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Charisma

Charisma

Intense and concentrated charisma

Segregation and discipline of intense charisma

Conditions of intense and concentrated charisma

Attenuated and dispersed charisma

BIBLIOGRAPHY

In all societies deference is accorded to authoritative roles, their incumbents, and the norms they promulgate in consideration of their capacity to create, maintain, and change the order of society. In all societies there is a propensity in most human beings, on occasion, to perceive, beyond immediate and particular events, the forces, principles, and powers which govern the immediate and the particular and which impose and necessitate an order which embraces them. Particularly serious attention and respect are given to what are thought to be those transcendent powers which are manifested in the orders of nature and society and in patterns of norms which intend the ordering of human action. Where institutions, roles, persons, norms, or symbols are perceived or believed to be connected or infused with these transcendent powers, we say that they are perceived as charismatic.

Charisma, then, is the quality which is imputed to persons, actions, roles, institutions, symbols, and material objects because of their presumed connection with “ultimate,” “fundamental,” “vital,” order-determining powers. This presumed connection with the ultimately “serious” elements in the universe and in human life is seen as a quality or a state of being, manifested in the bearing or demeanor and in the actions of individual persons; it is also seen as inhering in certain roles and collectivities. It can be perceived as existing in intense and concentrated form in particular institutions, roles, and individuals (or strata of individuals). It can also be perceived as existing in attenuated and dispersed form.

The propensity to seek contact with transcendent powers and to impute charismatic qualities varies in any society; it is extremely strong in some persons, feeble in others. It also varies during the life span of individuals and in the history of particular societies. Some societies are characterized by a greater frequency of intense and concentrated charisma; others, by a greater frequency of attenuated and dispersed charisma. Both types exist in varying admixtures in all societies.

Intense and concentrated charisma

The propensity to impute charisma is a potentiality of the moral, cognitive, and expressive orientations of human beings. The propensity to seek contact with transcendent powers and to impute charisma is rooted in the neural constitution of the human organism. The intensity with which it is experienced and the strength of its motivation are also influenced by situational exigencies and by the prevailing culture. It can be deliberately cultivated by isolation from the routine environment, by instruction and self-discipline. It can be so prized that individuals are encouraged to allow it to come forward in their sensitivity. A culture can foster the discernment of charismatic signs and properties by focusing attention, providing canons of interpretation, and recommending the appreciation of the possession of these signs and properties.

Whatever the sources of the propensity to impute charisma—neural, situational, cultural, or any combination of these—when this propensity is intense enough to seek to penetrate beyond the immediate present, beyond the particular and the concrete to the more general categories and patterns which underlie and generate the vicissitudes of human existence, it results in a subjective experience of possession of charismatic quality or in a sensitivity and responsiveness to the subjectively experienced charisma manifested in the bearing, words, and actions of other individuals and institutions. Those persons who possess an intense subjective feeling of their own charismatic quality, and who have it imputed to them by others, we will call charismatic persons. In the charismatic persons it is “directly” experienced; in the others it is experienced only in “mediated” form through intensely and concentratedly charismatic persons or institutions. The authority exercised by these individuals who “experience” charisma directly, over all others in the society who experience it only in mediated form, we will call charismatic authority.

The concept of charisma derives from the reference in II Corinthians which describes the forms in which the gifts of divine grace appear. It was taken up by Rudolf Sohm in his analysis of the transformation of the primitive Christian community into the Roman Catholic church (Sohm 1892–1923); the emphasis there was on a “charismatic institution.” The conception of charisma underwent its most important extension and formulation in the writings of Max Weber (1922a; 1922b). He treated charisma as a property attributed to great innovating personalities who disrupt traditionally and rational-legally legitimated systems of authority and who establish or aspire to establish a system of authority claiming to be legitimated by the direct experience of divine grace. Weber also applied the concept to creative, expansive, innovating personalities who are regarded as “extraordinary” even though they neither claim to possess divine grace nor have it imputed to them.

