The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Science

Authors: Bogdanor
Summary: In approximately 225 words, this entry does not provide its own definition of charisma but instead starts with the term's theological roots and quickly moves to Max Weber's conception.
Charisma derives from the New Testament and means literally 'gift of grace.' Max Weber popularized this political concept as one of three forms of political authority. According to Weber, charisma is a form of authority which derives from the extraordinary characteristics of an individual, and has little to do with an office or other professional position.
After expanding upon Weber's ideas a bit more, the entry discusses charisma's changing usage. Apparently, use of the term has become arbitrary and subjective because it is now used in reference to exceptional popular authority arising from a recognized office like the presidency, and not only to denote an extraordinary individual. The entry concludes by mentioning that charisma now belongs more to the realm of personal adulation than the intellectual study of political science.