(I'll try to be brief.)
In theory, there are two dimensions of privileges:
The computer's instruction set architecture (ISA), which protects certain information and/or functions of the machine.
The operating system (OS) creating an eco-system for applications and communication. At its core is the kernel, a program that can run on the ISA with no dependencies of any kind.
Today's operating systems perform a lot of very different tasks so that we can use computers as we do today. In a very(, very, very) simplified view you can imagine the kernel as the only program that is executed by the computer. Applications, processes and users are all artefacts of the eco-system created by the OS and especially the kernel.
When we talk about user(space) privileges with respect to the operating system, we talk about privileges managed, granted and enforced by the operating system. For instance, file permissions restricting fetching data from a specific directory is enforced by the kernel. It looks at the some IDs assodicated with the file, interpretes some bits which represents privileges and then either fetches the data or refuses to do so.
The privileges hierarchy within the ISA provides the tools the kernel uses for its purposes. The specific details vary a lot, but in general there is the kernel mode, in which programs executed by the CPU are very free to perform I/O and use the instructions offered by the ISA and the user mode where I/O and instructions are constrained.
For instance, when reading the instruction to write data to a specific memory addres, a CPU in kernel mode could simply write data to a specific memory address, while in user mode it first performs a few checks to see if the memory address is in a range of allowed address to which data may be written. If it is determined that the address may not be written to, usually, the ISA will switch into kernel mode and start executing another instruction stream, which is a part of the kernel and it will do the right thing(TM).
Notice, in kernel mode nothing else is triggered to enforce the right thing, it is assumed the program running in kernel mode is doing the right thing. That's why in kernel mode nothing can force a program to adhere to the abstract rules and concepts of the OS's eco-system. That's why programs running in kernel mode are comparibly powerful as the root user.
Technically kernel mode is much more powerful than just being the root-user on your OS.