Why do charismatic leaders need institutions

Charisma and domination

The sociologist Max Weber has described the type of "charismatic rule" in the sense of being outside the box. But why are tyrants also referred to as charismatic, whereas women are rarely referred to? And how does charisma hold its own in the artificial glamor world of pop?

In our three-part series "Gift of Grace or Staging? - Attempts on Charisma", the second essay deals with "Charisma and rule". The author is the freelance Berlin journalist Svenja Flasspöhler.

On July 19, 2009 Elke Buhr will close the series. It deals with the relationship between "charisma and pop".


Charisma and domination

By Svenja Flaßpöhler

Just a look! Just a gesture! A hint of a nod, perhaps, or a quick wink! The people, especially those who are right at the front, wait longingly for every little sign of affection, on their faces, facing the shining figure, are reflected hopeful expectation and boundless admiration. They believe they would do anything for their hero, for him who seems so sovereign, so self-assured, so calm, yes, so completely independent of your recognition! How much they would like to be close to him, to touch him, but awe demands distance, and how liberating, even redeeming, it is when the tension can be discharged from time to time in thunderous applause! Heat rises, it is as if the crowd were united with their hero, at least for a brief moment, as if the applause would carry them away together into that other, better time of which his fiery speech heralds.

Where does this scene take place? At a pop concert? On St. Peter's Square in Rome? Or in a totalitarian state? No, not necessarily. Not only pop stars, popes or dictators can inspire the masses in this way, but scenes like this take place wherever charismatics speak. And how did ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, himself highly regarded but not a charismatic, say shortly before Barack Obama's election as President of the United States?

"But we are now seeing in America how a young man, Barack Obama, becomes a national figure with charisma alone. It should not be forgotten that charisma alone does not make a good politician. Adolf Hitler was also a charismatic speaker. Oskar Lafontaine is too. "

Of course, this statement is provocative. On the one hand, because it assumes that Obama, Hitler and Lafontaine have something in common. On the other hand, because it discredits Obama insofar as he allegedly became the hero of the nation, and indeed of the entire western world, not because of his political abilities, but solely because of his charisma. But what exactly does that mean? What is the power of the charismatic? What characterizes, to use the expression of the sociologist Max Weber, "charismatic rule"? Well, obviously, in order to exercise power, the charismatic does not necessarily have to be in power be. In September 2008, when Helmut Schmidt made his statement, Obama was not yet President of the United States, and in general it seems that the charismatic's strength is not so much evident in powerexerciserather than before, when it comes to criticizing existing power relations and announcing a better future. One might say that charismatics are not primarily rulers, but first and foremost Seducer. And being seductive is, in a sense, more than just exercising domination. The ruler is powerful insofar as he can rule, suppress or even wipe out entire peoples, but he does not necessarily have the gift of changing the mind of the masses. To convince. To stir up.

But that is exactly what the charismatic can do. Not unlike a lover, he moves the stubborn, internally divergent folk body to unified, unconditional surrender, he manages that this body opens up, even sacrifices itself for those ideals that he, the charismatic, propagates. This liaison, which the national body is ready to enter into with the charismatic, distinguishes charismatic rule from other forms of rule. Rules play just as little a role in it as traditional references, it is not rational, but extremely passionate and therefore by no means reliable. In his 1922 book economy and society Max Weber defines the concept of charismatic rule as follows:

"The charismatic rule is, as that Excepteveryday, both the rational, especially the bureaucratic, as the traditional ... sharply opposed. Both are specific Everyday-Forms of rule, - the (genuinely) charismatic is specifically the opposite. Bureaucratic rule is specifically rational in the sense of being bound by rules that can be analyzed discursively, while charismatic rule is specifically irrational in the sense of being alien to rules. The traditional rule is tied to the precedents of the past and in this respect is also regularly oriented, the charismatic overturns the past (within its realm) and is specifically revolutionary in this sense. It knows no appropriation of master’s power in the manner of property ownership, neither to masters nor to class authority. Rather, it is only legitimate to the extent and as long as the personal charisma "holds" ... "

The charismatic rule is not supported by statutes, not by traditions, but solely by the charismatic himself. As long as he proves himself, as long as he is Promise of salvation is able to maintain, his rule is secured, just as love is permeated with the hope that through it the painfully missed happiness will finally become tangible. Of course, this presupposes that there is a defect that needs to be remedied. He who is completely happy with himself alone does not long for love, and a people who feel completely at home in a form of state will hardly break it just because some self-appointed messiah demands it of them.

