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 , 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, 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.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Charisma — Charisma …   Deutsch Wörterbuch

  • Charisma — Sn besondere Ausstrahlung erw. fremd. Erkennbar fremd (18. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus spl. charisma Geschenk, Gnadengabe , dieses aus ntl. gr. chárisma Geschenk, (göttliche) Gnadengabe , zu gr. charízesthai schenken , zu gr. cháris f. Gunst,… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • charisma — 1. This is originally a Greek word meaning ‘gift of grace’. It acquired its current meaning ‘a gift or power of leadership or authority’ when the sociologist Max Weber used it in this way (in German) in 1922. It has been used widely in… …   Modern English usage

  • Charisma — Charisma: Das Fremdwort ist seit dem 18. Jh. belegt. Es stammt ab von griech. chárisma »Gnadengabe«, zum Verb charízesthai »gefällig sein, gerne geben«. Ins Dt. ist es über die Vermittlung von vlat. charisma »Geschenk« gelangt. Zunächst wurde es… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • charismă — charísmă s. f., g. d. art. charísmei Trimis de siveco, 04.12.2008. Sursa: Dicţionar ortografic  CHARÍSMĂ s. f. v. carismă. Trimis de claudia, 17.06.2008. Sursa: MDN …   Dicționar Român

  • charisma — [kar′iz΄əmkə riz′mə] n. pl. charismata [kə riz′mə tə] [Gr(Ec), gift of God s grace < Gr, favor, grace < charizesthai, to show favor to < charis, grace, beauty, kindness < chairein, to rejoice at < IE base * ĝher , to desire, like… …   English World dictionary

  • Charisma — (griech.), Gabe, Gnadengeschenk, Geistesgabe, ein paulinischer Begriff. Charismatische Organisation, Name für die ursprüngliche christliche Gesellschaftsverfassung, weil darin statt geordneter Ämter die individuelle Begabung Kultus und Verfassung …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Charisma — Charisma,das:⇨Ausstrahlung(1) …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

  • charisma — (n.) gift of leadership, power of authority, c.1930, from German, used in this sense by Max Weber (1864 1920) in Wirtschaft u. Gesellschaft (1922), from Gk. kharisma favor, divine gift, from kharizesthai to show favor to, from kharis grace,… …   Etymology dictionary

  • charisma — [n] great personal charm allure, animal magnetism*, appeal, dazzle, drawing power, fascination, flash, glamour, it*, magnetism, pizzazz*, something*, star quality, witchcraft, witchery; concept 411 …   New thesaurus

  • charisma — ► NOUN 1) compelling attractiveness or charm. 2) (pl. charismata) Christian Theology a divinely conferred talent. ORIGIN Greek kharisma, from kharis favour, grace …   English terms dictionary

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