The candidate’s post-masculine charisma tempts America in the age of Oprah.
Michael Knox Beran
In the patois of punditry, “charismatic” has come to mean little more than “like a rock star.” But the striking thing about the charismatic leader is the extent to which his followers regard him as a http://www.wvwnews.net/story.php?id=5021.
The country, or much of it, has longed for such a figure, a man from the once-oppressed race whose rise to power will atone for the sins of slavery and racial stigmatization. But Obama’s rhetoric encompasses more than a promise of http://www.wvwnews.net/story.php?id=5278’s Politics, which described the great-souled man who “may truly be deemed a God among men” and who, by virtue of his greatness, is exempt from ordinary laws.
What both http://www.wvwnews.net/story.php?id=3205 and Weber made too little of is the mentality of the charismatic leader’s followers, the disciples who discover in him, or delusively endow him with, superhuman qualities. “Charisma” was originally a religious term signifying a gift of God: it often denotes (according to the seventeenth-century scholar-physician John Bulwer) a “miraculous gift of healing.” James G. Frazer, in The Golden Bough, demonstrated that the connection between charismatic leadership and the melioration of suffering was historically a close one: many primitive peoples believed that the magical virtues of a priest-king could guarantee the soil’s fertility and that such a leader could therefore alleviate one of the most elementary forms of suffering, hunger. The identification of leadership with the mitigation of pain persists in folklore and myth. In the Arthurian legends, Percival possesses an extraordinary magic that enables him to heal the fisher king and redeem the waste land; in England, the touch of the monarch’s hand was believed to cure scrofula.