The Emergence and Revival of Charismatic Movements: Argentine Peronism and Venezuelan Chavismo

Political movements founded by charismatic leaders are often considered ephemeral. Existing literature argues that because they rest on unmediated emotional attachments between leaders and followers, these movements either fade quickly after their leaders disappear or transform into routinized parties. Yet, charismatic movements around the world have proven surprisingly resilient and have retained their personalistic core. Focusing on Argentine Peronism and Venezuelan Chavismo, this book investigates the nature and trajectory of charismatic movements from the perspectives of both leaders and followers. Using interviews, focus groups, and survey experiments, I reveal that charismatic movements can emerge, survive, and become politically revived by sustaining – not discarding – their personalistic character. Followers’ charismatic attachments to the movement founder can develop into an enduring, deeply affective political identity that successors can reactivate under certain conditions by portraying themselves as symbolic reincarnations of the founder. Consequently, charismatic movements can have lasting deleterious effects on democracy.

The book received the 2022 Leon Epstein Award for the best book on political organizations and parties from the American Political Science Association as well as the 2022 Social Science Award from the Souther Cone Studies section of the Latin American Studies Association.

Published in 2021, the book is available for purchase through Cambridge University Press and on Amazon


“This book is essential and timely. Andrews-Lee masterfully challenges conventional wisdom as she details the capacity of charismatic movements to endure as affective ties that can be reactivated, in some cases, by successors. The work critically enhances research on populism and convincingly warns of the potential for charismatic leadership to plant seeds of democratic erosion.”

-Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, Vanderbilt University

“Charismatic authority is widely recognized to be a vital component of many populist movements, but also one that is difficult to study in a rigorous manner. Caitlin Andrews-Lee tackles this challenge by examining the emergence and revival of charismatic movements in Argentina and Venezuela. This is a much-welcomed contribution to the study of political leadership, one that sheds new light on the factors that make charismatic movements so powerful and resilient in different national settings.”

-Kenneth M. Roberts, Cornell University


“Caitlin Andrews-Lee masterfully applies the theoretical and methodological arsenal of political science to dissect the nature, causes, consequences, and political uses of charismatic leadership. In doing so, she illuminates features of the charismatic movements founded by colonels Juan Perón and Hugo Chávez, as well as the tendency of these populist forces to hinder the formation of programmatic party systems and, ultimately, to undermine democracy.”

-Carlos Gervasoni, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella


“Caitlin Andrews-Lee’s book on the ‘undying’ nature of charisma, the ways that can be re-activated by new political actors after the disappearance of the original leader, and its long-lasting destabilizing effects to institutions and political systems, is a bold, original, and insightful contribution to the field of charisma studies and to the study of democracy itself.”

-José Pedro Zúquete, Universidade de Lisboa