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The True Believer Paperback – 1964

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Mentor (1964)
  • ASIN: B001QMRTC8
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (687 customer reviews)

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

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

157 of 168 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan L. Widger on November 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
"The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."--Eric Hoffer, The true Believer
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.
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285 of 310 people found the following review helpful By Eugene A Jewett on October 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
Written 50 years ago this classic book has been dusted off in the wake of the Taliban's bombing of the Pentagon in Washington DC and the WTC in NYC. The book concerns itself with the active phase of mass movements which are dominated by a true believer, a man of fanatical faith who is ready to sacrifice his life for a holy cause. The 19 suicide bombers who have wreaked so much havoc on America are fanatics of this sort. Eric Hoffer attempts to trace the fanatic's genesis and to outline his nature.
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.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Glen on October 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
I was given this book by my new Stepfather at age 19 in 1967. He had observed my flirtation, if not the beginning of a slide, with radical social activism. Mr Hoffer helped me to see that my attractions to these movements, which have largely been abandoned by even their most ardent proponents, were largely projections of unresolved and indeed unfaced inner coflicts.
Thanks Dad. Thanks Mr Hoffer. You saved me and those around me a lot of grief.
I think this simple book would go a long way toward social sanity if it were read by High School students.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Eric Hoffer developed an uncanny passion for absorbing and interpreting information; granted, the passion was borne of his fear of a relapse to the blindness of his youth, but it was this passion, the passion of all believers, that he truly understood. The ultimate expression of Hoffer's understanding was this book.
Hoffer's jumps between his cross-sections of movements, the primary people of movements, and the people whom may join a movement(s), without any regard for the overt differences on their faces. He sees beyond them to their similarities, and does an excellent job of displaying as much to the reader without bias for any particular one.
And that's the truly amazing factor of "The True Believer": the detached nature of Hoffer's writing, which was favorably compared to that of Machaivelli's writing of "The Prince." Many people find such abstractions of information and lack of favoritisms troubling, because it leaves so many unanswered questions, or more importantly, the question of who or which movements were or are right or wrong, unanswered.
But that's where the reader needs to think. Some people and indeed some movements may have been right or wrong, but Hoffer is not the one to make such a judgment. You have to make those distinctions for yourself. And when you do make those choices, consider the many similarities those movements have with movements closer to your heart. It forces you to consider things at their essence, which is the same.
"The True Believer" does not contain all the answers, but it shows the reader the way towards their personal choices and understanding in the matter. It's a book with potentially devastating prospects for the long closed-minded(who may risk shattering their belief/identity and being laid bare before themselves), but it leads many others to that higher sense of awareness needed to survive, even still in this day and age. Highly recommended.
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