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Charisma: The Gift of Grace, and How It Has Been Taken Away from Usby Philip Rieff
Synopses & Reviews
Charisma has come to be understood today as a special gift or talent that celebrities-artistic performers, athletes, movie stars, or political leaders-possess, a quality that makes their lives exemplary and transforms them into objects of universal appeal or attraction.
In Charisma, Philip Rieff explores the emergence and evolution of this mysterious and compelling concept within Judeo-Christian culture. Its first expression was in the idea of the covenant between God and the Israelites: Charisma-religious grace and authority-was transferred through divine inspiration to the Old Testament prophets; it was embodied by Jesus of Nazareth, the first true charismatic hero. Rieff shows how St. Paul transformed charisma into a form of social organization, how it was reworked by Martin Luther and by nineteenth-century Protestant theologians, and, finally, how Max Weber redefined charisma as a secular political concept. By emptying charisma of its religious meaning, Weber opened the door to the modern perception of it as little more than a form of celebrity, stripped of moral considerations.
Rieff rejects Weber's definition, insisting that Weber misunderstood the relation between charisma and faith. He argues that without morality, the gift of grace becomes indistinguishable from the gift of evil, and it devolves into a license to destroy and kill in the name of faith or ideology. Offering brilliant interpretations of Kierkegaard, Weber, Kafka, Nietzsche, and Freud, Rieff shows how certain thinkers attacked the very possibility of faith and genuine charisma and helped prepare the way for the emergence of a therapeutic culture in which it is impossible to recognize that which is sacred. Rieff's analysis of charisma is an analysis of the deepest level of crisis in our culture.
From the Hardcover edition.
Philip Rieff, Benjamin Franklin Professor of Sociology and University Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, is
An original, thoughtful assessment of the human concept of charisma ranges from biblical accounts in which charisma meant a gift of grace and the mark of true authority, to its evolution from a theological concept into a political one, and to a modern-day fascination with the celebrity phenomenon. Reprint. 10,000 first printing.
From the Publisher: From the profoundly influential social theorist Philip Rieff comes a posthumously published analysis of the deepest level of crisis in our culture. According to Rieff, the contemporary notion of charisma-the personal magnetism of political leaders or movie stars-is a tragic misunderstanding of a profoundly important concept. Charisma originally meant religious grace and authority transferred through divine inspiration, before it evolved into little more than a form of celebrity stripped of moral considerations. Rieff argues that without morality, the gift of grace becomes indistinguishable from the gift of evil and devolves into a license to destroy in the name of faith or ideology. Offering brilliant interpretations of Kierkegaard, Weber, Kafka, Nietzsche, and Freud, Rieff shows how certain thinkers attacked the very possibility of faith and genuine charisma and helped prepare the way for a therapeutic culture in which it is impossible to recognize anything as sacred.
About the Author
Philip Rieff was born in Chicago in 1922 and received his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1954. He taught at Brandeis University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Harvard University. For thirty years, until his retirement in 1992, he was the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Sociology and University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include Freud: The Mind of the Moralist and The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Rieff died in July 2006.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Foreword / Daniel Frank and Aaron Manson — Part 1: Charismatic Foundations Of Culture — 1: Spray-on charisma — 2: First Vanguard of our inherited culture — 3: Covenant and charisma — 4: Prophetic charisma — 5: Psychiatric study of Jesus — 6: Christian meaning of charisma — 7: Faith and fanaticism — Part 2: Therapeutic Foundations Of Anti-Culture — 8: Max Weber and the post-Protestant pathos — 9: Meaning of leadership — 10: Therapeutic world is without discipline and without disciplines — 11: Orders of ambivalence — 12: Mystique of the break — Part 3: Triumph Of The Therapeutic Over The Charismatic — 13: Evil angels have all but seized control of the world — 14: When therapy replaces charisma — 15: Revolutionary nature of the therapeutic — 16: What greatness owes to guilt — 17: Cure and prevention of great men — 18: Gift of Grace, and how it has been taken away from us — 19: Repression of meaning — 20: Crippled in our capacities to perceive the seldom-appearing thing — Notes — Index.
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