The Noble Savages: The Primitive Origins of Charisma and Its Contemporary Survival

The Noble Savages: The Primitive Origins of Charisma and Its Contemporary Survival

The Noble Savages: The Primitive Origins of Charisma and Its Contemporary Survival

The Noble Savages: The Primitive Origins of Charisma and Its Contemporary Survival

Excerpt

In examining charismatic leadership in primitive societies, this essay seeks to explore simultaneously a number of related themes. Weber gave relatively little attention to primitive cultures, although the belief that a charismatic leader would arise may have become a tradition, and may indeed have had its origins, among just such peoples. In these societies, the charismatic claimant is, of necessity, a claimant to essentially supernatural power, for within these cultures everything is conceived in at least partially magico- religious terms: thus, even leaders who do not themselves assume a religious role claim supernatural power, whether magical or mystical. The only claim that could hope to stand against constituted authority among these, and indeed among more-developed peoples, was a claim to power from a transcendent source, great enough to be set over against existing power structures (which themselves usually rested on supernatural legitimations). It is thus in the stronger sense of divinely inspired power that the term charisma is employed in this study, and not in the more dilute sense in which some contemporary writers deploy it.

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