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Political Leadership Essay

Political Leadership and the Problem of the Charismatic Power Author(s): Carl J. Friedrich Source: The Journal of Politics, Vol. 23, No. 1, (Feb. , 1961), pp. 3-24 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Southern Political Science Association Stable URL: http://www. jstor. org/stable/2127069 Accessed: 04/08/2008 17:34 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR’s Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www. jstor. org/page/info/about/policies/terms. jsp.

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introduced sociology into and its derivatives, THE TERM charisma many years ago by a Germansociologist, has lately been spreading into political science here and abroad. The intellectuals’ desire to sound profound by the use of unfamiliar words may have a share in this fad, but it would seem that the term also responds to a very real need. One recent writer goes so far as to define charisma as “the right to rule by virtue of what they (the leaders) have been and are. ” Needless to say, such vagueness is a far cry from the original usage.

1 In order to be able to assess the utility of the concept of charismatic leadership, charismatic authority (and legitimacy) and charismatic power and rule, it will be necessary to clarify the phenomena of power, rule and leadership which are supposed to be qualified by this quality of being charismatic. Power is a central concern of political science. It is a phenomenon which is universally recognized, but difficult to understand. Like all data of the real world, it defies rigorous definition. Most famous among the attempts at definition is that of Hobbes.

He states that “power is the present means to secure some future apparent good. ” (Leviathan Chap. 10) Such a definition (while historically important as a challenge to the traditional notion that what is “good” can be authoritatively known)2 is both too broad and too narrow. Too broad, because it makes it impossible to distinguish power from wealth; for what is wealth but a present *Based upon a paper delivered at the 1960 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, New York, on September 9, 1960.

The problems here discussed will be more fully developed within a systematic context in a forthcoming book on this and related issues. ‘Max Weber, Wirtschaft und GeselIschaft, 1922, Part I, Chap. 3, paras. 1014; Part III, Chap. 9, and elsewhere. An abbreviated edition of Talcott Parsons and Henderson was published under the title The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. The discussion of charisma and charismatic leadership is found on pp. 358ff. The statement quoted on charisma is found in M. S. Lipsett, Political Man (1959) p. 49.

2Hobbes, in consequence, denied the notion of a “summum bonum”; these Doints were rightly stressed in comments by David Spitz. [3] 4 THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS [Vol. 23 means to secure some future apparent good? Hobbes’ reply to such an objection would have been, of course, that wealth is a “form” of power; he says as much in the discussion that follows his definition. Whatever may be the argument here on broad philosophical grounds, it is operationally important today to draw this distinction, in order to differentiate political from economic concerns and thus politics from economics.

Actually so broad a definition as Hobbes’ really identifies power with the totality of resources available to a man to realize his values or purposes. If power is thus defined, what does it mean to say that “life is but a ceaseless search for power after power unto death”-the famous claim of Hobbes and recited to this day? It simply says that men seek that which they desire, which is little short of tautological. But Hobbes’ definition is not only too broad; it is also too narrow.

For it talks of power as if it were a thing, something to have and to hold, and may be to sit upon like a bag of gold. Power at times possesses this quality, but at other times not at all, and it is important to see it in its dual nature, because only this Janusfaced quality gives to power the perplexing dynamic quality which men feel but find it difficult to account for. Power is not only a thing, a possession, but it is also a relation, as Locke insists in his Essay on Human Understanding (Bk. II, Chap 21) where he states are “(powers relations, not agents.

” If power is looked at in the dimension of time, it becomes clear that its relational quality is the more evident, the longer the time span involved. For it is in the rise and the decline of political power, whether of individuals or of larger groups that the relational quality, the fact that power is always power over other men, becomes evident. In a certain sense, therefore, it is possible to say that the stress upon its quality as a thing, a possession to have and to hold, is the result of an illusion. But such a statement is not wholly justified.

Due to the institutionalization of power relationships, presently to be discussed, the power attached to a certain office is a thing, a possession to have and to hold. To be sure, the office may be lost as a result of the way the power is used, but while the office is held, the power is in the hands of him who holds it. Therefore it is appropriate to say that power is to some extent 8It is curious and has been noted occasionallythat Locke in his Essays on Civil Government (I1,4) builds the argument upon Hobbes’ concept, though the other notion, implicit in his general philosophy, also plays its part.

1961] POLITICAL LEADERSHIP AND CHARISMATIC POWER 5 a possession p(l), and to some extent a relation p(2). It is the ratio of the two ingredients which political science must continuously be concerned with. The difference between political phenomena in which the ratio of p(l) and p(2) is greater than one, and those in which the ratio of p(l) to p(2) is smaller than one is familiar to the study of politics. The first is typically a stabilized office, such as that of an hereditary monarch, or of an official of a firmly established republic. The second ratio, p (l)


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