By Charles Lindholm
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Additional info for Charisma
Thus, where Durkheim believed gathering together and the reciprocal excitement of collective effervescence can give rise spontaneously to identity, ritual, belief—in other words, to society itself—for crowd psychologists the primal crowd is energetic, but formless and passive, awaiting any shaping influence. Human beings are portrayed as "unconscious puppets" who mechanically imitate whatever arouses them from their torpor (Tarde 1903: 77). The complexities of civilization are due simply to the overlap of multiple influences.
Yet all these inspiring figures have an ambivalent character: the patriarchal father, by asserting his personal will, gives the child an identity that stands against the world outside the 52 family; the custom of the savage is originally an inspired invention of a great leader; the lover offers a dream of transcending the mundane, rule-ordered universe; the gestures of the hypnotist are compelling precisely because they encourage the somnambulist to act out his deepest antisocial impulses; and the charismatic offers the follower the chance to rebel against the world as it is.
From this perspective, human beings are not and cannot be linked by anything but interests, which are always a product of personal emotional predilections and preferences. The moral community that Mesmer promised must be an illusion, a mask for conscious manipulation to achieve personal desires. But for those who believed, Mesmer's doctrine seemed to offer something much more. It not only explained the world, but it also offered participation in a state of rapport in which the practitioner touched and shaped the forces of life itself.
Charisma by Charles Lindholm
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