The Rational and the Charismatic: Weber II

Last post I discussed Weber’s attempts to develop a taxonomy of communities and cultures in terms of the distinctions which each community draws between legitimate/righteous dominion and illegitimate/unrighteous dominion. The ways in which righteous dominion is set apart from unrighteous dominion are not at all limited to intellectual playthings or logical puzzles to be toyed with, since such standards strongly constrain the ways in which we understand and organize our social behavior.  Why should we obey what social services or medical professionals tell us? When is a command issued by a priesthood leader – or God Himself – to sacrifice all that I have or am an (il)legitimate command (one thinks of Abraham’s son)? By what standards do we tell others that they should or should not obey even their own commands within their own lives (a very modern idea that wasn’t at all obvious until rather recently)?

The standards by which obedience or any such command is legitimated vary widely across time and space, but Weber does not attempt any such fine-grained analysis. Rather, he is mostly concerned about the three broad categories in terms of which commands are (de)legitimized across the entirety of world history: rational, traditional and charisma dominion:

“The ‘validity’ of a power of command may be expressed, first, in a system of consciously made rational rules (which may be either agreed upon or imposed from above), which meet with obedience as generally binding norms whenever such obedience is claimed by him whom the rule designates. In that case every single bearer of powers of command is legitimated by that system of rational norms, and his power is legitimate insofar as it corresponds with the norm. Obedience is thus given to the norms rather than to the person.
“The validity of a power of command can also rest, however, upon personal authority.
“Such personal authority can, in turn, be founded upon the sacredness of tradition, i.e. of that which is customary and has always been so and prescribes obedience to some particular person.
“Or, personal authority can have its source in the very opposite, viz., the surrender to the extraordinary, the belief in charisma, i.e., actual revelation or grace resting in such a person as a savior, a prophet, or a hero…
“The forms of domination occurring in historical reality constitute combinations, mixtures, adaptations, or modifications of these ‘pure’ types.
Rationally regulated association within a structure of domination finds its typical expression in bureaucracy. Traditionally prescribed social action is typically represented by patriarchalism. The charismatic structure of domination rests upon individual authority which is based neither upon rational rules nor upon tradition.” (Pg: 953-4; All quotes from Economy and Society. All emphases are mine.)

Weber’s understanding of history can thus be juxtaposed with that of Marx.  The latter saw history as a progressive development within modes and relations of economic production that would finally culminate in a classless and communistic society. Socialism is basically an attempt to either transition to or approximate as much as possible this final, classless society. Weber, in contrast, held that the major historical transition that was underway was that from traditional to rational modes of dominion – a transition about which he was very ambivalent.  The main point to grasp is that even if modern day socialists were to completely do away with the property relations that define capitalist society, this would do nothing whatsoever to loosen the “iron cage” of rational administration and bureaucracy within which we are progressively binding ourselves.

We can use Marx’s concept of alienation to approach this issue from a different angle.  The early Marx had emphasized how raw materials and factories (in short, economic capital) had become external to the worker’s existence since all such property was owned by somebody else.  The only thing which a laborer truly owned was his labor which he was forced, for the sake of his own survival, to sell by creating products that at no time belong to him. Thus, the raw materials, the factory and its machines and the material goods produced therein come to determine and control the worker’s life, rather than the other way around. Weber’s argument is that the rationalized structure of the modern day bureaucracy accomplishes the exact same thing – and it is because of this that a dissolution of property relations will do very little to give us the meaningful and unalienated freedom that Marx longed for:

“An inanimate machine is mind objectified. Only this provides it with the power to force men into its service and to dominate their everyday working life as completely as is actually the case in the factory. Objectified intelligence is also that animated machine, the bureaucratic organization, with its specialization of trained skills, its division of jurisdiction, its rules and hierarchical relations of authority. Together with the inanimate machine it is busy fabricating the shell of bondage which men will perhaps be forced to inhabit some day.” (Pg. 1402)

Most relevant to the LDS context in which most of my readers find themselves, Weber believes that the modern rationalization of society not only replaces traditional modes of dominion, but practically excludes all forms of personal authority, including that of charisma. In what we would call pre-modern times, traditional dominion was occasionally challenged 1) externally by a different tradition or 2) internally by a charismatic leader which would (if successful) become routinized as a new tradition:

“In prerationalistic periods, tradition and charisma between them have almost exhausted the whole of the orientation of action.” (Pg. 245)

Rationalization, according to Weber, is the process by which both natural and (especially) social phenomena become domesticated, calculable or, at the very least, predictable. To do this, actions and legitimating authority must become depersonalized and, if possible, dehumanized. One’s gender, race, sexual orientation, family relations, charm, cultural refinement, etc. become irrelevant as all come to stand as uniform “equals” under the rule of an abstract and impersonal law. Human actions and policy in general thus become calculated optimizations in the face of external constraints – the very definition of heteronomy.