So the charismatic rule is not founded after all just on the charismatic himself, but he needs a crisis situation in order to be able to develop charisma at all. For example a global financial crisis. Or climate change. Or fundamental Islamic terrorists who threaten so-called world peace. Indeed: Would Barack Obama have become the charismatic savior of the early 21st century if his predecessor George Bush had gotten his flocks dry and the world hadn't been in such a crisis? Would we have found Gerhard Schröder and Oskar Lafontaine to be charismatic if their election in 1998 had not ended the sixteen-year Kohl era? And could Adolf Hitler have had such a fascination with the masses without a recession? Political scientist Christina Georgieva writes:

"If charisma were rooted solely in the leader's extra-everyday life, then a" charismatic "personality would have had the chance to develop its charismatic effect in every society and at any time."

Without an appropriate socio-historical context, there is no charisma, without extraordinary circumstances, no extraordinary leader, whom the masses obey with extraordinary devotion, in short: without lack, no longing and also no passion. So far so good. But how does a charismatic keep his rule upright, if this alone is natural? ephemeral Emotions based? To put it another way: What happens when the crisis situation has been resolved and the great savior has to prove himself in boring everyday life? Doesn't it then automatically lose its charisma? You know this very well from relationships: As soon as the fire of the first weeks or months has cooled down and love has become commonplace, boredom and, even worse, weariness and disappointment come inevitably: The So is it supposed to have been the great happiness that I was promised? Well and good, he does the dishes every now and then and does the laundry, at least I wanted something like that, but where has his charisma gone? Washed down with the washing up water and some puffy spaghetti?

But wait a minute. Why is here actually exclusively from his Charisma the speech? Why are all the charismatic personalities mentioned so far men? What's up with her Charisma? Did they ever exist, the charismaticsin? Or is the radiance of women weaker from the start because of the domesticity they are supposed to be? Can charisma even exist in the "realm of immanence", as Simone de Beauvoir once called the female sphere? The man is on the side of culture, the woman on the side of nature. The man is spirit, the woman is body. The man crosses transcends Borders, the woman keeps them: These dichotomies have been inscribed in our cultural history for thousands of years, and they are still deep in our bones in the supposedly enlightened 21st century. In this respect, charisma, which in German means gift of grace, actually seems to have more masculine than feminine connotations: whoever has charisma is gifted by God and accordingly has an extraordinary, even supernatural gift. Is it any wonder that the so-called 'lords of creation' are called charismatic, while their wives, who have their hands full with keeping their backs free, at most? erotic Have charisma? It can therefore be assumed, writes the cultural scientist Ute Bechdolf,

"that the theoretical concept behind the term, both behind the classic sociological and the everyday understanding of charisma, is problematic in itself. The charisma concept does not seem to be more neutral or neutral with regard to gender relations, but rather helps to deepen or reproduce the difference between the sexes and to further consolidate the existing power relations between men and women. "

The balance of power is sometimes solidified even when the term charisma, which initially appears to be progressive, is associated with femininity. It is noticeable that this term, as soon as it refers to women, is often watered down beyond recognition, so that alleged charisma can hardly be distinguished from pure sexyness. So writes the sociologist Wolfgang Lipp about the student and studentInsideprotests of the 1960s and 1970s:

"Knowing charismatic" charm "was also created in 1969 by those students who held up their bare breasts to Adorno, the philosopher of emancipation, in the classroom."

Did the women simply have charisma or just "certain charismatic charm"? Are men charismatic and women more sexy? While his Radiance never only emanates from his body, relates your Radiation, it seems, exclusively on her body: you shows a bit of bare skin while he the true revolution makes ... But what would it look like, the charismaticsin? Can they simply don't exist? Or is it just that your time has not yet come?

Let's put this question aside for now. Because earlier we actually stopped at the point where the revolution is over and the charismatic hero has to prove himself in everyday life. Can its charisma even show itself without a crisis situation, let alone maintain it? What happens when his ideals, for which he once fought so passionately, have long since found their way into the political statutes and have become normality? And is it more about coping with day-to-day business, rather than giving glowing speeches and conjuring up a glorious future? As soon as everyday life catches up with him, Max Weber believes it will indeed be difficult for the charismatic:

"" Charisma is typical At firstappearance of religious (prophetic) or political (conquering) rulers, but gives way to the powers of everyday life as soon as rule is secured, and, above all, as soon as it Crowdshas taken on character. "

As soon as the charismatic is really in power, he loses his promise of salvation. He no longer stands as a shining hope beyond the social order, but in the midst of it, yes, he even justifies it by virtue of his office. For the charismatic, institutionalized power means roughly what marriage as an institution means for love: rules, conventions and traditions have taken the place of rebellious passion, which is all the more fiery the more it has to assert itself. Christina Georgieva writes:

"The emotional aspect of the genuine charism is transformed into the rational of the institution, the groundbreaking into the predictable, the arbitrary and creative into the normative. In this way, the institutionalized charism not only loses its original revolutionary power, it also has the opposite effect. It stands No longer hostile to everyday life. "

