Charisma's Birth from the Bottom Up: Lula, ABC's Metalworkers' Strikes and the Social History of Brazilian Politics

Journal Article (Journal Article)

If David Bell in his book Men on Horseback (2020) focuses on what is political charisma, how it functions, and what it means 'to write its history', this article examines how Brazil's ex-President Luís Inácio Lula da Silva ('Lula') acquired charisma during the dramatic 1978-80 metalworkers' strikes in the industrial ABC region of São Paulo, Brazil. While generating a vast literature, scholars of the ABC strikes have evaded the question of how Lula, the gifted organiser, emerged as a recognisably charismatic figure. This article explains where, when and why this happened and how a charismatic bond was forged as 100,000 stigmatised, fearful, self-doubting 'peons' came to constitute themselves as a locally articulated social actor, a group in fusion, whose boldness and creativity led to extraordinary feats of organisation and mobilisation. Arguing against conflating charisma and populism, it also establishes the utility of the theorisation of group-making advanced in the Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) by Jean-Paul Sartre.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • French, JD

Published Date

  • November 19, 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 54 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 705 - 729

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1469-767X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-216X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/S0022216X22000694

Citation Source

  • Scopus