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The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (Perennial Classics (Paperback)) Paperback – January 19, 2010
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
Eric Hoffer (1902 -- 1983) was self-educated. He worked in restaurants, as a migrant fieldworker, and as a gold prospector. After Pearl Harbor, he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco for twenty-five years. The author of more than ten books, including The Passionate State of Mind, The Ordeal of Change, and The Temper of Our Time, Eric Hoffer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.
More About the Author
Eric Hoffer Biography
Former migratory worker and longshoreman, Eric Hoffer burst on the scene in 1951 with his irreplaceable tome, The True Believer, and assured his place among the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. Nine books later, Hoffer remains a vital figure with his cogent insights to the nature of mass movements and the essence of humankind.
Of his early life, Hoffer has written: "I had no schooling. I was practically blind up to the age of fifteen. When my eyesight came back, I was seized with an enormous hunger for the printed word. I read indiscriminately everything within reach--English and German.
"When my father (a cabinetmaker) died, I realized that I would have to fend for myself. I knew several things: One, that I didn't want to work in a factory; two, that I couldn't stand being dependent on the good graces of a boss; three, that I was going to stay poor; four, that I had to get out of New York. Logic told me that California was the poor man's country."
Through ten years as a migratory worker and as a gold-miner around Nevada City, Hoffer labored hard but continued to read and write during the years of the Great Depression. The Okies and the Arkies were the "new pioneers," and Hoffer was one of them. He had library cards in a dozen towns along the railroad, and when he could afford it, he took a room near a library for concentrated thinking and writing.
In 1943, Hoffer chose the longshoreman's life and settled in California. Eventually, he worked three days each week and spent one day as "research professor" at the University of California in Berkeley. In 1964, he was the subject of twelve half-hour programs on national television. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.
"America meant freedom and what is freedom? To Hoffer it is the capacity to feel like oneself. He felt like Eric Hoffer; sometimes like Eric Hoffer, working man. It could be said, I believe, that he as the first important American writer, working class born, who remained working class-in his habits, associations, environment. I cannot think of another. Therefore, he was a national resource. The only one of its kind in the nation's possession." - Eric Sevareid, from his dedication speech to Eric Hoffer, San Francisco, CA, September 17, 1985
Top Customer Reviews
Upon reading Hoffer again, as a middle-aged and somewhat less idealistic professor, I find that several things have changed. First, Hoffer's observations seem even more keenly relevant today, post 9/11, than they did in the post-Vietnam era. Secondly, I now understand Hoffer's apparent brashness. In my youthful zeal I often rushed through the preface of a book, or skipped it entirely. But therein was Hoffer's justification: "The book passes no judgments, and expresses no preferences. It merely tries to explain; and the explanations--all of them theories--are in the nature of suggestions and arguments even when they are stated in what seems a categorical tone. I can do no better than quote Montaigne: 'All I say is by way of discourse, and nothing by way of advice. I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.'" While I am generally no fan of blanket disclaimers, I understand why Hoffer did it this way. His words could have been too easily dismissed had they been continually tempered and restrained.Read more ›
None of the terrorists of September 11 were destitute. Some even had wives and children. Nevertheless, they committed suicide for their cause. Anyone wanting to understand this horrible irony would do well to read Eric Hoffer's 1951 classic, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) was a self-educated US author and philosopher who was a migratory worker and longshoreman until 1967. He achieved immediate acclaim with his first book, The true Believer.
According to Hoffer, the early converts to any mass movement come from the ranks of the "frustrated," that is, "people who..feel that their lives are spoiled or wasted." The true believers' "Faith in [their] holy cause is to a considerable extent a subsitute for [their] lost faith in [themselves]." He says that we are prone to throw ourselves into a mass movement to "supplant and efface the self we want to forget." He then adds, "We cannot be sure that we have something worth living for unless we are ready to die for it."
Hoffer offers a general insight about mass movements, which seems to prophetically explain why there is currently widespread anti-Western sentiment within Islamic countries:
"The discontent generated in backward countries by their contact with Western civilization is not primarily resentment against exploitation by domineering foriegners. It is rather the result of a crumbling or weakening of tribal solidarity and communal life.Read more ›
Hoffer doesn't dance around the subject like a behavioral therapist billing by the hour. He assumes, in a very straight forward fashion, that frustration with one's life is a peculiarity of fanatics, and assumes that this mindset is necessary for techniques of conversion to achieve their deepest penetration and most desirable results with regard to the fanatic's twisted adherence to his new faith.
Hoffer allows that to understand the various facets of the fanatical personality requires an understanding of the practices of contemporary mass movements. Written circa 1951, he studied the Nazi's, the Fascist's, and the Communist's because it was here where the successful techniques of conversion had been perfected and applied.
This is a book of ideas and as such it offers up theories. It suggests that through amplifying the negative feelings of its frustrated fanatic's a movement advances its interests by seconding their propensities. Hoffer also posits the thought that all not mass movements are bad, however the central point of the book is to explain the composition of the mindsets of a movement's collective of True Believers.
At 168 pages followed by 9 pages of notes, the book is not difficult nor is it an arduous task to read. In fact it's pithy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing how a book Eric Hoffer published in 1951 puts the finger right on today's dictators and religious extremistsPublished 1 day ago by Larry Doench
Brilliant... I used this book back in high school in 1975 to write a paper on Sun Young Moon and the Unification Church and how cults work. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Mikeymouse
I've always been facinated by Hoffer and now find that this, his first book, made popular when quoted by Pres. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Steven L Denker
It's a great reading. I liked the ideas and in-depth thoughts offered by Eric Hoffer. It really helps understand the rational of mass movements and uprisings, either religious,... Read morePublished 7 days ago by Dr. Xinyu
A classic, every bit as good and relevant as I remembered it from years ago. Great insight and remarkably apropos of many of today's problems. Highly recommended.Published 9 days ago by Gene
Whether Left or Right, Conservative or Leftist, the True Believer is a fanatic. Hoffer is an amazing man and writer. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Marvelous Mal