The fact that the "virtuoso of redemption religious", as the sociologist Wolfgang Schluchter once put it, "has to take care of tomorrow" is difficult for some charismatics to bear. He of all people, the chosen one, should suddenly deal with the profanities of day-to-day business! With financing plans, with diplomacy, with internal government quarrels! Is he getting the admiration he deserves? And last but not least, he too needs? In fact, on closer inspection, the charismatic is by no means as independent of the recognition of others as it initially seems. What would the charismatic be without his audience? For whom should it shine, for whom should it shine? Does charisma exist when no one is aware of it? And what if the charismatic fails in tough everyday business because of one or the other resistance? What if his followers refuse him recognition? Doesn't he then lose his actual legitimacy? Max Weber writes:

"The through decides on the validity of the charism probation - originally always: through miracles - secured free, born from devotion to revelation, hero worship, trust in the leader, recognition by the ruled ... If the probation remains permanently absent, the charismatic gifted shows himself abandoned by his god or his magical or heroic power, success is permanently denied to him, especially: his leadership brings no well-being to the ruled, so his charismatic authority has the chance to wane. This is the genuine charismatic meaning of 'divine grace'. "

The charismatic is therefore under tremendous pressure: He has to work incessantly miracles even in the arduous day-to-day business in order to maintain his image as a promise of salvation. But he is also under pressure insofar as he seems to need the admiration of his followers purely psychologically. Doesn't an enormous and equally uncanny urge for validity flash behind the fatherly, sovereign countenance of the politician or boss? If you take a look at management research, the psychological constitution of the charismatic is accordingly ambivalent. A charismatic personality is an "oral-narcissistic type", says Michael Hofmann. The charismatic, he writes in the anthology he co-edited Functional management theory, have a high level of self-love and excessive selfishness. Freedom is one of his highest values, he craves recognition and is characterized by self-confidence, creativity, low adaptability, willingness to make decisions, unreality and anti-sociality.

That, one could say, is hidden behind the mask of the charismatic: What superficially blinds us is in truth pathological. The question immediately arises: How does a person get like this? A Psychoanalysis provides the answer. The charismatic, according to the psychoanalytic explanation, ties in his addiction to recognition and admiration to the child's all-powerful self-image. Normally this picture gradually gives way to a more realistic self-assessment and world assessment, because at some point the needs of the child are no longer immediately satisfied, and they are no longer admired without limits for every step they take.

"If, however, the child's all-powerful self-image either receives too little echo and approval ... or if an unrealistic early childhood self-image is retained due to a lack of adaptation to reality, this would result in a lifelong need for admiration and grandiosity.The narcissistic-charismatic leader is then "constantly on the lookout for an admiring audience that supports his need for grandiosity and combats his feelings of helplessness."

This is how the economist Johannes Steyrer sums up psychoanalytic research in his book Charisma and organization. So behind the apparent self-confidence of the charismatic there is in truth deep dependency. The charismatic constantly needs an enthusiastic audience because he has not learned to feel himself in other ways, let alone to appreciate it. An exception in this regard is, at least in appearance, Barack Obama. So it was said shortly before the presidential election in the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

"Obama doesn't need the masses, he doesn't even need a counterpart to feel validated - in contrast to Bill Clinton, for example, with whom he shares a barely hidden mutual dislike. An unnamed friend of Obama's in the New York Times magazine pulled one apt comparison: "If Clinton sees you across the street, he'll immediately cross the street to shake hands with you. When Obama sees you, he nods to you and waits for you to come over to him: "At heart, Obama is a withdrawn person who doesn't reveal much about himself, probably doesn't have to reveal himself because he's self-contained."

Obama, the balanced one. But is that really true? Or just a skilful staging of supposed authenticity? It is well known that Obama in particular knows how to use the media, and how can one decide whether he is really that independent or not perhaps more of a media professional who knows how to convey precisely this image of himself? So does the charismatic Obama subconsciously have an infantile need for admiration? We do not know it. It is only certain that, if one takes the psychoanalytic pattern of interpretation as a basis, not only the psychic constitution of the charismatic has a pathological core within it, but also that of his followers. The charismatic is great mainly - and perhaps even exclusively - thanks to his audience, which idealizes him. But what drives people to such an idealization? From a psychoanalytical point of view, these people have not been able to gradually adapt their idealized parenthood to reality. Even in adulthood, they feel like children who look up to others and need guidance. Yes you have to idealize other people, as this is the only way to compensate for their child's impotence. By obeying and subordinating to the idealized other, they share in his omnipotence: the grandiosity of the charismatic reflects back on them, and so they can feel great about themselves by being him make it appear big.

