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Cults: Faith, Healing and Coercion Paperback – May 20, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0195123708 ISBN-10: 0195123700 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (May 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195123700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195123708
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for the first edition:

"Anyone wishing to understand the psychodynamics of [charismatic groups] should pick up Cults....[Galanter] has been a student of cult-like activity for the better part of two decades; this book represents a thoughtful and provocative summation of what he has learned."--Mark Silk, The New York Times Book Review.

"[Galanter] encourages us to think carefully about the extent to which our society can tolerate pluralism, innovation, and 'deviance.'...Galanter's approach gives us an urgently needed framework that can improve the quality of discussions about cults."--The Christian Century

About the Author

Marc Galanter is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse at the New York University School of Medicine. The author of many books and articles on cults and addiction, he is the editor of the American Psychiatric Association's official report on cults and new religious movements.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By J. Istre on June 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a fairly rigorous scientific study of the processes composing cults and charismatic groups. The author provides many examples and case studies, then develops a general theory into a process model. In engineering, we call this a control system. A system has various inputs and outputs and setpoints, or references. The setpoints are the desired results (outputs). Effective systems have a feedback mechanism assuring that the group produces the correct results. This is called monitoring. The leader of the group monitors the thoughts and the actions of the members almost fanatically and foresees contradictory evidence from the outside world and immediately attempts to rationalize it and reinterpret it in the mindset of the group. The group induces extreme stress, then provides relief of that same stress by conformance to the group's doctrines or ideas.
So great can be the stress induced on suspecting people, that sometimes the sanity of the person is threatened. There is a conflict between what the person's needs are and what the group's needs are. The person is expected to meet the needs of the group. The group provides stress relief after the member conforms. Of course, this constant stress inducement and relief is the technique used by the leaders to assure themselves that the people are in line both in mind and in action. Someone who sacrifices so much for the group is more likely to be a true believer. It also gives an idea of those most likely to join such groups: those in the midst of great personal problems and distress; in response to the recruit's current psychological distress where the world seems so messy and hard to understand, the group gives the person a false sense of certainty in their doctrines. Of course, I give here only a rough sketch.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Santi Tafarella on February 15, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is hard to put down--it is thoroughly fascinating. It is also an excellent introduction to the dynamics of social psychology in general. The author uses systems theory as a method for thinking about cults--reflecting, for example, on how feedback, monitoring, and group border control can assist us in thinking about insular religious movements. One interesting aspect of cults that the author discusses, and that I had not ever read elsewhere, is their ability to induce in members the 'Stockholm Effect.' This is a term borrowed from a hostage bank robbery in Stockholm some years back, in which hostages began to identify with the person holding them hostage. The author argues that something like this is going on in charismatic religious movements, where initiates are both threatened with abuse and derive their emotional comfort from the same source. People are made to feel abandoned or damned if they stray from the group's norms, but are given family comfort and safety if they adhere closely to the group's beliefs and goals. Like a roach motel, you check in, but have difficulty checking out. I feel that this book's insights into the social psychology of cults is also valuable in understanding propagandistic movements and charismatic manipulation generally.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Not Moses on April 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
I looked into Galanter's book because I have been influenced by authors like R. D. Laing, J. Henry, S. Kopp, E. Hoffer, N. Branden, A. W. Schaef, K. Taylor, C. Black, J. Woititz, P. Mellody, A. Ellis, B. & J. Weinhold and others with respect to the cult-like manifestations of society ("cult-ure") in general. I agree with their theses that our cult-ure =is= somewhat "crazy-making," and that its traditions and core beliefs, values, ideals, rules, assumptions, presumptions, prejudices and attitudes are major players in the increasing incidence of alcoholism, drug addiction, over-eating, gambling, romance obsession and other self-destructive behaviors.

I dug into Galanter to deepen my understand of how dysfunctional families, business organizations and political parties confer their values upon people and manipulate them to behave as they wish them to. While considerably less articulated than those offered by R. J. Lifton, K. Taylor and Internet cult whizbang Rick Ross, Galanter has done a =lot= of primary research with thousands of cult members and former members. That makes him, so far as I know, unique in the field. As a result, his grasp of what makes such folks tick is considerable, conceptually balanced and well-informed, certainly in agreement with my more limited experience as both a former cult member and (later) exit counselor.

I came away with very much what I expected: Galanter's hands-on research supports my own notion that a substantial number of people are raised and schooled in such a way that supports their turning to mind control cults as a solution to their inability to accept and tolerate existential ambiguity and normal, everyday conflict.
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