According to Weber’s usage, charismatic quality may be attributed to religious prophets and reformers, to dominating political leaders, to daring military heroes, and to sages who by example and command indicate a way of life to their disciples. In such personalities, the charismatic quality is believed to be manifested in extremes of passionate and intense action or of willed passivity, in extremes of exultant or serene possession. Charismatic quality is attributed to expansive personalities who establish ascendancy over other human beings by their commanding forcefulness or by an exemplary inner state which is expressed in a bearing of serenity.

The “extraordinariness” (Ausseralltäglichkeit) of these charismatic persons is not simply statistical infrequency; rather, it is the intense and concentrated form in which they possess or are thought to possess qualities which are only slightly present in routine actions. Routine actions are those which are governed mainly by motives of moderate, personal attachment, by considerations of convenience and advantage, and by anxiety to avoid failure in conforming to the immediate expectations and demands of peers and superiors. Routine actions are not simply repetitive actions; they are uninspired actions in which immediately prospective gratifications and the demands of immediate situations and of obligations to those who are close at hand play a greater part than does the link with transcendent things. If any charismatic attribution is present in the pattern of routine action, it is not dominant and certainly is not vividly perceived.

Such uninspired actions maintain social structures, and they also change them through numerous minor adjustments. They do not impel drastic changes. Charismatic persons, and those who are responsive to charismatic persons, aspire to larger transformations. They seek to break the structures of routine actions and to replace them with structures of inspired actions which are “infused” with those qualities or states of mind generated by iemdiate and intensive contact with the “ultimate” —with the powers which guide and determine human life.

The charismatic person is a creator of a new order as well as the breaker of routine order. Since charisma is constituted by the belief that its bearer is effectively in contact with what is most vital, most powerful, and most authoritative in the universe or in society, those to whom charisma is attributed are, by virtue of that fact, authoritative. Charismatic authority is antipathetic to those forms of authority which invoke recently and currently acknowledged criteria of legitimacy and which call forth the performance of the previously performed. Even where such authorities command or recommend new actions, they legitimate the commands or recommendations by subsuming them under existing norms recently and currently accepted as valid. The bearer and the adherents of charismatic authority, in contrast, tend to think of their norms as legitimated by a source remote in time or timeless, remote in space or spaceless. The legitimacy of the norms enunciated by charismatic authority lies outside the norms practiced in the existing society. Although it is contained in the culture of the existing society, the source or the criterion of the legitimacy of charismatic authority occupies a position within that culture which, under the dominance of routine, is incompatible with the expansive aspirations of any charismatically asserted authority. Since it asserts the value of action which derives its impetus immediately, intensively, and unalloyedly from direct contact with “ultimate” sources of legitimacy, charismatic authority is of necessity revolutionary.

Charismatic authority denies the value of action which is motivated by the desire for proximate ends sufficient unto themselves, by the wish to gratify personal affections, or by the hope of pecuniary advantage. Charismatically generated order is order which acknowledges and is generated by the creativity which seeks something new, by discovery which discerns something new, by inspiration from transcendent powers.

The actions of men in all ongoing societies are impelled by a variety of considerations. Personal affections, primordial attachments, anticipations of advantage and fears of loss, destructiveness, responsiveness to obligations or expectations of role performance in corporate bodies, unimaginative acceptance of given norms where no alternative seems visible or practicable, respect for concrete, already-functioning authority—these, together with an intermittent flickering of charismatic responsiveness, form the complex of impulsions from which any society reproduces itself and moves onward. Such charismatic elements as ordinary societies contain exist either in a highly segregated form or in a diffuse half life. Concentrated and intense charismatic authority transfigures the half life into incandescence. It involves a tremendous heightening of charismatic sensitivity. That is why charismatic authority, really intensely imputed and experienced charisma, is disruptive of any routine social order.

Segregation and discipline of intense charisma

All societies seek to make some provision for those persons whose actions are impelled by the possession of charismatic legitimacy. Within religious systems, the cenobitic or anchoritic monastic orders are institutional frameworks for the segregation and control of the charismatically endowed, i.e., those who are prone to experience a sense of direct contact with transcendent powers. This removes them from the scene of the routine and at the same time preserves and disciplines their charismatic quality within the legitimate order of the religious collectivity, in which a certain measure of attenuation and dispersal of charisma has been stabilized.

