This chapter offers a means of thinking historically about authority – namely, to examine the history of its images. By ‘images’ here are meant stocks of concrete, leading examples used by theorists when theorising some concept. In the case of authority, this has often included certain hierarchical relations, such as those between father and son, doctor and patient, teacher and student, and officer and soldier. This means of historicising authority is conceived of as part of a broader attempt to focus on the ‘archaeology of disagreement’, i.e. the idea that understanding any concept – including authority – will benefit from exploring how theorists have disagreed about it over time – beginning with disagreements in particular contexts of debate, and then comparing reasons for disagreement across contexts. Comparing different kinds of disagreements may also bring to light unnoticed assumptions made in particular contexts of debate by showing their absence in other contexts. The chapter suggests that the most intractable kinds of disagreements may be disagreements at the level of images. This is considered in the context of a relatively recent debate – namely, that between Martin Loughlin and Neil MacCormick as to the viability of the concept of ‘constitutional pluralism’.
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