Charisma: Its Varieties, Preconditions, and Consequences

Charles Camic*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This paper explores the preconditions for, the nature of, and the consequences of charisma—actors that must be understood for charisma to he a useful empirical and theoretical concept. Unfortunately, as the first section of this essay demonstrates, due primarily to the influence of certain of Max Weber's discussions of charisma, sociological progress in these areas has been limited. However, drawing on two neglected hints by Weber–that the preconditions for the phenomenon of charisma are extraordinary human needs and that Freud's work can illuminate this field of inquiry–the second section of this essay attempts to correct this state of affairs through an application of the results of much psychoanalytic investigation. It argues that, because extraordinary needs (the preconditions for charisma) are of various types, charisma must be differentiated into four phenomena–omnipotence, excellence, sacredness, and the uncanny–and it then tentatively specifies both their variable immediate and long‐range consequences. In so doing, it incorporates systematically many of the widely divergent findings reported in sociological research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
JournalSociological Inquiry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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