Universities, which must reproduce many established patterns of thought and evaluation and carry on traditions, face similar problems in dealing with young persons of highly charismatic intellectual and moral propensities. Through training and research, they attempt to discipline these charismatic propensities and to bring them to bear, at least at first, on the accepted problems and the accepted vision of the order of nature. The discovery of utterly new truths through intuition, unbridled by the accepted techniques of observation and interpretation, is rejected. Those who persist in practicing their intuition are either excluded or are constrained to submit to the prevailing discipline. This discipline involves learning and affirming what is already known and accepting the prevailing canons of assessment. Once this process of discipline has been accomplished, the acolyte is then freed to discern and create a new order through research.

In party politics, there is often apprehension among the party bosses about persons who are thought to be charismatic and who arouse the charismatic sensitivity of the mass of the party, because of the dangers which they represent to established interests within the party. But because of their wider appeal outside the party machine itself, which is concerned with routine practices, they will be tolerated and even sought in order to win the support of the charismatically sensitive for the party.

In armies, the charismatically heroic officers find a tolerated place among shock troopers and special units using unconventional methods of warfare in situations in which the routine procedures of military organization are thought to be inadequate. The military bureaucracy at higher staff levels does not find it easy to accommodate within its own circles the charismatically inclined soldier who tries to attain to new principles of warfare or who, as a hero, arouses the devotion of ordinary soldiers whose charismatic sensitivity is aroused by the danger of battle.

In bohemias, and in the circles of artists and literary men, aesthetically charismatic persons find a segregated environment congenial to the disregard for the rules of routine social life and for the creative transcendence of the traditional modes of artistic and literary expression. The authorities of the routine sectors of society are more inclined to tolerate these manifestations of aesthetic charisma as long as they do not intrude into the routine sectors. Nonetheless, because of the vagueness of the boundaries, friction is frequent.

By segregation, the custodians of the routine spheres of social life show both their apprehension of the disruptive nature of intense and concentrated charisma and their appreciation of a virtue requiring acknowledgment. Nonetheless, despite these efforts to contain those with intense charismatic propensities within situations where they can operate charismatically and to subject them to the discipline of institutionalization, the boundaries are sometimes infringed. A continuous reinforcement of the barriers against a free movement of charismatic persons is carried on by the custodians of routine order. They do not always succeed. Churches have been broken from within by charismatic prophets and have often suffered defeat, at least for a time, by a sectarian rival under charismatic leadership. States have been destroyed by charismatic revolutionaries, parties swept away from their traditional pattern by charismatic demagogues, constitutional orders supplanted by charismatic statesmen. Sciences have been revolutionized by unsuppressible charismatic intelligences; artistic genres have been transformed, against the resistance of orthodoxy, by the bearers of an original (charismatic) sensitivity.

Conditions of intense and concentrated charisma

Crises which discredit routine institutions and the authorities who govern them arouse in the more charismatically disposed persons a more acute awareness of the insufficiency of an organization of life in which contact with the ultimate powers and standards of right and wrong has become attenuated by mediation and segregation and by absorption into routine. Their demand for the right order of things is intensified; their sensibility to the divergence between this right order and the actually existing state of affairs is heightened.

These crises, which reveal to the afflicted members of the society in which they occur the inadequacy of the inherited and prevailing institutional systems and discredit the elites which have hitherto dominated them, operate on charismatic propensities in a twofold manner. Those in whom the charismatic propensity is strongest—out of intelligence, moral sensibility, metaphysical inclination, etc.—will be the promulgators of the new vision of a better order; those in whom the charismatic propensities, although not strong enough to permit charismatic originality, are strong enough to respond to such a vision when concretely embodied (and mediated) in a charismatic person, are the most likely followers.

Crises which are failures of the inherited order enhance the need of the potential followers for protective contact with the ultimately right and powerful. The incapacity of the hitherto prevailing institutions to afford moral and metaphysical nurture and succor to those who feel the need for it, and to afford it under morally and cosmically right auspices, generates in these defenseless persons a state of mind which is fertile for the seed of the more intensely creative charismatic persons. The result is a collective effort to establish a charismatically legitimate society—or church, or party, etc.—which will possess a greater authenticity.

