The international township of Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India: the routinization of charisma in a context of an inner-worldly mystical orientation
Leard, Stuart R.
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Sponsored by UNESCO and the Government of India, Auroville was established in 1968 as an experiment in human unity. This thesis is an attempt to illuminate the cultural orientation of Auroville and. the consequences for routinization of charisma. Drawing on material collected during an exploratory five month residence in Auroville in 1986-87, I developed a theoretical framework as the context for carrying out a field study. Elements of Weber's theoretical work are used to postulate a tension between the dominant orientation of Aurovilians as inner-worldly mysticism and the material and social pressures which Weber identified as resulting in routinization of charisma. As a participant observer, I carried out research in Auroville between October 1988 and December 1990. Based on the data from interviews, documents, and field notes, I identified eight cultural themes as characterizing and distinguishing the cultural orientation of Aurovilians. These themes point to a fundamental resistance of Aurovilians to processes related to routinization of charisma. To the extent that organizational elaboration violates their primary values, Aurovilians resist institutionalization in the form of hierarchical structures, centralization, and the concentration of power. Yet Aurovilians are able to maintain unity through a network form of organization which permits unity in diversity. Such a network form of organization is different from organizational developments as Weber characterized them in the routinization of charisma. The cultural themes are related to a fundamental dilemma of institutionalization: spontaneity versus structure. Using 0'Dea's (1961, 1966) operationalization of this fundamental dilemma into five related dilemmas, I show that Aurovilians have preserved and returned to spontaneity through their resisting emergent and potentially transforming forms of social control which make up the processes Weber identified as inherent in routinization of charisma. I conclude that the basic orientation of Aurovilians involves effective resistance to routinization. As value-centred and experientially-based, their orientation can be characterized as inner-worldly mystical, and viewed as an attempt to live out an inwardly experienced reality. Several implications follow from this research. First, although Weber in effect ignored inner worldly-mysticism as a significant and actual orientation, the orientation of Aurovilians is demonstrated to be an enduring instance of innerworldly mysticism. Second, to the extent that Aurovilians have resisted and continue to resist routinization, inner-worldly mysticism is a useful theoretical construct for analyzing.responses to and dilemmas associated with routinization of charisma. Third, Robertson's (1978) inner-worldly mysticism as an ideal type can be modified to include the feature of sensitivity toward and resistance to objectification, which poses the threat of alienation from the very forms intended to express and carry a sense of reality.