Definition of Charismatic Authority
Examples of Charismatic Authority
- Joan of Arc (1412–1431)
- Winston Churchill (1874–1965)
- Adolf Hitler (1889–1945)
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917–1963)
- Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865)
- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968)
- Sun Myung Moon (1920–2012)
- Mao Zedong (1893–1976)
Charismatic Authority Pronunciation
Syllabification: char·is·mat·ic au·thor·i·ty
- American English – /kair-uhz-mAt-ik uh-thOR-uh-tee/
- British English – /kar-iz-mAt-ik aw-thOr-i-tee/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /kɛrɪzˈmætɪk əˈθɔrəti/
- British English – /ˌkærɪzˈmætɪk ɔːˈθɒrɪti/
- Plural: charismatic authorities
- Charisma is from the Greek word for divine grace.
- People can attribute superhuman or supernatural characteristics granted by supernatural forces through “revelation” or some higher principle that provides sanctity and divinity to leaders. People do not obey charismatic authorities because of tradition or law, but because of belief that cements their loyalty by inspiring devotion.
- An individual with charismatic authority have a “force of personality” or “magnetism” that irresistibly compels others to believe in them and passionately support their vision.
- Charismatic authority only resides in an individual, not a group or organization, which only “reflects” the leader’s authority.
- Weber contended that charismatic authority was a creative force in history and a counterweight against bureaucratic rigidness.
- Charismatic leaders often persuade devoted followers to make personal sacrifices, separate themselves from social ties, and devote their lives to the vision of leader.
- Charisma in this sense is not simply someone who is attractive, engaging, or a good speaker. Actors have charisma, people can “light up a room” or someone is just popular. However, Weber uses charisma as personal power writ large: a hero, a prophet, and even a god. Thus religious leaders are often charismatic authorities, particularly in cults. Charismatic authority figures sometime arise during political revolutions.
- Charismatic authority is typically temporary or unstable and fades, becoming traditional authority or rational-legal authority, Weber termed this “the routinization of charisma”. For example, the Catholic Church relies on the routinization of Jesus’s charismatic authority leading to a bureaucracy maintained by hierarchies, procedures, and rules. Steve Jobs at Apple is an example of a charismatic leader who’s organizational structure was routinized (bureaucratized) and his death did not change the organizational structure.
- Charismatic authority is unstable and temporary, for example Cromwell’s reign. Organizations that rely solely on characteristic authority (instead of routinizing) may collapse if their leader dies, or leaves in disgrace, or fails to achieve their goals. This is particularly true with religious organizations. Organizations that do survive may suffer from mission drift.
- A charismatic authority figure, along with a worship of the State, is characteristic of fascist movements.
- A type of authority.
- Also called non-coercive compliance.
- “‘[C]harisma’ shall be understood to refer to an extraordinary quality of a person, regardless of whether this quality is actual, alleged, or presumed. ‘Charismatic authority‘, hence, shall refer to a rule over men, whether predominantly external or predominantly internal, to which the governed submit because of their belief in the extraordinary quality of the specific person” (Weber 1946:295).
- Politics and Policy Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “charismatic” and “authority” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
Weber, Max. 1946. “The Social Psychology of the World Religions.” Pp. 267–301 in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited and translated by H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. New York: Oxford University Press.
Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Brinkerhoff, David, Lynn White, Suzanne Ortega, and Rose Weitz. 2011. Essentials of Sociology. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Ferrante, Joan. 2011a. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Ferrante, Joan. 2011b. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.
Giddens, Anthony, and Philip W. Sutton. 2014. Essential Concepts in Sociology. Cambridge: Polity.
Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.
Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2011. Sociology: The Core. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Kendall, Diana. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Kornblum, William. 2008. Sociology in a Changing World. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.
Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. Sociology: A Global Introduction. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.
Ravelli, Bruce, and Michelle Webber. 2016. Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson.
Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.
Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Tischler, Henry L. 2011. Introduction to Sociology. 10th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “charismatic authority.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved October 2, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/charismatic-authority/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
charismatic authority. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/charismatic-authority/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “charismatic authority.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed October 2, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/charismatic-authority/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“charismatic authority.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 2 Oct. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/charismatic-authority/>.