Often these efforts are unsuccessful. Most of the movements are broken, after a brief period of excitation, into dispirited fragments which sometimes survive in segregation. Less often, the movement is successful, and the result is a charismatic order or at least an order in which a charismatic overlay covers the more tenacious routines of the older institutional system. The routine relations between superiors and subordinates in families, armies, workshops, and farms tend to reassert themselves after an initial adaptation to the pressures of charismatic visions and convictions. Once the crisis which generated the more intense charismatic sensibility is somehow resolved—often as a result of the intervention of the charismatic inspiration— routine actions return to the forefront of social life.

With the increased effectiveness and consequent stability of institutions, the need for protective charisma which puts their members into direct, or in any case less mediated, contact with the sources of inspiration and purification is reduced. The selection of prospective leaders is again institutionalized, reducing the likelihood that intensely charismatic persons will be chosen. Thus, the process of the imputation of charisma is restored to its normal state.

Attenuated and dispersed charisma

The intensely charismatic element of the new order never evaporates entirely. It can exist in a state of attenuation and dispersion. The very effort of a charismatic elite to stabilize its position and to impose a charismatic order on the society or institution it controls entails deliberate dispersion. It entails spreading the particular charismatic sensitivity to persons who did not share it previously. This means a considerable extension of the circle of charisma: more persons have to become charismatic; existing institutions have to have charisma infused into them; new institutions have to be created. All this brings with it not only a deliberate dispersion from a smaller to a larger number of persons but also produces an attenuation which is less intentional but more unavoidable.

The inevitability of death and the need to provide for succession call for dispersion of charisma from a few persons and institutions to institutional offices, lineages, governing bodies, electoral procedures, and groups of people. The last of these, although not absolutely or proportionately numerous in their societies, are considerably larger than the original bearers of the imputed charisma, and their charismatic sensibility is, of course, much less intense.

Then there is the tenacity of routine to be considered. Life cannot go on without routine, which is constantly reasserting itself. Thus, the charismatic founders of a new society might have elevated a particular norm of conduct—e.g., equality or saintliness—to a dominant position, to the practical exclusion of all others. As time passes, personal and primordial attachments, considerations of expediency, and loyalties within particularistic corporate bodies become more prominent again. The norms of equality or of saintliness might still be respected, but not exclusively respected. This is what is meant by attenuation.

Not all dispersions are the result of the changes in the situation of a new elite in which charisma was both concentrated and intense. One of the greatest dispersions in history is that which has taken place in modern states, in which an attenuated charisma, more dispersed than in traditional aristocracies (where it was already more dispersed than in primitive tribes or absolute monarchies), is shared by the total adult citizenry.

The extraordinary charisma of which Max Weber spoke was the intense and concentrated form. Its normal form, however—attenuated and dispersed charisma—exists in all societies. In this form it is attributed in a context of routine actions to the rules, norms, offices, institutions, and strata of any society. Though normal charisma plays a reduced part in the ordinary life of society, it is nonetheless a real and effective force. Quite apart from its manifestations in the routines of life which are loosely governed by religious attachments, it enters into obedience to law and respect for corporate authority. Furthermore, it provides the chief criterion for granting deference in the system of stratification and pervades the main themes of the cultural inheritance and practice of every society. Thus, normal charisma is an active and effective phenomenon, essential to the maintenance of the routine order of society.

Edward Shils

[See alsoAuthority; Ideology; Leadership; Legitimacy; Social control, article onOrganizational aspects. Further relevant material will be found underReligion; and in the biographies ofBuberandWeber, Max.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dogan, MattÉi 1965 Le personnel politique et la personalité charismatiqué. Revue française de sociologie 6:305–324.

Marcus, John T. 1961 Transcendence and Charisma. Western Political Quarterly 14, part 1:236–241.

Otto, Rudolph (1917) 1950 The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry Into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational 2d ed. Oxford Univ. Press. → First published as Das Heilige.

Ratman, K. J. 1964 Charisma and Political Leadership. Political Studies 12:341–354.

Runciman, W. G. 1963 Charismatic Legitimacy and One-party Rule in Ghana. Archives européennes de sociologie 4, no. 1:148–165.

