Of Folk Heroes and Folk Devils: Conceptual Affinities between Charismatic Upheaval and Moral Panic in the Case of Donald Trump

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Paul JOOSSE, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Although Stanley Cohen and Max Weber both made lasting contributions to social theory by modeling how moral enthusiasms trouble and establish the social order, thus far there has been little attempt to explore the complementarity between processes of moral panic and charismatic upheaval. Working beyond latently Durkheimian figurations of moral panic which depict a dialectic between ‘right-thinkers’ and folk devils, this paper integrates charismatic entrepreneurs into a tripartite model that sheds light on two new pathways of interaction that are relevant for the sociology of morality. First, charismatic leaders can perform an outflanking move on the moral territory of traditional leaders, performing acts of 'one-upmanship' in their castigations of 'folk devils' that are extreme, extraordinary, and therewith charismatic. Second, charismatic leaders can creatively subvert traditional mores, overturning value tables to ‘bedevil’ traditional leaders. Because moral panic and charismatic enthusiasm implicate distinct, complementary, and unitary social processes, I argue that, taken together, the work of Max Weber and Stanley Cohen offer a more theoretically profitable vision of moral denaturation and reformulation than either would alone. Donald Trump’s charismatic ascent, which involved a continued interaction with folk devils, is used to illustrate the theoretical contribution.