By Charles Lindholm

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Charisma is posited as the final refuge of the individual creative actor in a mechanical and disenchanted world, as elusive, as appealing, and as evanescent as the inexplicable desire of a person for loss of the self in the embrace of the beloved one; and as doomed, since it must give rise to hierarchies of power, and to the deadening force of rationalization. In Durkheim's model, the duality between "interest" and passion also remains central, but is resolved by a postulate of a distinction between the rational, rapacious individual and the moral, non-rational, emotionally compelling community, which now becomes the sole source of intense feelings.

8 But my interest here is in his crucial, though not greatly elaborated, discourse on the nature and origin of the collective itself. In Durkheim's view, the collective is the type case of the sacred. He imagines it as existing above and beyond those who make it up: timeless, encompassing, vital, emotionally compelling, it evokes from its members a deeply felt commitment and provides them a sense of surpassing value. In fact, for Durkheim, individuals actually become human beings only insofar as they escape from their individual selves, which he envisioned as inevitably solipsistic and antisocial, and submit to absorption in the moral entity of the suprapersonal group.

Even more frightening, the crowd psychologists actively affirm what Weber denied and Durkheim only intimated. Modernity, precisely because it presses against mass behavior and 54 charismatic leadership, actually intensifies popular desire for the revelation of the leader and immersion in the mass, so that Le Bon prophecies that "the age we are about to enter will in truth be the ERA OF CROWDS" (1952: 14). This is because the modern human being, according to Le Bon and Tarde, is cut away from old ties, declassed, atomized, and stripped of faith.

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