Shils, Edward 1958 The Concentration and Dispersion of Charisma: Their Bearing on Economic Policy in Underdeveloped Countries. World Politics 11:1–19.

Shils, Edward 1965 Charisma, Order and Status. American Sociological Review 30:199–213.

Sohm, Rudolf 1892–1923 Kirchenrecht. 2 vols. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.

Weber, Max (1922a) 1956 Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundriss der verstehenden Soziologie. 2 vols., 4th ed. Tübingen (Germany): Mohr. → See especially Volume 2, pages 832–873, “Die charismatische Herrschaft und ihre Umbildung.”

Weber, Max (1922b) 1957 The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Edited by Talcott Parsons. Glencoe, III.: Free Press. → First published as Part 1 of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. See especially pages 358–363, “Charismatic Authority”; pages 363–373, “The Routinization of Charisma”; and pages 386–392, “The Transformation of Charisma in an Anti Authoritarian Direction.”

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charisma

charisma In his famous typology of forms of authority (or ‘non-coercive compliance’), Max Weber distinguishes the traditional, charismatic, and rational-legal types. The first of these depends on the leader delivering a traditional message or holding a traditionally sanctioned office. By contrast, charismatic authority disrupts tradition, and rests only on support for the person of the leader. Weber defines charisma as ‘a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as leader’ (Economy and Society, 1922). The concept has been widely used in both religious and political sociology (case-studies are reported in the essay on ‘Charismatic Leadership’ reproduced in R. Bendix and and G. Roth ( eds.) , Scholarship and Partisanship, 1971)
. Archetypical charismatic figures include Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler. In Weber's view, most previous societies were characterized by traditional authority structures, periodically punctured by outbursts of charisma. Although the concept is intended to highlight certain aspects of the relationship between leader and followers, it does tend to point also to an irrational element in the behaviour of the latter, and on that basis has been subject to some criticism (see R. Bendix , Max Weber, 1960
).

Charisma is therefore unusual (outside of the routine and everyday), spontaneous (by contrast with established social forms), and creative of new movements and new structures. Weber saw the charismatic demagogue as the main counterweight to bureaucratic rigidity in mass democracies. Being a source of instability and innovation charisma is a force for social change. Although vested in actual persons, charismatic leadership conveys to beholders qualities of the sacred, and followers respond by recognizing that it is their duty to serve the leader. Charisma is alien to the established institutions of society. As Weber puts it, ‘from a substantive point of view, every charismatic authority would have to subscribe to the proposition, “It is written … but I say unto you …”’.

Charismatic phenomena are temporary and unstable. In the short term, the leader may change his or her mind, possibly in response to being ‘moved by the Spirit’. In the longer term he or she will die. For that reason, charismatic authority is often ‘routinized’ during the lifetime of the new leader, so that he or she will be succeeded either by a bureaucracy vested with rational-legal authority or by a return to the institutionalized structures of tradition to which the charismatic impetus has now been incorporated.

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charisma

cha·ris·ma / kəˈrizmə/ • n. 1. compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. 2. (pl. -ma·ta / -ˌmətə/ ) (also char·ism / ˈkarˌizəm/ ) a divinely conferred power or talent.

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charisma

charisma (theol.) free gift of God's grace. XVII. — Gr. khárisma, f. kharízesthai show favour, f. kháris favour, grace.
So charismatic XIX.

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charisma

charismabeamer, blasphemer, Colima, creamer, dreamer, emphysema, femur, Iwo Jima, Kagoshima, lemur, Lima, oedema (US edema), ottava rima, Pima, reamer, redeemer, schema, schemer, screamer, seamer, Selima, steamer, streamer, terza rima, Tsushima •daydreamer •dimmer, glimmer, limber, limner, shimmer, simmer, skimmer, slimmer, strimmer, swimmer, trimmer, zimmer •enigma, sigma, stigma •Wilma, Wilmer •charisma • Gordimer • polymer •ulema • anima • enema •cinema, minima •maxima • Bessemer • eczema •dulcimer • Hiroshima •Fatima, Latimer •optima • Mortimer • anathema •climber, Jemima, mimer, old-timer, part-timer, primer, rhymer, timer •Oppenheimer • two-timer •bomber, comma, momma, prommer •dogma • dolma

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