Weber on Charismatic Authority 
Weber on Charismatic Authority
by Yale / Ivan Szelenyi
Video Lecture 19 of 25
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Date Added: June 30, 2011

Lecture Description

Charismatic authority, unlike traditional authority, is a revolutionary and unstable form of authority. Weber borrows the religious term of charisma and extends its use to a secular meaning. Audiences and followers believe that charismatic leaders have a close connection to a divine power, have exceptional skills, or are exemplary in some way. Charismatic leaders promise change in the future for the society and also change people's attitudes and values; in this way, charismatic authority is revolutionary in a way that traditional and legal-rational authority are not. However, charisma is unstable and deteriorates if the leader cannot produce the changes he promises or when he confronts the contradictory logics and demands of the other types of authority. There are particular ways--including search, revelation, designation, or heredity--that charismatic successors are identified, but transferring charismatic authority is difficult and not always successful.

Reading assignment:
Weber, Economy and Society, Chapter 3, pp. 241-254; 266-271

Course Index

Course Description

This course provides an overview of major works of social thought from the beginning of the modern era through the 1920s. Attention is paid to social and intellectual contexts, conceptual frameworks and methods, and contributions to contemporary social analysis. Writers include Hobbes, Locke, Rou... (read more)

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