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Religions 2013, 4(1), 51-66; doi:10.3390/rel4010051
Article

Charisma and Counterculture: Allen Ginsberg as a Prophet for a New Generation

Department of Religious Studies, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
Received: 14 December 2012 / Revised: 7 January 2013 / Accepted: 16 January 2013 / Published: 25 January 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Charisma, Medieval and Modern)
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Abstract

The cultural role of Allen Ginsberg does not fit a typical Weberian model of charisma. The avant-garde poet was an outstanding personality and possessed an unusual ability to affect people. He played a vital role in expanding the boundaries of personal freedom in America of the 1950s–1990s, blazing new paths for spiritual, communal and artistic expression. Serving as a father figure for the counterculture—a symbol of an alternative set of cultural norms, lifestyles and literary forms—Ginsberg was a charismatic counter-leader, with no clearly defined followers or movement. As a leader in a more liberated era, he offered energy, ideas, inspiration, and color, but no structure or authority. Instead he was a prophet of freedom, calling on people to express themselves openly, to expand and experiment. This role demanded charisma but of a different kind—one that was more spiritual and less organizational or hierarchical. This article follows Gary Dickson’s essay “Charisma, Medieval and Modern,” in offering a suggestive analysis of and supplement to Weber’s understanding of charisma. The article grapples with the concept of charisma in relation to a generation that resented rigid structures and authorities.
Keywords: Allen Ginsberg; Naomi Ginsberg; Jack Kerouac; Peter Orlovsky; Beat Generation; counterculture; Jewish; Howl; Kaddish; Buddhism Allen Ginsberg; Naomi Ginsberg; Jack Kerouac; Peter Orlovsky; Beat Generation; counterculture; Jewish; Howl; Kaddish; Buddhism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).
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Ariel, Y. Charisma and Counterculture: Allen Ginsberg as a Prophet for a New Generation. Religions 2013, 4, 51-66.

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