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Charismatic Leadership and Social Movements

“This is an interesting and stimulating collection of articles which, taken together, cover both conceptional/theoretical and empirical aspects of the role and features of charisma in general, and charisma in social movements in particular. The range of case studies is impressive.” Dieter Rucht, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialwissenschaft (WZB)

Much of the writing on charisma focuses on specific traits associated with exceptional leaders, a practice that has broadened the concept of charisma to such an extent that it loses its distinctiveness—and therefore its utility. More particularly, the concept’s relevance to the study of social movements has not moved beyond generalizations. The contributors to this volume renew the debate on charismatic leadership from a historical perspective and seek to illuminate the concept’s relevance to the study of social movements. The case studies here include such leaders as Mahatma Gandhi; the architect of apartheid, Daniel F. Malan; the heroine of the Spanish Civil War, Dolores Ibarruri (la pasionaria); and Mao Zedong. These charismatic leaders were not just professional politicians or administrators, but sustained a strong symbiotic relationship with their followers, one that stimulated devotion to the leader and created a real group identity.

Jan Willem Stutje is a research fellow at The Institute of Biography at the University of Groningen. From 2001-05, he was a fellow at the International Institute of Social History and at the Free University of Brussels. He is the author of several biographies including Ernest Mandel: A Rebel’s Dream Deferred (Verso 2009).


List of abbreviations

Introduction: Historiographical and theoretical aspects of Weber’s concept of charismatic leadership
Jan Willem Stutje

Part I: The charismatic family
Chapter 1. A New Kind of Force: Examining charisma in the light of Gandhi’s moral authority, Dilip Simeon
Chapter 2. An Unlikely Charismatic Leader: D.F. Malan in a Weberian light, Lindie Koorts
Chapter 3. Bearded, Attractive and Beloved: The Charisma of Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (1846–1919), Jan Willem Stutje
Chapter 4. Errico Malatesta and Charismatic Leadership, Carl Levy
Chapter 5. Pasionaria: a Case of Charisma through Representation, Juan Avilés
Chapter 6. Mao Zedong: Charismatic Leadership and the Contradictions of Socialist Revolution, Arif Dirlik

Part II: Charismatic Observations
Chapter 7. Charismatic Leaders, Political Religion and Social Movements. Western Europe at the End of the Nineteenth Century, Henk te Velde
Chapter 8. ‘Je ne sais quoi’: Some reflections on the study of charisma, Marc Reynebeau
Chapter 9. Incendiary Personalities: Uncommon Comments on Charisma in Social Movements, Thomas Welskopp