As society becomes so rationalized, the very nature of education is transformed as “specialized expertise” comes to replace “cultivation” as its primary end:

“Expressed in slogans, the ‘cultivated man,’ rather than the ‘specialist,’ was the end sought by education and the basis of social esteem in the feudal, theocratic, and patrimonial structures of domination…
“As … the patent of education requires considerable expenses and a long period of gestation, this striving implies a repression of talent (of the ‘charisma’).” (pg. 1000, 1001)

Whereas genuine charismatic authority was once a total break with, if not transcendence of both traditional and rational constraints/structures, this gift is watered down within the rationalized society where it is perceived as an intuitive grasp of the heretofore unarticulated inconsistencies, implications, or some unique optimization within a system of impersonal rules.  Like Nietzsche, Weber objects to any such rational domestication of the charismatic who is largely defined by his/her violation of traditional and rational constraints.

[A rationalized, bureaucratic] “apparatus makes ‘revolution,’ in the sense of the forceful creation of entirely new formations of authority, more and more impossible.” (pg. 989)

“As the satisfaction of political and economic needs is increasingly rationalized, the spread of discipline advances inexorably; this universal phenomenon more and more restricts the importance of charisma and of individually differentiated action.” (pg. 1156)

This rationalization of traditional authority, to the exclusion of the charismatic has rather predictable implications for religion:

“[T]he bishop, the priest and the preacher are in fact no longer, as in early Christian times, carriers of a purely personal charisma, which offers other-worldly sacred values under the personal mandate of a master, and in principle responsible only to him, to everybody who appears worthy of them and asks for them.” (pg. 959)

Recently, Michael Austin wrote a post over at BCC discussing Weber’s model of how charisma is “routinized” and how this has rather obvious implication for how we understand revelation and correlation within the church. While the post is actually very good and well worth reading, I thought it also remarkably euphemized in that it made no reference whatsoever to the effects of rationalization.

Charisma is, for the most part, routinized only within traditional modes of dominion in which the “cultivated man” (mentioned above) comes to succeed the charismatic leader. Such traditional modes of dominion, however, are entirely antithetical to the “specialized expert” forms of rational dominion by which well-educated members seek to understand and wield control over church history, doctrine, policy and practice to the exclusion of charismatic authority. Weber’s modes of domination are often appropriated by such academics to show that traditional authority figures are acting as obstacles to charismatic revelation. This, however, is the exact opposite of what Weber insists is typically the case: it is not cultivated, traditional authorities, but specialize experts which are the primary – perhaps insuperable – obstacle to charismatic revelation.

It is so very easy to wish and long for charismatic revelation when 1) we expect it to confirm (or at least be consistent with) our rationally supported values and/or 2) we believe that such revelations will serve our own interests. But this is the exact opposite of what Weber’s model of charisma suggests. Charisma is meant to 1) challenge and transcend our rationally supported beliefs and/or 2) inspire new moral duties and responsibilities. A domesticated and rationalized charisma is simply a contradiction in Weberian terms.

A concrete example of this would be how those people who most loudly proclaim that the church is no longer led by charismatic revelation are also those who wax the most legalistic when a local authority tries to impose “irrational” responsibilities upon a member by way of church discipline.  That such local authorities make these decisions through an intense search for personal guidance (charisma), suddenly becomes, to these people, a bad thing to be fought and constrained through rationalized means.

To the extent that these people do despise the correlated handbooks and manuals within the church, it is because they are not rationalized enough, not because they are not charismatic enough.  The correlated material within the church is thus challenged according to the same standards by which the inspired decisions of local leaders are challenged: both are attempts to judge the Mormon mix of traditional and charismatic authority according to rationalized and impersonal standards of the expert.

It is within this context that Weber has been accused of being a proto-Nazi.  To be absolutely clear, he held no racist views of any kind, and a non-racist Nazi makes as much sense as a Marxist who is indifferent to private property. That said, he did long for a charismatic leader (Führer) to take hold of the rationalized bureaucracy of the German state in order to politically revitalize it.  The point is that charisma can often be terrifying, which is exactly what motivates the rationalized criticisms of both traditional and charismatic authority.

