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The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind Paperback – January 8, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Gustave Le Bon (1841 -1931) was a French social psychologist, sociologist, and amateur physicist. He was the author of several works in which he expounded theories of national traits, racial superiority, herd behavior and crowd psychology. His work on crowd psychology became important during the first half of the twentieth century when it was used by media researchers such as Hadley Cantril and Herbert Blumer to describe the reactions of subordinate groups to media. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (January 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486419568
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486419565
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 150 people found the following review helpful By zonaras on August 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
_The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind_ by French social theorist Gustave LeBon is a short treatise on the principles of large gatherings of people. As the disclaimer on the title page notes, the ideas in LeBon's book were popular at the time of the late 19th century but are no longer in vogue today. The reasons for this are obvious, as LeBon unpretentiously puts to fault all the rhetoric about "democracy," "equality," "fraternity," and "equality" as being mere catchphrases that self-serving demagouges use to control the spirit of the masses. He cites the French Revoloution and the demands of Socialism and Communism during his time. LeBon outlines the way crowds tend to think (in vivid images illogically connected), how they reason (they don't for all practical purposes), how they express exaggerated emotion, how they are very quick to take action without coherent thought and of the general extreme-conservativism and intolerance of crowds. The individual who becomes part of a crowd tends to loose himself, and feels invincible as he is aware of the similarity of mind and purpose of all those surrounding him. LeBon notes how individuals become unthinking entities of the Herd, and can be unconsciously made to do acts, which can either be of great criminality or heroism. The reasoning of the solitary individual is superior to that of a crowd which has no individuality. All are "equal" in a crowd where, for instance, a mathemetician is caught up in the same spirit as a laborer and class and intelligece differences fall to the lowest common denominator.Read more ›
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69 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Stan on December 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
I think the reviewer Derek Pillion summed up this book rather well. But I want to relate something that came into my mind after reading the following passage from chapter III:
"A hundred petty crimes or petty accidents will not strike the imagination of crowds in the least, whereas a single great crime or a single great accident will profoundly impress them, even though the results be infinitely less disastrous than those of the hundred small accidents put together.
The epidemic of influenza, which caused the death but a few years ago of five thousand persons in Paris alone, made very little impression on the popular imagination. The reason was that this veritable hecatomb was not embodied in any visible image, but was only learnt from statistical information furnished weekly.
An accident which should have caused the death of only five hundred instead of five thousand persons, but on the same day and in public, as the outcome of an accident appealing stronly to the eye, by the fall for instance of the Eiffel Tower [sic], would have produced, on the contrary, an immense impression on the imagination of the crowd.
... To know the art of impressing the imagination of crowds is to know at the same time the art of governing them."
What came into my mind after reading that passage? Airplanes and collapsing towers. This book is a must read for any thinking person.
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51 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Alessandro Bruno on January 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a short book whose pages have a far greater impact than the title might suggest. As many reviewers have already noted, the book simply explains the mechanisms that guide the popualr imagination and outlines the simple principles that enable the few who grasp them to hold control over vast populations. What struck me particulalry was how the recipes for power suggested by Gustave Le Bon are reflected in contemporary neo-liberal economic and socio-cultural agendas. Those who are involved in developing education policies will find the book especially useful. Writing over a century ago,Le Bon criticized the liberal education system and advocated the more common sense practical type of learning that neo-liberal agendas have been pushing for since the late 70's. It also makes a strong case for the impact of simple messages over crowds. Common sense arguments, logic and thoughtful concerns, LE Bon argues, are lost on the masses. Indeed, it is widely believed that this was one of Benito Mussolini's favorite books. We are living ever more in an era of simplistic thinking. By reading this book you will understand how this has occurred and how demagogues rise to power. As with another reviewer, I also stay away from crowds. This book unraveled the unconscious instincts that always make me avoid crowds and anything that is too popular.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By John on December 29, 2011
Gustave Le Bon says it best: "Crowds exhibit a docile respect for force, and are but slightly impressed by kindness, which for them is scarcely other than a form of weakness. Their sympathies have never been bestowed on easy-going masters, but on tyrants who vigorously oppressed them."

This book is a classic and voters everywhere should read it.

John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By investingbythebooks on January 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
There are a number of books that portray financial bubbles and crowd behaviour. This from 1895 is the best one even if it doesn't specifically touch on the financial markets. The Crowd by the French sociologist Gustave Le Bon covers a number of topics such as how individuals adapt to the group view and suppress their own knowledge, how groups hinder analysis and promote "stories", the way groups make decisions and how they handle persons with a contrary view of events. The points Le Bon makes made huge impressions not only on Sigismund Freud, but also on both Hitler and Mussolini who used them to control the masses.

The Book is divided in three parts. You can leave the third unread. It deals with classifications of different kinds of crowds with examples which very much relate to the 19:th century and also displays a little too much of Le Bon's fear of socialism. I'm no friend of socialism but this feels dated. The first two parts are at the same time extremely cynical and completely brilliant. Even if the language is old-fashioned it becomes wholly clear for every reader that group psychology hasn't changed a bit in 115 years. Any study of crowd behaviour should start here.

There are too many interesting topics in the book to cover in a review but one of the important ones is how a collective mind, separated from the individual minds of those constituting the group, forms as the individuals repress traits and knowledge of their own. Temporarily the individual mind could almost be dissolved. As the incorporation in a group is driven by feelings and the very emotional state makes analysis extremely difficult the collective mind is emotionally driven.
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