Constance Bantman

«A Very Serious Person». Jean Grave and the Paradoxes of Anarchist Charisma

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Keywords: Jean Grave; French Anarchism; «Les Temps Nouveaux»; Charisma; Revolution.

This article explores the contradictory nature of anarchist celebrity and influence, through the example of the French editor, writer and campaigner Jean Grave (1854-1939). It focuses on the tension between Grave’s personality and his remarkable ability to form and sustain very effective networks to support his propaganda, across a wide geographical area but also across different political and cultural spheres. Grave elicited fervour among his many friends, or indeed admirers; and yet, at the same time, was famously dour, prone to dry theorising, shy and adamant on doctrinal rectitude. How can both aspects be reconciled? Is it possible to see a causal link between Grave’s sternness and, on the other hand, the attraction he exerted? And how might this inform our understanding of anarchist leadership, when existing studies have tended to emphasise its charismatic elements, or at least performance component?

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