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Charisma and religious leadership: An historical analysis

TitleCharisma and religious leadership: An historical analysis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1978
AuthorsBarnes, DF
JournalScientific Study of Religion

While Max Weber formulated an "ideal" definition of charisma and its routinization, he did not fully address the question of charismatic origins. This paper proposes a theory of charismatic leadership which explores the social conditions under which charisma will emerge. Charismatic leaders are hypothesized to live in periods of radical social change or be cut off from the mainstream of society, perceive religious tradition as relative, and have innovative teachings if their religion is to be institutionalized. They are also not excluded from occupying an institutional office within a traditional religion. The theory is tentatively supported by an examination of biographical data for fifteen charismatic leaders and their successors from various periods of history and from different parts of the world.