Charisma, Perón, and Perónismo – Short Research and Writing Assignment

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Corse, Theron E. Projecting Peron: The Constructed Image of Juan Peron, 1945-1949, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1995.


Max Weber describes three ‘pure’ types of legitimate authority: rational, traditional and charismatic. His account of ‘charismatic authority’ outlines its relation to specific and exceptional sanctity, heroism and exceptional character of an individual grounded in a complete devotion out of enthusiasm, despair or hope–– the crux of this legitimacy lies in a leader’s perception by his followers. Charisma is an intimate component of ‘populism;’ as such, its dialectic opposition to rationality and routine grounds populism, then, as a break from an ancien régime to which the charismatic populist figure is positioned revolutionary.

In Projecting Perón: The Constructed Image of Juan Perón, 1945-49, author Theron Corse analyzes the public image of Perón so as to define his charisma and to “tackle the cultural aspects of the Peronist movement” (p. 21). This study contrasts with earlier and narrower academic focus on his relationship with the military, with the church, and in relation to race. Corse instead lends his analysis to the non-conformity of Peronist ideology to basic principles of neither traditional liberalist nor leftist categories. Corse discusses the various critiques of Perón, balancing the various attempts at describing the “precise nature of the social base of Peronism” (p. 25); the second rise of Perón in the early seventies allowed a second layering of critique to this end.

Opposed to an overreliance on (scant) statistical data of the Peronist era and an overemphasis on either individualist or structuralist analyses of the Argentine leader, Corse embraces the ‘cultural turn’ ––emphasizing qualitative, ideological and discursive aspects of his rule. Corse’s thesis centers around Perón’s “down-to-earth” image as “Perón-the-provider,” (p. 34) the use of prosaic register, and propaganda that glorified los descamisados (Perón’s followers) as opposed to their leader. Within the historical context, many of these expression of charisma and leadership were absolutely novel.

Corse’s methodology relies principally on a close reading of a variety of the major newspapers of Buenos Aires within the time-framed scope. The reliance on mediated accounts of Perón underline the critical role of mass-communication in the construction of such a charismatic legitimacy. The time period analyzed was chosen due to the low rigidity of party-press control and the wider array of independent press. Perón’s speeches are also analyzed here.

Perón is described today, by those who remember him, “not as a man but a demon or some force of nature” (p. 9). This quasi-deification of his persona invites a direct comparison to Weber’s theological explanations of charismatic authority. Corse’s analysis applies a fresh understanding of the role of culture, emotion and identification unto a historiographical analysis of Peronism. Peronism is “hard to capture behind the bars of ideology” (p. 168), and Corse’s analysis focuses instead on messaging, and the relationship between the leader and his followers. Corse brings forward a penetrating qualitative analysis of Peronism; “the personal, the unquantifiable and the unsystematic” tell the story of an incredible ability in inspiring the Argentine people.