The Age of Charisma

Leaders, Followers, and Emotions in American Society, 1870-1940

An innovative examination of American society, culture, and politics, The Age of Charisma argues that the modern relationship between American leaders and followers grew out of a unique group of charismatic social movements prominent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Drawing on hundreds of letters and testimonials, Jeremy C. Young illustrates how “personal magnetism” in public speaking shaped society by enabling a shift from emotionally-inaccessible leadership to emotionally-available leadership. This charismatic speaking style caused a rapid transformation in the leader-follower relationship, creating an emotional link between speakers and listeners, and the effects of this social transformation remain with us today. Young argues that ultimately, charismatic movements enhanced American democracy by encouraging the personalization of leadership – creating a culture in which today’s leaders appeal directly to Americans through mass media.

Click here to read Jeremy’s Washington Post op-ed on The Age of Charisma.

Advance Praise for The Age of Charisma

“With The Age of Charisma, Jeremy Young offers a richly suggestive, original, often brilliant and compelling history of how charisma stood at the center of American political culture from the 1880s to 1940. Fluidly written and wonderfully researched, it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of America’s past. The scholarship is immensely sound, and I know of no book that comes close to contributing what Young does.”
— Daniel Horowitz, author of On the Cusp: Yale College Class of 1960 and a World on the Verge of Change

“This important book offers an innovative analysis and interpretation of many of the main intellectual, social, political, and religious currents of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. By providing such a clear, persuasive, and direct analytical framework, Young contributes new insights to what we know of the era, identifies some of the key agents of progressive change, and offers a clear and persuasive argument. The research behind this book is excellent and Young’s writing is clear and succinct. In sum, this is an excellent book.”
— Matthew Avery Sutton, author of American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism

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