Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Charisma and Politics
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 22 x 1 Hour Lectures
Seminar 10 x 1 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 X 3,500 word essay  60%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word case study report  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3,500 word essay, if essay element failed  60%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 Case study report, if element failed  40%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Develop an understanding of basic definitions of power, domination and legitimacy and their importance in the study of politics.
2. Develop an understanding of the role of factors such as symbolism, personality, performance in studying politics.
3. Identify and describe different types of political charisma, their logics and their functions in the political process.
4. Compare and contrast different theoretical approaches to the genesis and functions of charisma in politics.
5. Identify common patterns and major differences in political charisma'r functions in different political settings.
6. Understand the rootedness of politics in the cultural context.
7. Discuss the ways in which charisma poses a threat, or is a gift, for democracies and democratic global governance.
8. Demonstrate an ability to transfer insights from theoretical concepts and exemplary cases to other cases.
9. Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of charisma-focused theoretical approaches in complementing mainstream approaches to the study of (international) politics.

Brief description

Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Willy Brandt, Ayatollah Khomeini and Josip Broz Tito are said to have (had) it, while with regard to current top politicians such as Angela Merkel or David Cameron the media often bemoan a lack of it: charisma. Political charisma is a buzzword that can frequently be found in public debates. Yet, while everyone seems to have an idea of what charisma is, there is a lack of analytical insight into this social phenomenon, which can play an important role in domestic as well as international politics, including those of modern democratic states. The module `Charisma in (International) Politics? looks in detail into this emotional and symbolic facet of politics. Starting with the works of sociologist Max Weber, who has crucially coined the concept of charismatic rule, first a range of theories on genesis and functions of different forms of charisma will be explored. Forms of charisma include the volatile `extraordinary charisma?, the rather stable `institutionalised charisma?, and the `mundane charisma?. Following the examination of basic theoretical concepts, the module then analyses the role of these diverse forms of charisma in different political systems (democracy, autocracy, dictatorship) and among contending actors (such as rebel groups), and explores the impact of political charisma on the international politics of these state and non-state actors and on international relations in general. General observations will be accompanied by specific in-depth case studies from different times/places worldwide.


The module adds to the department'r provision in the fields of International Politics, International History, Political Studies and `Third World? Studies. It enables students to develop an understanding of the role of symbolic, emotional and performative aspects of (international) politics by looking at a specific phenomenon: the forms and functions of political charisma. Although taking a very specific inroad, the module introduces students to a range of important and critical questions at the heart of the study of politics, including: What are sources for political power and domination? Which role do symbolism and emotions play in legitimising politics? Which role does/can personal leadership play in domestic/international politics? Based on these general questions, more charisma-specific questions are: How can the emergence of charisma in politics ? in different forms, at different times and places ? be explained? What different functions does charisma have in domestic political processes (for instance, how are charisma and different political systems connected, and what role does charisma play for violent contenders of states, like rebel groups)? What is the media'r role in the production of charisma? And, last but not least, how does political charisma as a specific form of emotional and symbolic legitimation of politics play into, and is it influenced by, international politics and transnational relations?



1. Introduction: Who/what is charismatic?

Part I: Theories on the genesis and functions of charisma

1. Max Weber'r concepts of charisma, power and domination
2. The genesis of extraordinary charisma: stigma (Lipp) and risk (Turner)
3. Charisma'r stabilisation through institutionalisation: hereditary and office charisma (Weber)
4. Does `mundane charisma? exist? Charisma as social distinction and boundary transgression (Bourdieu)
5. Charisma as product of political and media staging

Part II: Charisma, domestic politics and international politics

6. Personal charisma and dictatorship
7. Charisma in (post)socialist societies and the staging of personality cults
8. Charismatic heads of government in democracies ? gift or danger?
9. Institutionalised charisma in democracies: myths, constitutions, offices
10. Religion, politics and charisma
11. Female charisma: women, power and politics
12. Charismatic contenders of the state: the functions of charisma in rebel movements
13. When charisma fades: attempts at institutionalising charisma in authoritarian regimes
14. Conclusions: How does the analysis of charisma contribute to our understanding of international politics?

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to present their arguments most effectively. They will learn the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to best advantage. They will learn to be clear in their writing and speaking and to be direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Students will also be required to submit their assessed work in word-processed format and the presentation of work should reflect effective expression of ideas and good use of language skills in order to ensure clarity, coherence and effective communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context in which support and assistance is available from both the convenor and fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and exercising their own initiative, including searching for sources and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their coursework and presentation topics. The need to prepare for seminar participation and to meet coursework deadlines will focus students’ attention on the need to manage their time.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources.
Personal Development and Career planning This module is designed to hone and test skills of use to students in their working lives, particularly in speaking to small groups, listening, thinking and responding to the statement of others. Moreover, the written work includes writing clearly and concisely, which is a common task in the workplace. Students will be encouraged throughout to reflect on their performance and to consider lessons for future application.
Problem solving Independent project work and problem solving will be one central goal of the module; the submission of one essay and one case study report, plus preparation for seminar discussions, will require that students develop independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems.
Research skills Students will be required to undertake independent research for all elements of the assessed work. This will involve utilizing media and web sources, as well as more conventional academic texts. Students will in part be assessed on their ability to gather appropriate and interesting resources materials.
Subject Specific Skills • Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: • Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module • Evaluate competing perspectives • Demonstrate subject specific research techniques Apply a range of methodologies to complex historical and contemporary political problems.
Team work Students will undertake team exercises in the seminars. For many of the topics of this module, seminars will consist of small-group discussions where students will be asked to discuss as a group the core issues related to the seminar topic. These class discussions and debates form a significant part of the module, and will allow students to approach and examine a given topic through teamwork


This module is at CQFW Level 6