In conclusion and summary:

  • Rational, not traditional constraints are the most insuperable obstacle to charismatic revelation.
  • Our faith in reason is largely, and understandably motivated by a fear of personal charismatic dominion.
  • And yet, we are still asked by the Lord to drop our faith in the rational so as to make space in our lives for the charismatic dominion of His representatives.


  1. “The correlated material within the church is thus challenged according to the same standards by which the inspired decisions of local leaders are challenged: both are attempts to judge the Mormon mix of traditional and charismatic authority according to rationalized and impersonal standards of the expert.”

    I don’t think this is true of people except for the ones you have explicitly picked as challenging the church on that basis. A simple example. The number one complaint I hear about church is that it is boring. That hardly seems to be wanting more rational and impersonal standards.

    What I think is going on is that rational specialists are not worth as much in the marketplace as charisma in the forms of celebrity, design and confidence. CEO pay hasn’t increased because some people have become better as their specialty it is that leadership requires more and more charisma and charisma is scarce.

    I admit for the people you have the most in common with and care the most to argue against that is the case, but I think empirically it is clear relatively few people operate from a rational worldview.

    Comment by Martin James — June 10, 2016 @ 10:40 am

  2. I agree completely, and I’m glad that you make that distinction a bit clearer for me.

    A big tension that I was trying to articulate, is that we want more charisma within the church (because it’s so boring), but then we place every rational safeguard in the way of charisma (because we are afraid). Thus, the post is a call for faith in members to loosen, or even drop their rational standards in order to make room for the charisma that they long for.

    (You will notice that this argument very closely parallels the arguments to which I marshaled Nietzsche where if we loosen our allegiance to moral reason – aka rationalization – and dead prophets – tradition – we will lighten the load for our living prophets to express their charisma.)

    Comment by Jeff G — June 10, 2016 @ 10:50 am

  3. It doesn’t come easy to say it, but I really think it is aesthetics behind a lot of this. We want charisma in the form of making what is moral look beautiful. For me, this is easy because I find the family values aesthetically pleasing but many do not. The enemy for us both is an alien moral aesthetic.

    Comment by Martin James — June 10, 2016 @ 11:52 am

  4. I completely disagree. The way I see it, the commandment to trust in revelation rather than human reasoning just is a commandment to loosen rationalized institutions and practices to make space for charisma.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 10, 2016 @ 12:16 pm

  5. That’s a good point you make in (2). I’m not sure how many regular people think about the question one way or an other mind you. However in the more intellectual class represented by bloggers I think you’re completely correct. They want a move away from what’s perceived as bureaucratic but simultaneously are afraid of anything like charisma because it threatens their own beliefs. That is, what intellectuals often want is a charismatic figure who preaches what they already believe. They know that’s not likely thus the double move of fear.

    Comment by Clark — June 10, 2016 @ 12:27 pm

  6. I didn’t think we would ever agree that completely, Clark. :)

    Comment by Jeff G — June 10, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

  7. Jeff,
    Should should be afraid of the charisma of priestcraft. It it just rationality and bureaucracy are a poor defense for bad charisma because they limit good charisma.

    Comment by Martin James — June 10, 2016 @ 12:47 pm

  8. I just think that charisma is clearly king and the people constraining it are losing.

    Comment by Martin James — June 10, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

  9. I guess I’ll have to guess about what that comment was supposed to mean.

    Basically, you think that Weber’s thesis of the ever-encroaching cage of rationalized bureaucracy is false(?).

    That seems like a stretch to me. Consider both Obama presidential campaigns where he ran on “hope” and “change”. Such values are the epitome of charismatic authority. Nevertheless, when he took office, it was basically more of the same. The rationalized bureaucracy was far too entrenched for him to effect anything but the most token kinds of change. This is in start contrast to charismatic leaders like Napoleon or Lenin.

    Yes, we have media personalities that are effecting the way we think, but these are fully integrated, for the most part, within a bureaucratized mass media which is rationalized towards predictability in persons and profits.

    Basically any field in which “consultants”, “analysts”, “profits”, “administration” or “efficiency” play a significant role are fields in which charisma has been either domesticated or caged through rationalization. Thus, the oft-repeated claim by start-up entrepreneurs that the corporate world is bankrupt of true innovation.

