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Charismatic legitimacy

The Roman Imperial Cult began with the Julius Caesar and continued until the final overthrow of paganism in the Empire. It had been previously a very general custom to grant divine honors after death to prominent persons whose careers made a deep impression upon the minds of posterity.

From early imperial times to the twentieth century, the Chinese emperor and officers of the court and civil bureaucracy offered cult sacrifice to the gods that governed the cosmos. The rituals that serviced these gods were based on and authorized by the ritual canons of the Confucian classics.

In Japan Shintoism, which is usually considered the one peculiarly indigenous and characteristic religious development of Japan, involves the deification or quasi-deification of the Emperor. This deification is the core of the system which is for that reason frequently called "Mikadoism." The Japanese also had a well-developed ancestor-worship which some scholars look upon as an exotic from China.

There is evidence to suggest that by the early fourth century BC in Rome a living man could be offered cult similar to that paid a hero. Honors originally heroic in nature were extended to a man before death. By the early Severan era, the military also offered cult to the Imperial divi, the current emperor's numen, genius and domus (or familia), and special cult to the Empress as "mother of the camp."

It is quite evident that Caesar was not only the first of the divi, after Romulus who belonged to the distant and legendary past, but the actual founder of the new order in such a way that the entire cult rested upon him, the first well-known, unquestionably historic person upon whom was conferred the public and official title of divus. Suetonius affirms that many people thought that during his lifetime, Caesar accepted excessive honors.

According to Suetonius, Caesar had a tensa, or chariot, in which a divine image was carried in public processions. He specifies also ferculus, which is a litter for the same purpose. Suetonius uses the word simulacrum which corresponds to a statue designed for worship. Upon the death of Caesar, he was promptly voted both divine and human honors by the Senate. According to Suetonius he was deified not merely by the mouth of those making a formal decree "sed in persuasione volgi." The games in celebration of his apotheosis were marked by celestial omens. "Stella crinita per septem continuos dies fulsit," which was believed to be the soul of Cassar received into heaven.

It is interesting to note, and may go down on the credit side of Cicero's career that he was offered honors like these and refused them, partly on the ground that they rightly belonged to the gods and the Roman people. Augustus refused to receive divine honors publicly at Rome, though he looked upon the practice of this cult with approval and promoted it in the provinces.

The Jews, and later the Christians, because of the very nature of their ideas regarding divinity could not participate in the practices of the cult of emperor- worship. The Jews regarded the emperor as superior to other men in power but their equal by nature. They considered it a duty to obey and respect him but sacrilege to worship him. Although, except under Caligula, the Jews from the time of Caesar onwards were not required to worship the emperors, the opponents of the Jews were always ready to use their refusal of imperial worship as a proof that they were not loyal citizens.

The Spanish thinker José Ortega y Gasset in his book The Rebellion of the Masses showed that the mass society is somehow moving towards a dictatorship. Famous psychoanalyst Erik Fromm drew attention to the phenomenon of "flight from freedom." Of course, these phenomena are interrelated. But I also ask you to pay attention to the outstanding idea of ??the domestic philosopher Merab Mamardashvili, formulated by the phrase "what kind of dictator do I want". Alas, a man by nature is a creature that needs a guide, and at certain times this craving for a strong leader (leader, Führer) is exacerbated. Another philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, put forward the idea of resentment: the bitterness gradually accumulating in a mass society. He drew attention to the fact that the era of enlightenment, industrialization and urbanization created the conditions for the accumulation of the "average man" of the enormous potential of unreacted aggression.

Max Weber gave the classic definition concerning the relationship between power and autority "autority is legitimate power". Weber identified three ideal types of legitimation of power - traditional, legal/rational, and charismatic. Weber defined legitimacy as a belief in the virtue of the authority, leading to its ability to be obeyed; a belief that is the basis of any authority.

Charismatic legitimacy was seen by Max Weber as an innovative and revolutionary force capable of challenging and disrupting the established normative order. Weber described it as a form of social authority based on perceived exceptional and inspirational qualities of the leader, as opposed to rational-legal authority or authority based on tradition.

Charismatic legitimacy rests on the capacity of a leader to claim authority by virtue of supposed magical powers, divine revelation, or heroic action or persuasive abilities. People who obey charismatic leaders are thought of as disciples or followers rather than rules-based actors, or actors accepting the power of custom and tradition. By no means do all leaders or “reform champions” enjoy charismatic legitimacy. Charismatic leaders are most likely to emerge when traditional leaders or rational-legal systems are failing, or in crisis. In recent decades charismatic religious and political leaders have appeared in response and resistance to colonialism, globalisation, failed and failing state systems, economic stress and collapse, and the inability of the modern state to deliver real security to citizens.

Leaders enjoying charismatic legitimacy pose a challenge to both rationallegal and “traditional” authority. It is much more difficult to find ways of accommodating charismatic leadership of this type with rational-legal legitimacy than it is to accommodate traditional and rational-legal legitimacy.

Writing in the 1910s, Weber argued that charisma was the only social force capable of challenging the inexorable advance of industrialized, bureaucratized society. He defined the term as “a certain quality of an individualized personality by virtue of which he is considered extraordinary and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities ... on the basis of [which] the individual concerned is treated as a 'leader.'”

As proof of the fact that nothing is more tangible and unambiguous than the exercise of power, the medieval origins of monarchy reference claims to sacredness, and even to the invulnerability (and the unavailability) of the sovereign's body as proof of the superhuman origins of his power. Weber observed that at the beginning of a social movement authority is often embodied in a "charismatic" figure but as the movement acquires legitimacy, the charismatic authority is transformed into bureaucratic control.

It is primarily because of Max Weber that the concept of charisma has become part of the vocabulary of the social scientist and has entered into popular discourse. That the concept is widely used in both scholarly and nonscholarly circles is no guarantee that it is fully understood and correctly used. Indeed, it is a rather problematic notion.

Weber wrote that charismatic rule in the “pure” sense is always a product of “unusual” situations and arises from an “aggravation,” from a “dedication to hero-worship.” When it flows back into “everyday constraints,” it is “as a rule broken, transposed and bent 'institutionally.'”

Weber's charismatic leadership is not only unbound by rules, it tends to be also an almost demiurgic moulder of history. In a word: the idea of charisma somehow hypostatizes the freedom of the creative ruler, or individual. Admittedly, this crude hypostasis is due still more to some neoWeberians than to Weber himself.

With the concept of charisma he created an opportunity out of his pathological disposition. Weber's 'charisma' came in for criticism, on both the left and the right. At the Weber Congress in 1964, when all the PR in connection with J.F.Kennedy was still fresh in people's minds, Herbert Marcuse argued that the power apparatus needed and generated a 'charismatic apex', and that 'charisma', understood as a person was 'perhaps the most questionable' quality, of all of Weber's concepts.

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Page last modified: 14-01-2018 18:40:27 ZULU