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In Defense of Charisma

Vincent W. Lloyd

ISBN 10: 0231183860 / ISBN 13: 9780231183864
Published by Columbia University Press
New Condition: New Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: In Defense of Charisma

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Binding: Hardback

Book Condition: New

About this title


Martin Luther King Jr. has charisma-as does Adolf Hitler. So do Brad Pitt, Mother Teresa, and many a high school teacher. Charisma marks, or masks, power; it legitimates but also attracts suspicion. Sociologists often view charisma as an irrational, unstable source of authority, superseded by the rational, bureaucratic legitimacy of modernity. Yet charisma endures in the modern world; perhaps it is reinvigorated in the postmodern, as the notoriety of celebrities, politicians, and New Age gurus attests. Is charisma a tool of oppression, or can it help the fight against oppression? Can reexamining the concept of charisma teach us anything useful about contemporary movements for social justice? In Defense of Charisma develops an account of moral charisma that weaves insights from politics, ethics, and religion together with reflections on contemporary culture. Vincent W. Lloyd distinguishes between authoritarian charisma, which furthers the interests of the powerful, naturalizing racism, patriarchy, and elitism, and democratic charisma, which prompts observers to ask new questions and discover new possibilities. At its best, charisma can challenge the way we see ourselves and our world, priming us to struggle for justice. Exploring the biblical Moses alongside Charlton Heston's performance in The Ten Commandments, the image of Martin Luther King Jr., together with tweets from the Black Lives Matter movement, and the novels of Harper Lee and Sherman Alexie juxtaposed with the writings of Emmanuel Levinas, In Defense of Charisma challenges readers to turn away from the blinding charisma of celebrities toward the humbler moral charisma of the neighbor, colleague, or relative.


In this wonderfully provocative book, Vincent Lloyd explores the theory and practice of charisma in their kaleidoscopically varied forms. Ranging through literary and philosophical and theological texts, through movies and TV and Twitter, through proclamations and arguments and performances, he shows us a big world of ideas. After reading this book I find myself seeing the effects of charisma everywhere. A truly remarkable work of humanistic scholarship, In Defense of Charisma is also a great deal of fun.--Alan Jacobs, author of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography

In In Defense of Charisma, Vincent Lloyd elucidates a compelling and unique definition of democratic charisma as something overlooked and valuable. It is overlooked partly because it is fleeting, partly because it is overshadowed by the more widely understood and unappealing concept of authoritarian charisma. Democratic charisma gives us an innovative angle on a central concept and could enter the mainstream of discussion in multiple disciplines, perhaps even broader consciousness.--Mark Roche, University of Notre Dame

What is charisma and can it be used well? In this book, Vincent Lloyd offers creative and important reflections for our networked age.--Cathleen Kaveny, Libby Professor of Law and Theology, Boston College

[A] scholarly but truly readable new book... offer[ing] a new, normative research program for those interested in understanding how political leadership, charisma, and their many layers of mediation interact, not just to uncover the mechanics of that charismatic matrix, but to investigate it and evaluate it for the sake of the common good.--Contemporary Political Review

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