New Bulgarian University Max Weber Charismatic Leadership Essay Essay title: What is charismatic leadership? According to Max Weber , Please provide exampl

New Bulgarian University Max Weber Charismatic Leadership Essay Essay title: What is charismatic leadership? According to Max Weber , Please provide examples from your own experience.… Weber’s Theory of Charisma in Politics
(Primary version of this post available at Barry Stocker’s Weblog)
Max Weber’s discussion of charisma in political leadership, which extends to other forms of
leadership, is most associated with his 1919 lecture ‘Politics as a Vocation (Calling)’ and is also
discussed in a more general sociological way in his master piece Economy and Society (Chapter
XIV ‘Charisma and its Transformations’, unfinished at the time of his death in 1920 .
The obvious way that people get this wrong is in the alarmingly widespread assumption that
when Weber talks about charismatic leaders he is thinking of a Hitler or Stalin like figure, some
totalitarian dictator using a state enforced cult if personality. Weber evidently died before they
came to power, but their examples still leap to mind when the topic comes up. We might think
that Weber was referring to phenomena which anticipate modern totalitarianism, like the GodEmperors of Ancient Rome. That is part of what he was thinking of, but he also meant
democratic leaders. In the lecture he refers to William Ewart Gladstone the British Prime
Minister who dominated British liberalism in the Nineteenth Century, and who was a European
wide symbol of liberalism and democracy. Gladstone became known as the ‘People’s William’
because of the great crowds who attended his election speeches. In the book, Weber refers to
Pericles, the most famous figure in Ancient Athenian democracy. One of his speeches as
recorded, or imagined, (the two were not very clearly distinguished in the Ancient world) by his
contemporary the historian Thucydides, is still well known as a great example of political
Weber thought that in the modern world traditional forms of authority (or the legitimisation of
authority) had given way to bureaucratic-rational forms, which had advantages but threatened to
undermine legitimacy since rationality is a form of action, or understanding, rather than a reason
to do something or adhere to a particular value. Weber was a liberal and a democrat, without any
doubt, who emphasised the necessity of personal charisma in politics, preferring direct election
of a strong president as the basis of a democratic system, as a way of encouraging a charismatic
element in democracy. It is a matter of discussion whether or not this is the best form of
democracy, but it is certainly not a proposal for totalitarianism.
People do not always get Weber wrong, even at a relatively popular level. The current CEO of
Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, apparently referred to Weber’s writing on charisma in dealing with
some problems he had at Microsoft with the transition from his famous predecessor Bill Gates.
Whoever becomes CEO of Apple after Steve Jobs will probably have an even bigger problem,
and would also benefit from reading Weber.
I am disturbed to say, however, that some highly competent academics in political theory do get
Weber wrong. This can mean ‘liberal’ theorists who take the trouble of studying Marx at first
hand as an ‘egalitarian’ thinker and but rely on vague impressions of Weber. This also reflects
the transition in meaning of the term ‘liberal’. In academic political theory circles, certainly in
Analytic philosophy and anyone who practices Normative Theory (the Analytic mode in political
theory), liberal now usually appears as part of the phrase ‘egalitarian liberal’ which is really a
social democratic way of thinking, which sometimes brings Marx into the ‘liberal’ fold. Very

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