There is nothing wrong with trying to salvage a term that is sufficiently honorific to make it worth salvaging. But suppose someone wanted to salvage—to use your term—a “positive meaning” for the word “genocide.” I suspect that you would find such an attempt objectionable. Well, I find it objectionable to confer any honor on a word that is cognate with “authoritarianism” except, as I have written above, when “authority” simply means something like “expertise.” So we disagree about that term. But it hardly follows that I have some project to trash all or most terms that enable “our ability to think about political issues” as your comment seems to suggest.
I think it is perfectly OK to have friendly feelings toward police officers. I’m mystified that you think I said anything that suggested otherwise. I do think that people deserve to live in societies that maximize liberty, equality and human well being to the greatest extent possible. So I don’t see a lot of room left for political and state authority in the kind of society people deserve to live in. Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you think people deserve less freedom, equality and human well being than I do. That’s your right.
I’m not sure I understand you completely here, but you do seem to be suggesting that it’s natural for most people to want to confer a “greater value” on others than they would confer on themselves. Frankly, if that is your view, I think that is a rather bleak and cynical assessment of most human beings. Beyond that , I would simply say that there is a distinction to be made between coercing and influencing people to think that they should confer greater value on others (authorities) (that it is somehow in the nature of things for them to do so) and people wanting that state of affairs. I see no evidence for the latter that cannot be explained as some manifestation of the former.
I think this is manifestly incorrect, so much so that it nearly goes without saying. The value “justice” has no meaning at all if, at a minimum, its application doesn’t mean something like “the same for everyone.”
Before I respond to this comment, perhaps you can clear up a confusion for me. You wonder what would incentivize people to cooperate and work toward consensus building but have no problem thinking people will--what?--comply in a society where authority comes without the threat of and/or actualization of violence? Is this straining at a gnat after having swallowed a camel?
I don't believe that human beings have a "nature." Such a notion savors too much of theology for me (you know, sinful nature, etc). I believe that mostly human beings have various capacities to behave in a variety of ways and that the conditions in which they make decisions about how to behave greatly affect the kind of behavior they will engage in. Thus in thoroughly democratic, just and egalitarian societies the conditions for cooperation and consensus making would be maximized.
Once we exclude "force" from our understanding of "authority," I'm not sure that much worthy of our ascription can be salvaged from the term. Except, maybe, "expertise" in the sense of being an authority on something (e.g., a doctor, etc.)--a purely pragmatic consideration.
And why try to salvage anything from the term except expertise? All other uses of the term creates disproportional and unequal relations among people. To say, for example, "So and so commands authority" (even in a non coercive way) implies that so and so is entitled to a consideration that many other people are not. Authority can be a source of alienation.
I don't think that much is gained from retaining authority as a value (except expertise) and a great deal is lost. In my view, it can be fruitfully replaced with the values of cooperation and consensus building.