I am applying for a New Directions Initiative Grant to request support for a new research project on the sociological theory of charismatic authority. My ultimate goal is to complete a book manuscript based on the comparative study of five instances of charismatic/plebiscitary leadership in late communism and post-communism: Slobodan Miloševic (Serbia), Franjo Tudjman (Croatia), Boris Yeltsin (Russia), Lech Walesa (Poland), and Vaclav Havel (Czech Republic). Although this project builds on my previous research on communism and nationalism in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, it represents a new career direction in three senses. Firstly, it represents a shift from the macro-comparative historical sociology of nationalism to the sociology of leadership. Secondly, it represents a conceptual move from the study of a limited number of cases (emphasis on historical uniqueness with limited generalization potential) to an attempt to build a more general and formal sociological theory that can be applied to other historical instances and periods. Thirdly, it expands the range of cases to include instances with which I have only limited familiarity (the Czech Republic, Poland and, less so, Croatia). This shift in direction will represent a fundamental rethinking of my approach to the sociological study of nationalism and will allow me to develop a general theory of the role of charisma and plebiscitary leadership in the modern (twentieth-century) world, which I plan to make the focus of the next decade in my career. The project will contribute to my renewal both as a scholar and teacher, since it will enable me to change the direction of my scholarship, while my research-generated insights will serve as the foundation for developing a course on charismatic leadership that will broaden the focus to other cases and historical periods. My immediate goal during the proposed grant period (June-December 2012) is threefold: 1) to undertake an exploratory summer research trip to Poland and the Czech Republic with the goal of making scholarly and intellectual contacts 2) to familiarize myself with a set of different literatures that pertain to the topic and which I have not had the time to explore hitherto; 3) to draft the theoretical framework for the larger study in the form of a preliminary introductory book chapter. In order to achieve these goals I am asking for summer travel grant support and a one course release in fall 2012.