Full Text


Stephen Hunt

Subject Sociology » Sociology of Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The term “charisma” is one of the most enduring conceptions in the annals of sociology. Its origin, meaning “gift,” as derived from the Greek, is close to Max Weber's understanding of the term which has subsequently passed into common vocabularies. The notion of charisma can be seen as one of Weber's core typologies, one related to the underlying basis of authority. Weber, in such works as The Religion of China (1951), speaks of charismatic leadership not only in terms of group cohesion but also in terms of education (pp. 30, 190), virtue of dynasty (pp. 198f., 119f., 135) – the belief in the transfer of extraordinary endowments of religious, political, or military descendants – and as hereditary (pp. 140, 141, 164). Weber also uses the term “gentile charisma” with reference to such families (pp. 35, 167, 264). In a sociological sense, charisma refers to the qualities of those who possess, or are believed to possess, powers of leadership either as a virtue of exceptional personality or derived from some unusual inspiration such as a magical, divine, or diabolical source, powers not possessed by the ordinary person ( Weber 1947 ). Since Weber's notion of charisma is closely related to the sacred, it has parallels in Durkheim's mana – a dynamic which may be socially disruptive and seems to be inherent in certain objects or persons in tribal societies, as evidenced in the orenda ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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