    If by “priestcraft” you’re talking about false-prophets, then you’re right, they are charismatic – which is why we are so afraid of charisma. If, by contrast, you’re following the real definition of the word – preaching religion for profit – then this is a VERY rationalized endeavor. There is very little difference between the cultural industry and the mega churches that we see around us – and all of these are VERY rationalized.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 10, 2016 @ 1:19 pm

  10. “Basically, you think that Weber’s thesis of the ever-encroaching cage of rationalized bureaucracy is false(?).”

    I think we need to separate power and legitimacy. I think both are decreasing for the rational bureaucracy but legitimacy is shrinking faster. I think one decent measure of legitimacy is trust and the public polling on trust has been trending downward for most institutions for decades.
    The medical system, organized religion, public education, etc. all of these are well below 50% support.

    Money and office and intellect still have a lot of power, but they have to pay for what they get.

    Comment by Martin James — June 10, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

  11. I find it very that you appeal to a poll in order to show that faith in rationalized practices are eroding. Polling is the very epitome of such practices!

    Should or do we have faith in such polls or not?

    Comment by Jeff G — June 10, 2016 @ 3:43 pm

  12. I think a point well worth making is that the church is clearly not a pure type. Rather, it seems to be a mix of all three types of authority.

    When it comes to church callings, things seem pretty bureaucratic. We do not own our callings and we are given a certain area or subject of competence and our leaders watch over us and evaluate our performances.

    When it comes to priesthood keys, however, things seem much more traditional. With priesthood keys we are allowed to reorganize things as we ourselves seem fit, within very loosely defined boundaries. It is OUR priesthood. Thus, for example, a father can give priesthood blessings to his family without anybody else’s permission or oversight. This, of course, largely follows the patriarchal model.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 10, 2016 @ 5:13 pm

  13. Ok, so you either believe the poll that trust is eroding or your are an example of the eroded trust. Take your pick!

    Comment by Martin James — June 10, 2016 @ 5:57 pm

  14. Well that’s easy, I don’t think that the average person is fully aware of all the ways in which they are trusting to rationalized practices and institutions. Thus, the poll is an accurate measure of what people say they trust, but not what they actually trust.

    Your turn to confront the problem.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 10, 2016 @ 6:09 pm

  15. Tough call whether that is power or legitimacy. People certainly expect public utilities to work and the stores to be full of things to buy. I think rationality works on self interest. Whether it is trusted and legitimate to “say no” is something else entirely.

    Comment by Martin James — June 10, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

  16. Problem with polls and surveys is sort of what Jeff gets at. What people *say* they believe and what they *show* they believe often don’t match. It’s not just dishonesty but people actually not necessarily being a good judge of their own beliefs.

    Comment by Clark — June 11, 2016 @ 10:41 am

  17. One is reminded of Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of our conscious self-awareness trying to steer the elephant of our largely unconscious desires. Or Sperber and Mercier’s argumentative theory of reasoning. Or Dennett’s theory of consciousness as a person telling stories to themselves about themselves. Or Goffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”. Or George H. Mead’s account of “Mind, Self and Society”.

    All these people are saying basically the same thing: that our self-awareness and consciousness in general is primarily aimed at how we present ourselves to other people (my model is marshaling moral coalitions in our favor and preventing moral coalitions against us), not an accurate, value-neutral description of how we “really” are.

    Of course, I say that this is basically the case for all communication and truth…. But I don’t think most of these thinkers go that far.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 11, 2016 @ 11:06 am

  18. I am the most self aware of my hunger but I like to eat alone.

    Comment by Martin James — June 11, 2016 @ 12:21 pm

  19. What does that have to do with anything?

    Comment by Jeff G — June 11, 2016 @ 12:40 pm

  20. Yes, I think our self-perception is evolutionarily oriented around social presentations. One big problem in modern philosophy (meaning largely pre-19th century philosophy back to Descartes and perhaps even much of 19th century figures) is the idea of privileged access to our own soul.

    It’s worth noting this isn’t the only view historically. Plato’s Alciabiades really is the idea that we don’t have that kind of access but only are able to see ourselves indirectly through dialog with others. Others act as a mirror so we can see ourselves. In late antiquity this then more or less becomes the notion of a subconscious – although not rediscovered until the 19th century.

    Comment by Clark — June 13, 2016 @ 2:34 pm

  21. “One big problem in modern philosophy (meaning largely pre-19th century philosophy back to Descartes and perhaps even much of 19th century figures) is the idea of privileged access to our own soul.”

    But doesn’t that get a bit circular. If we don’t have privileged access to our own soul, then we seem even less likely to have any conscious access to other’s souls because that access comes through our own consciousness as accessed by ourselves.

