Featured Book: Political Leadership, Nations and Charisma

Ibrahim, Vivian and Margit Wunsch (eds.), Political Leadership, Nations and Charisma, London: Routledge, 2012.

Political Leadership, Nations and Charisma, edited by Ibrahim and Wunsch, is an important and innovative contribution to current nationalism studies. The collection of papers drawn from the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism’s 2010 annual conference examines the influence of charisma on power, authority and nationalism. The authors both apply and challenge Max Weber’s concept of ‘charisma’ and integrate it into a broader discussion of other theoretical models.

Drawing on different disciplinary approaches, leading international scholars in the edited volume contribute perspectives on a diverse range of cases to analyse charisma in benign and malignant leaderships, as well as the relationship between the cult of the leader, the adulation of the masses and the extension of individual authority beyond sheer power. They discuss idiosyncratic authority and oratory as well as how political, social and regional variations help explain concepts and policies which helped forge and reformulate nations, national identities and movements.

The edited volume is divided into three sections. The first examines the theoretical framework of the concepts of nations and charisma and the theme of founding fatherhood in relation to Weber’s theory of charismatic leadership. Moreover, it investigates how and which traits of charismatic leadership are associated with perceived, symbolic or assumed national characteristics.

The second part turns to a series of historical case studies from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Chapters on Giuseppe Garibaldi, Abraham Lincoln, Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser as well as a comparison of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini test Weber’s concept of charismatic leadership. Taking a multi-regional approach, the four chapters analyse the way in which nations, across temporal periods, related to the concept of charisma within social and political boundaries. The diverse range of case studies examines dichotomies in leadership ranging from right to left and democratic to authoritarian.

The third and final section of this compilation considers charisma in the present day, drawing on case studies of Atatürk, Jörg Haider and Nelson Mandela. It explores how far charismatic nationalism is a movement imposed from above or led from below, and to what extent modern phenomena such as the mass media have been utilised to meet these ends.

Political Leadership, Nations and Charisma will appeal to a broad range of readers interested in history, sociology, political communication and nationalism studies.


1. John Breuilly, Introduction: Weber’s Concept of Charismatic Domination

Part I: Nations and Charisma

2. Anthony D. Smith, The Charisma of Nations

3. David Martin, Charisma and Founding Fatherhood David Martin

4. Hedva Ben-Israel, National Leadership, National Character and Charisma

Part II: The Cult of the Leader, The Role of the Masses

5. Lucy Riall, Charisma and the Cult of the Hero in Risorgimento Italy

6. Don H. Doyle, Abraham Lincoln: The Apotheosis of a Republican Hero

7. MacGregor Knox, Mussolini and Hitler: Charisma, Regime and National Catastrophe

8. Vivian Ibrahim, Nasser and the Charisma of Language

Part III: Charisma in the Present Day

9. Erik-Jan Zürcher, In the Name of the Father, the Teacher and the Hero: The Atatürk Personality Cult

10. Emo Gotsbachner, Talking about Jörg Haider: Enactment of Volksnähe

11. Elleke Boehmer, Madiba Magic: Nelson Mandela’s Charisma


For more articles on this topic, please see SEN’s special issue on the
Nation and Charisma conference at

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