Reimagining Charisma Theory

Anne Taylor, Yale University

This paper seeks a reimagination of charisma studies by exploring the possibility of moving charisma beyond the Weberian, leader-follower framework of authority to a more open, relational understanding of the phenomenon as shared faith in an extraordinary, divine, or divine-like, gift of grace. An analysis of two, interrelated problems in Weber's framework motivate this push beyond the leader-follower debate: supersessionism and colonialism. Through the work of Philip Rieff, I will argue that the concept of charisma that is primarily used in scholarship today reflects what Aníbal Quijano calls ‘coloniality of power.’ In appropriating charisma from Christianity into a secular academic world, Weber – despite his social constructionist emphasis on attribution – extended supersessionist, colonial/modern thinking and emphasized the individual over the collective, and the rational over the spiritual. With a decolonial lens and Édouard Glissant’s idea of relationality, I sketch out a possible solution, a reimagined theory of charisma, for future studies.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 49. Rethinking Max Weber for a New Sociology of Religion