Decision-Making and Charisma

General De Gaulle between May 1968 and April 1969
By Brigitte Gaïti


How can we analytically make sense of the formation and spread of “charismatic” decision-making configurations? The article tries to answer this tricky question by studying some peculiar moves taken by General de Gaulle during the period that stretches from late May 1968 to late April 1969. The question indeed arises out of an enigma: how are we to understand the fact that the President of the Republic, then in control of vast institutional and political resources, suddenly begun taking risky, spectacular and highly personalized decisions (like his refusal to devalue the franc in November 1968, his referendum initiative in May 1968, abandoned then taken up again in June, and finally his willingness to put his own position in the balance through a very uncertain referendum in April 1969)? Part of the answer to this enigma lies in an analytical move, away from scrutinizing De Gaulle’s personality and towards the sociological interrogation of the social and political peculiarities of the collective configuration of action(s) that instituted itself step by step out of the events of May 68.


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