The conclusion is startling, despite being so very obvious: Power resides where men believe it resides. This applies not just to political power, but power dynamics of other sorts as well. The one which is in my mind at the moment is that of religion: The power of who gets to decide what God ordains.
Imagine a Muslim man in anguish; he has uttered the three baneful words 'Talaq, Talaq, Talaq' (I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you) to his wife in a burst of anger. He is now full of regret and seeks council. Before him are three scholars. The first one tells him 'Your marriage is null and void. Leave your wife instantly.' The second one tells him 'Your marriage is intact. You said the words three times together but they will still count as one.' The third one tells him 'Your words are inconsequential. Your marriage was a written pact. It can only be broken in writing.'
Which of these three speaks the law of God? Who decides whether his marriage is valid or not? Just like in the riddle of power, it all depends on the man. Power resides where men believe it resides. The man will decide on whom to confer religious authority... and yet he is just a man, without knowledge of law or revelation.
This becomes acutely relevant when we ponder over the question of reform in religion. Liberal versions of theology are not terribly difficult to come up with in theory. If we consider Islam, there are numerous scholars who have worked out a number of different approaches. Yet, all that work remains academic, with little acceptance and following at large. Religious authority resides where men believe it resides. No attempt at reformation will succeed in practice unless and until men believe it to be true. In this fact lies the practical success or failure of religious reform.