Stefan Breuer, Burokratie und Charisma: Zur Politischen Soziologie Max Webers. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1994. 222 pp.

Review by Gerd Schroeter, Lakehead University

This book is both interesting and frustrating: it is challenging because of the range of material covered, but annoying because it lacks a center -- a cynosure. It is less than a monograph but more than merely a collection of essays (several pr eviously published); the author has used the title of his shortest chapter for the title of the whole. Furthermore, the focus which links the chapters seems to be on the "state" rather than on bureaucracy or charisma. While the spirit of Max Weber admittedly hovers over almost every page, he is often in the wings and thus the subtitle is misleading as well. The frustration expressed by the author that "Max Weber really did not make it easy for his readers" (p. 178) applies here, too. In fa ct, I often found the book hard not to put down.

Stefan Breuer's starting point is that he disagrees strongly with such contemporary writers as Anthony Giddens, Niklas Luhmann, and others, that Weber's theory of rationalization in general, and of bureaucracy in particular, is dated and proper ly belongs in a museum of the history of sociology (as stated by Hans Haferkamp). He insists instead that Weber assumed modernization to be "a continuous reciprocity between rationality and charisma" (p. 2), but that this has never been adequately spelled out in the literature. Near the end of the book (p. 188) he claims that he has now done this and that the gains have been considerable.

The body of the book consists of seven chapters. The first two deal with rationalization of the state (and to a lesser extent the church) and stress the distinction between "material" rationalization, often identified with patrimonialism, and l ater the growing importance of "formal" rationalization found first among the military during the seventeenth century. The importance of the French Revolution for establishing the rational or institutionalized state (Anstaltsstaat) is als o brought out; here the political/administrative order was largely reconstructed by the subjects and not the rulers.

The subsequent chapters examine the types of charisma that conflate more or less with the modern state in the consolidation of order: the charisma of reason, of the nation, and of the leader. Finally there is a chapte r where the author presents a typology of four pure types of democracy, followed by a short summary chapter (the most articulate in the book) entitled "Bureaucracy and Charisma Today: From Antagonism to Osmosis".

While I often find Breuer's writing to be vapid and opaque -- certainly more so than Weber's, who paid no attention to style, either -- and the chapters don't relate well to one another, there are certain nuggets that reflect the author's exten sive knowledge of his subject. In discussing the charisma of reason in connection with the American (1776) and French (1789) Revolutions, he points to such factors as a general mistrust of power, the role of Protestant sects meeting in small congr egations, widespread political participation, and the absence in the Thirteen Colonies of people who lived by their pens. He uses these to explain the very different structures of authority in the United States and in France, despite similar rheto ric in the Declarations of Independence and the Rights of Man. There is also a chapter devoted to the early years of the Soviet Union, where Breuer rejects the label of charismatic leader often attached to Lenin, and instead attributes charisma to the impersonal structures he set up. The same factors he identifies in France during the late eighteenth century were also present in Russia: the "charisma of authority" (Amtscharisma) represented by the orthodox church, an autocratic- patrimonial system of authority, plus a stratum of ideological virtuosi. In contrasting France with Germany, Breuer makes the convincing claim that in Gallic thinking nation and state were concomitant; but this is not so in German, where the conce pt of "nation" was heavily loaded down with conservative as well as religious connotations.

The concept of the charisma of the "leader" is more transepochal than the others. The author strongly criticizes Wolfgang Mommsen's contention that Weber's emphasis after 1918 on plebiscitary leadership somehow prepared the German people to emb race Hitler. However, Breuer does disparage Weber's political insights during those years (relying perhaps too much on Robert Michels's study of the German Social Democrats), and concludes that "Politics as a Vocation" is really an outdated text.

The four types of democracy are constructed along two axes: whether the leaders support party structure (institutionalization) or are anti-structure, and whether they favor personal or factual (substantive) solutions. This yields Direct Democra cy (anti-structure/personal), a Democracy of Disciples (anti-structure/personal), Representative Democracy (structure/factual), and Plebiscitary Democracy (structure/personal). Again, Breuer's general conclusion is that Weber's prediction that the increasing bureaucratization of parties would strengthen caesarist modes of selection has not been borne out; politics is a great deal more pluralistic and varied than Weber could have imagined, with the media serving as major tools for making direct charismatic appeals of every kind.

The author leaves the reader with several provocative conclusions. First, that convergence between the First and the Third World is far less advanced and that Western culture has been much less effectively universalized (beyond Amex, Coke, and Kalashnikovs) than Weber expected. Second, that Weber's stress on "order" is outdated, and that given the accelerated migrations of populations the hope of achieving integration is illusory. Third, that "the deficit in modern social life is not on ly economic and ecological, but also psychological" (p. 193). The solution may be that the relationship between bureaucracy (rationalization) and charisma become reconceptualized and enhanced. What we need, Breuer insists, is not more disenchantme nt but re- enchantment! He also provides a striking simile: the modern state is like a castrated tom-cat, he says, which has grown in size as it has lost its capacity.

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