    “Yes, I think our self-perception is evolutionarily oriented around social presentations.”

    How far into self-perception as sensation are you taking that? It is certainly true that much sensation is socially oriented like recognizing faces and hearing voices, but how much of pain or sense of touch do you think is social? From an evolutionary point of view isn’t human sociability a pretty recent thing?

    Comment by Martin James — June 13, 2016 @ 2:55 pm

  22. Well I think the solution is a hermeneutic one. That is we inquire, make hypothesis, test them and so on. The problem is that while we can make reports and use those reports as part of our analysis as just a practical matter many people around us notice things in our behavior we don’t. When they describe them suddenly we realize, yeah, that must have been something I was thinking but didn’t realize I was thinking.

    I think our self-perception is itself largely unconscious judgments. The aim of such judgments is likely oriented around our social engagements. However just because that’s the aim it doesn’t mean we can’t get beyond it.

    As for the evolution of sociability – I don’t think it’s a recent thing. Certainly it’s already in place 100,000 years ago. And looking at apes distantly related (bonobos or chimps) both are extremely social.

    Comment by Clark — June 13, 2016 @ 8:30 pm

  23. // Basically any field in which “consultants”, “analysts”, “profits”, “administration” or “efficiency” play a significant role are fields in which charisma has been either domesticated or caged through rationalization. Thus, the oft-repeated claim by start-up entrepreneurs that the corporate world is bankrupt of true innovation. //

    While the latter claim may be true, the diagnosis is faulty. An entrepreneur who ignores any of the things on that list is likely to be a failed entrepreneur in nothing flat. True entrepreneurship (and true charisma) isn’t the dissolution of rationality, it is its elevation in new and higher forms – breaking with the mistakes and incorrect assumptions of the past while at the same time leveraging the the existing state of affairs – the way the world works today – to the greatest degree possible. No one starts with a blank slate, least of all someone who wants to make a difference in the world.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 26, 2016 @ 10:05 am

  24. “rue entrepreneurship (and true charisma) isn’t the dissolution of rationality, it is its elevation in new and higher forms – breaking with the mistakes and incorrect assumptions of the past”

    This seems like little more than a semantic difference. The “mistakes and assumptions of the past” just are the rationality that charisma seeks to transcend. A rationality that exists independent of all such historical assumptions is meaningless and nothing worthy of serious attention.

    That said, von Mises does draw a (seemingly compelling) distinction between an entrepreneur and the charismatic leader. One has the new idea while the other is able to rally people around it. While I don’t have too much to say on this distinction for the time being, it does seem to parallel the difference between Moses the entrepreneur and Aaron the charismatic leader that could rally the troops, so to speak.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 26, 2016 @ 11:27 pm

  25. My point is that every attempt to completely transcend the mistakes and the assumptions of the past is doomed to failure. The French Revolution is ample evidence of that. Or one might ask why we aren’t all speaking Esperanto by now, why anyone uses pi instead of a constant equal to two times pi, why we haven’t redone the metric system to use a system of units that bears some sort of overall consistency, and so on.

    If Joseph Smith (by divine guidance or otherwise) had attempted to transcend Christianity rather than reform it, he would have been a footnote in history by now.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 27, 2016 @ 3:32 am

  26. If all you’re saying is that charisma as a sustained and consistent rejection of any and all external law or tradition is unstable, then I don’t think anybody is disagreeing with you. (Weber’s main point is that Charisma must either continually prove itself by seemingly miraculous success – extraordinarily difficult – or become domesticated through rules and traditions.)

    If you’re saying something else, I’m not understanding it.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 27, 2016 @ 9:52 am

  27. Mark D.,
    The point about charisma is whether the personal charm of the person delivering the message matters.

    Comment by Martin James — June 27, 2016 @ 11:26 am

  28. Martin,

    Actually, that’s not really the main point. A brief history of the word “charisma” is in order.

    Weber was largely responsible for resurrecting its common usage, in the same way that Freud made “repression” and “subconscious” common words. “Charisma” was specifically meant to refer to the access that a person had to supernatural powers and information. The “charismatic gifts of the spirit” were the original meaning, that Weber very much had in mind.

    Since then, we’ve diluted the meaning to something like “charm” or “persuasiveness”. This is NOT what Weber meant. He specifically had in mind the ability to bring about hope, change and, most importantly, success in his followers through non-traditional and non-rational means.

