Charisma as a Political Instrument

Satisfactory Essays
Charisma as a Political Instrument

*Works Cited Missing*

Charisma is a quality of an individual personality that is considered

extraordinary, and followers may consider this quality to be endowed

with supernatural, superhuman, or exceptional powers or qualities.

Whether such powers actually exist or not is irrelevant – the fact

that followers believe that such powers exist is what is important.

Charismatic leadership has emerged in all places and in all historical

ages. For example, we have the Kwaio ‘Big Man’ of Melanesia (Sahlins,

1963) compared to the black ghetto in Chicago (Kochman, 1960’s).

First and foremost, since the task is to define how charisma can be

used as a political instrument, it is important to discuss

‘functionalism’. Bronislaw Malinowski introduced the concept of

Functionalism. It is universal theory and posits that all cultural

“traits” are functionally interrelated and form an integrated social

whole. In addition, it posited that all parts of society functioned to

satisfy the individual's biological needs (in this case, seeking

power, or generally gaining an advantage over another). Functionalism

was thus a less system-oriented theory than structural functionalism

and more oriented towards the individual. It was also more open toward

social change.

The political leaders of Melanesian societies are characteristically

‘big men’, individuals who have acquired power because of their

personal qualities and their personal achievement. There is a constant

competition, a constant yearning for upward mobility between the men

of the village to achieve the statues of ‘big man’. They aspire to

make decisions on behalf of the village and wish to be respected and

powerful – where influence, authority, and leadership in the secular

affairs come from success in mobilizing and manipulating wealth. A Big

Man’s objective to gain popular loyalty and enthusiasm comes from his

charisma and his ability to make people obligated to him by

contributing to their feasts, financing marriages, and otherwise
Get Access