It is basically like in some couple relationships: A (the charismatic) does not see another person in B (his audience) with his own desire, but only a perfect mirror surface. B, on the other hand, does not see in A another person with his own and definitely fallible Desire, but infallibility personified, in short: God. If you will, A and B go well with each other: B repeatedly assures A of its grandiosity, and A allows B to participate in this grandiosity. The only problem is that this dynamic is difficult to maintain over the long term, because no one is continuously terrific, especially not, and that brings us back to our still unsolved problem, in everyday life. But as impossible as it may seem to maintain such a dynamic, it survives the transition from the state of emergency to normality quite often, and not only in personal relationships, but also in politics. But how can charisma shine through the profanity of everyday life? How does the charismatic preserve the uniqueness that characterizes him in day-to-day business? Max Weber's answer to this question is:

"Objectification of the charism, in particular Official charism. The belief in legitimacy then no longer applies to the person, but to the acquired qualities and the effectiveness of the hierarchical acts. "

The impression of being out of the ordinary is maintained or guaranteed precisely by the institution that actually seems to destroy this impression. Max Weber speaks of an "institutional turn" of the charisma and names various techniques that ensure that the chosen one is straight by his office, which he holds, chosen or even appears holy.

"The most important example: the priestly charisma, transmitted and confirmed through anointing, consecration or laying on of hands, the royal one, through anointing and coronation."

Ritual acts, according to Weber, guarantee the prominence of the office and thus also the prominence of its bearer. The qualities of the bearer themselves move into the background, the only important thing is the ceremony, by virtue of which the incumbent is ascribed an awe-inspiring extra-ordinaryity. The public swearing in of a president is also such a ritual act, through which official charisma is conferred and established; And against this background it is quite significant that a formal error was made when Barack Obama was sworn in. The US Chief Justice, John Roberts, misread the formula of the oath, so that when Obama repeated the formula, he first repeated the mistake and stalled. Just a small mistake on the part of the top US judge? A slip up? Or, consciously or unconsciously, an attempt to damage the office charism of the newly elected president?

But the office charism is not only due to ritual acts of this kind, but also to the symbolic decoration of the office. Objects such as crown, scepter or bishop's staff fulfill this function, but also national flags, hymns, coats of arms, emblems and buildings such as the White House, the Federal Chancellery or Downing Street. Furthermore, in order to objectify the charisma, appropriate official attire is required: What would a judge be without his robe? And wouldn't the Pope's charisma suffer considerably if he appeared in St. Peter's Square in sweatpants and a baseball cap instead of in regalia?

However, women have a hard time in this regard. "She doesn't even have a handbag!" Said a television editor about Chancellor Angela Merkel, like Thea Dorn in her book The new F-Class documented. And what if Merkel carried a handbag on her next state visit? Not only would the tabloid press presumably speculate about which toiletries are hidden in the bag, but it would also be the mischievous dangling of the bag that would be interpreted as silly female coquetry; very similar to how the choice of her costumes repeatedly attracts media attention. "Ms. Merkel's neckline divides the nation", the star headlined in April 2008. "Instead of boring trouser suits, Merkel wears sexy necklines." The headlines immediately after her election as Chancellor also show that Merkel's official charism is clearly not the same as that of her male predecessors. "Miss Germany", the Bild newspaper welcomed Merkel in her new position on October 11, 2005, and the TAZ headline: "It's a girl".

Does a woman have to cover her body in order to be perceived as charismatic? Does she have to dress like a man? Like a man give? Or to put it more generally: How could a female charisma, a female Officiallook charisma? Maybe like Barack Obama's? No, not because he does indeed have feminine hips, slender hands, and fine features. And not just because Obama, as a black man, is similarly marginalized in society, or at least until his presidency was like a woman. Obama embodies female charisma possibly also and especially insofar as he conforms to the conventions of the traditional male official charism breaks. To be more precise: His charisma is characterized by the fact that he does not add to the arduous everyday life, which is often marked by setbacks, through his official charisma cover up, to compensate tries, but rather integrated this everyday life into his official charism. "I screwed up," Obama said at the beginning of his presidency after making a serious mistake in the allocation of posts. With such a statement he makes it clear that no miracles are to be expected from him; he is not a savior, but someone who manages day-to-day business; someone who washes and rinses laundry - and drops a plate every now and then.

To come back to the official attire mentioned earlier: when he works in the White House, Obama does not wear a suit and tie like his predecessors, but rather a sweater. Obama, which symbolizes his choice of clothes, tackles things instead of being tucked into a corset of traditions, he doesn't hang on his tie, he trusts his own style - his own Leadershipstil, which by the way relies on communication rather than confrontation, rather on compromise than on ruthlessly pushing through one's own interests. Alone: ​​Isn't it all just a staging again? Is Obama breaking with the conventions of the traditional office charism just for the sake of that impression to convey upheavals and new beginnings? The future will tell if Obama is just a seducer. Or maybe the first female charismatic.