    So Mark’s objection isn’t too far off base.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 27, 2016 @ 11:34 am

  29. Can’t charisma be possible with people not really that personally charismatic? It seems to me the category primarily depends upon contrast to organized bureaucracy and primary appeal to reason. But non-charismatic people can do that quite well too.

    Comment by Clark — June 27, 2016 @ 11:40 am

  30. It was a bit of a pun in that charm also has a magical and supernatural sense. I didn’t see much supernatural or magical in Mark D.’s criticism.

    Comment by Martin James — June 27, 2016 @ 12:23 pm

  31. If you’re asking if people can be charismatic (in the original meaning that Weber also uses) without being charismatic (in the modern, common meaning of the term), then the answer is absolutely yes! One thinks of Moses who apparently did not have the gift of the gab, but was able to lead his people by non-traditional and non-rational means.

    Of course, having a charm does pay a significant role, but it is not essential or absolutely necessary.

    I do, however, have reservations about Weber’s use of “charisma” as a category, if only because he almost uses it as a catch-all grab bag for all legitimate dominion that is not rational or traditional.

    Bourdieu’s criticism was that charisma is an aspect of all legitimate dominion – it simply being a name for that which we attribute to those we follow and allow to command us. Thus, the genius displayed by a brilliant administrator or tactician (one thinks of Bismarck) will be viewed as a supernatural gift – aka charisma. The same for those who are born “more noble” than others. Thus, for Bourdieu, charisma is simply the symbolic capital which distinguished individuals wield both within and (most importantly) without some field. (It will be remembered that symbolic capital is the ability to prioritize all other forms of capital: economic, cultural, etc.)

    My reservations toward Weber’s understand also have to do with how individualistic this form of dominion is supposed to be. Traditional and rational authority are quite social phenomena in which people not only choose to follow an authority figure, but also justify their obedience to other and condemn those who do not so obey. Charismatic authority does not lend itself to such an account very well at all. There just seems to be a bit of hand-waving going on when he tries to connect supernatural abilities with a moral obligation to obey.

    My own view is that the primarily feature charismatic authority is its collectivity:

    In other words, a charismatic leader arises when:
    a) There is a perceived need for change (to lower costs or increase benefits).
    b) Such a change depends upon mass participation in order to lower the costs and/or increase the benefits of implementation.
    c) A person of distinction (in any form, really) emerges to act as a coordinating focal point of mass participation.
    d) Blame for any failures or shortcomings must fall upon those who resist this mass participation.

    Thus, a charismatic leader is primarily a political/social revolutionary, not merely a miracle worker, lone genius, innovator, entrepreneur, etc. Weber focuses on A and C, but cannot get to D because he ignores B. Bourdieu places an enormous focus on C, but isn’t terribly interested in B, and thus pays little heed to D.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 27, 2016 @ 12:25 pm

  32. In other words, if we model moral behavior of punishment and praise as mechanisms for regulating social behavior within an evolutionary stable equilibrium, charisma is a name for the collective transition from one equilibrium to another.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 27, 2016 @ 12:56 pm

  33. It’s interesting how charisma is so similar to the notion of paradigm shifts in Kuhn. I wonder if he was influenced by the idea.

    Comment by Clark — June 28, 2016 @ 10:38 am

  34. I would be shocked if Kuhn wasn’t very familiar with Weber. (Btw, Popper lifted the “open/closed society” taxonomy from Weber.)

    It is worth pointing out that Weber thought that both Rational authority and Charismatic authority are revolutionary – at least in comparison to traditional authority – but in very different ways.

    Rational authority revolutionizes “from the outside, in” in that we design rational institutions based in some form of calculation or double book-keeping and then we adapt ourselves to these institutions. Charismatic authority, by contrast, revolutionizes “from the inside, out” in that we have an inward change of heart, desire, preference, etc. and then we reshape our institutions to suit these.

    It is for this reason that a Kantian like Weber would have a strong moral inclination toward charismatic authority since this is the only type of authority that could be considered “self-legislation” in the Rousseauian sense that Kant wanted. The other two forms are either a kind of tutelage to the past, or a heteronomous balancing of and response to external constraints.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 28, 2016 @ 11:22 am

  35. It definitely seems that Rational authority does parallel Kuhn’s “normal science” very closely, while Charismatic authority parallels “revolutionary science”. Traditional authority would probably correspond to how Kuhn thought that non-scientists should relate to the practice (he definitely thought science to be a “closed society”) by learning it and accepting it but not participating in it through research, etc.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 28, 2016 @ 2:39 pm