The Role of Charisma in the Development of Social Movements / Le Rôle du charisme dans le développement des mouvements sociaux - article ; n°1 ; vol.49, pg 83-100
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The Role of Charisma in the Development of Social Movements / Le Rôle du charisme dans le développement des mouvements sociaux - article ; n°1 ; vol.49, pg 83-100

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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1980 - Volume 49 - Numéro 1 - Pages 83-100
18 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 1980
Nombre de lectures 23
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo


Robin Theobald
The Role of Charisma in the Development of Social Movements
/ Le Rôle du charisme dans le développement des mouvements
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 49/1, 1980. pp. 83-100.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Theobald Robin. The Role of Charisma in the Development of Social Movements / Le Rôle du charisme dans le développement
des mouvements sociaux. In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 49/1, 1980. pp. 83-100.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1980.1283 soc des Rel. 1980 49/1 janvier-mars) 83-100
Ellen White and the Emergence of Seventh-Day Adventism
Les sociologues ont souvent eu recours au concept de cha
risme pour expliquer le développement de certains mouvements
sociaux et même parfois la cohésion de sociétés globales Malgré
une abondante littérature des doutes sérieux subsistent chez cer
tains auteurs quant la valeur explicative de la notion de charisme
Dans cet article suggère que la confusion qui entoure ce
concept pourrait être due en grande partie au fait que on négligé
étudier attentivement la nature du rapport entre la poussée sou
daine du phénomène charismatique une part et la routinisation
du charisme autre part Après avoir examiné les traits caractéris
tiques du processus de routinisation prend en considération un
mouvement précis celui des Adv enlistes du Septième Jour et ana
lyse influence exercée sur son développement par le personnage
charismatique Ellen White Il conclut en formulant quelques
remarques générales sur la portée analytique du concept de cha
risme et son emploi en sociologie
Thé notion of charisma of charismatic leadership has on numerous occa
sions been utilized to explain the upsurge and development of social movements
of various kinds and even to explain cohesion in societies at large But despite
this widespread usage there exists in the minds of some strong doubts as to
whether the term has any real explanatory value Perhaps the best known of the
should like to thank Michael Hill Professor of Sociology at the Victoria University
Wellington New Zealand for encouraging my interest in this subject and for valuable guidance
during my earlier researches However the responsibility for the views expressed here is
entirely my own should also like to express my gratitude to the Social Science Research
Council for the personal research grant without which much of the data on the Seventh-day
Adventist movement could not have been collected
doubters is Peter Worsley who in an appendix to his extraordinary study of Cargo
movements comes to the conclusion that charisma is no more than sponge
word and is virtually useless in an analitycal sense Certainly
argument has force in that amongst the plethora of articles and books that have
used the term one is hard put to find half-dozen in which anything is actually
explained Not infrequently charisma has been employed in manner which is
little more than ideological if not tautological Cohesion exists or is assumed to
exist within given movement or society the source of this cohesion is simple
imputed to this or that political or religious leader As Claude Ake has pointed
out the very existence of charismatic leader assumes the integration he is being
used to explain Those who have put forward the kind of explanation
that Ake is criticising have obviously ignored stricture that recognition on
the part of those subject to charismatic domination is decisive for the validity of
charisma In other words if charismatic leadership is to be of interest to
sociologists it must be treated as social relationship This means that we
must at some point in our analysis refer to the perceptions and behaviour of
group of followers in relation to their allegedly charismatic leader If this dimen
sion is ignored as has usually been the case then the absence or presence of
charismatic leadership can be no more than matter of vague speculation
charisma does indeed become sponge word
second crucial factor to be borne in mind is that charismatic authority
was originally formulated as an ideal type which means that empirical examples
will be approximations only to our abstract type Weber in fact observed that
charismatic authority in its pure form exists only in the process of originating
This may seem rather Obvious point to make but it nonetheless needs to be made
as very few of those who have utilized charisma have examined carefully the
relationship between charismatic upsurge and the routinization of charisma
The fact that the two processes have on the whole been inadequately distinguished
from each other has been another major source of confusion
Bearing these points in mind want eventually to argue that the notion of
charismatic authority can have explanatory value in relation to the origins and
development of social movements In order to do this will be looking in some
detail at the development of the Seventh-day Adventist movement But before
do this would like to re-examine briefly what Weber and other writers have
seen to be the essential features of charismatic authority and on the basis of
this to make some further preliminary observations
Peter WORSLEY The Trumpet Shall Sound London Paladin 1970 See Appendices
Claude AKE Charismatic legitimation and political integration Comparative
Studies in Society and History 1966)
Max WEBER The Theory of Social and Economic Organisation trans by A.M
Henderson and Talcott Parsons) New York The Free Press 1964 359
See WORSLEY op cit. 288 and Bryan WILSON The Noble Savages The pri
mitive Origins of Charisma and its Contemporary Survival Berkeley University of California
Press 1975 pp 4-7
WEBER op cit. 1964 364
For Weber charismatic authority involves relationship between group of
followers or disciples and leader to whom they attribute extraordinary qual
ities The leader has mission or message which in some way harmonizes
with the basic needs hopes desires ambitions or fears of his followers However
during the early stages of charismatic upsurge leader and message are inseparable
as the prime orientation of the followers is to the person of the of the leader
himself Obedience is duty Followers do not simply believe in the charismatic
leader but devote or surrender themselves to him It is as Robert Tucker has
suggested almost but not quite case of the medium is the message 8)
The social dimension of charismatic domination dimension which is
usually ignored is the charismatic community or Gemeinde The Gemeinde is
characterised by an absence of hierarchy of clearly delineated spheres of authority
and especially by the of any form of training or career structure Disciples
are simply called The personnel of the Gemeinde subsist upon voluntary
donations booty in fact any means that are in sharp contrast with the routine of
everday economic life The emphasis is thus on fluidity spontaneity and ad hoc
decision-making by charismatic pronouncement But if the movement in question
is to acquire stability and continuity it must come to terms with the exigences of
everyday existence particularly economic existence Spontaneity and fluidity
must give way to routine and order
Much of the discussion of the process of routinization has concentrated
probably because Weber himself seemed to give it some importance on the crisis
of succession which occurs at the death of the charismatic leader and the period
of consolidation if it takes place which follows this event But as Weber also
stressed routinization must begin much earlier on in the development of the
movement as consideration of any social movement no matter how small in
scale or ostensibly spontaneous will readily indicate In fact going back to
point made earlier routinization in principle begins at the very establishment
of the charismatic community This implies that to the extent that charismatic
community exists over time it must acquire some degree of organisation This
is particularly apparent in the case of those movements which aim to recruit new
members Something must be done with these new members They must be
initiated into and controlled by the movement their energies utilized as
The main features of ideal type are taken from The Theory of Social and
Economic Organisation Part III
David BEETHAM has pointed out that the term Weber used to describe the orientation
of those subjected to charismatic domination was not Glaube belief) but Hingabe devotion
of surrender See Max Weber and the Theory of Modern Politics London Alien and
Unwin 1974 247
Robert TUCKER The theory of charismatic leadership Daedalus 97
Summer 1968) 751
WEBER op cit. 1964 pp 370-373
Now so far as movement acquires organisation it acquires offices and
these to some extent will be differentiat

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