The Spellbinders: Charismatic Political Leadership

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The Spellbinders: Charismatic Political Leadership

By Ann Ruth Willner
Yale University Press, 1984
212 pp. $17.95

The author first defines charisma (no easy task), discusses the necessary leadership qualities and the chemistry between leader and followers, then illustrates her theories with examples of seven twentieth-century leaders: Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt, Gandhi, Sukarno, Castro and Khomeini. Not quite in the same league are Lenin, Mao, Atatürk, Nasser and Perón. For better or worse, societies anchored in democratic institutions do not seem to produce charismatic leaders, F.D.R. being the exception. Much of the book belabors the obvious, but on the whole the author makes her case well and enlarges understanding of the phenomenon of charisma in this age of mass politics.

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