patriarchal, patrimonial, and traditional in scope.
- Gift of grace/charisma
- The authority of the "revelations, heroism, or other leadership qualities of an individual". Associated with "charisma" of prophets, demagogues, and popular vote.
- Legal rational authority, legality based on valid statutes. Based on rational competence and obedience of the "servant of the state".