Collective effervescence, social change and charisma: Durkheim, weber and 1989
A meaningful interpretation of the dynamics of recent momentous historical changes - most notably the unexpected and surprising implosion of the Soviet empire in 1989-1990 - may be obtained by recombining aspects of the sociology of religion analyses of Weber and Durkheim. In particular, their complementary notions of ‘charisma’ and ‘collective effervescence’ provide an understanding of how social actors in coercive secular states, confronted by a seeming monopoly of the use of physical force, are able, in certain exceptional circumstances, to mobilise and disarm the state. The assembling of the social or national community is the background to Weber's discussion of charismatic leadership and the foreground to Durkheim. The ‘velvet revolutions’ of 1989 in various countries of Eastern Europe may be seen as manifestations of an historical moment of ‘collective effervescence’ in which the assembled collectivity itself, more than individual figures, manifested the empowerment of charisma. © 1995, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.
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