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The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind Paperback – September 14, 2012
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About the Author
Gustave LeBon was a French physician who wrote widely on scientific subjects, including anatomy and physiology, anthropology, and history. Among his major works are The French Revolution, The Social Psychology of Revolution, and The Crowd, all available from Transaction.
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Top Customer Reviews
From the Super Bowl to the Reign of Terror, from the Crusades to the Cali Cartel, the human race is a constantly boiling pot of crowds. They come. They go. Their individual human atoms join with others into molecules of society that leave behind their original character to become something totally different.
We all belong to one or more crowds: our church, our fitness center, our political party or our nation. Why are crowds unreasonable, intolerant and not subject to sophisticated reasoning? When are they dangerous? When do they benefit the common good? Like the weather they range from fair and sunny to dark and stormy.
For a book written in 1895, "The Crowd" is surprisingly relevant to our times. When Le Bon wrote, newspapers where the media through which ideas flowed to the common man. It took time to form a common consensus or a common vision. There was time to dampen emotions and religion to question the virtue of motives. Now the internet, cell phones and texting create funnel clouds of human outpouring of emotions in seconds, minutes, hours and days. While there are good results like rising money for people burned out of their homes, the number of bad outcomes appear more. Take the cases of internet pornography, bit coins and recruitment by terrorist organizations; all virtual realities that lead to hard landings when they hit reality.
I'd pair this book with two others. Eric Hoffer's "The Passionate State of Mind" written in 1954 and Walker Percy's "Lost in the Cosmos" written in 1983. All three deal with the tough subject of the irrational man who seems to dominate the best efforts of rational men. Le Bon's book ends with this observation:"To pass in pursuit of an idea from the barbarous to the civilized state, and then, when this idea has lost its virtue, to decline and die, such is the cycle of the life of a people." It spoke volumes to one born at the peak of the American Republic and who rose with Pax Americana in the 20th Century. Now entering the 21st Century, Le Bon's opening remarks brings things into focus: "The present epoch is one of these critical moments in which the thought of mankind is undergoing a process of transformation." What's going on in the Popular Mind of Americans and where will the tornado of thoughts land Dorothy and her crowd?
By Crowd Le Bon does not just mean an immediate gathering, but any type of group conscious, such as a nation, a religion, etc...
He begins by noting the animalistic release from reason and individuality that takes when one is part of a crowd. From this he derives basic principles of crowd thought; inferior intelligence, contagion, need for submission to a strong leader, inability to reason, etc...
But then he goes on and looks at a number of different types of crowds, those of a single race, multiple races, those directed and not. He discusses Juries, Parliament, Criminal crowds.
At the end of the book he gives a three page theory of the history of a people that is positively brilliant. It matches the fall of the Roman Empire, and it uncannily describes the return to barbarism that we see in western society today.
This book is stock full of mind blowing quotes that you immediately want to share with everyone you know.
For example, It is interesting to read about the author's diagnose on French Revolution which is totally on the negative terms. And as a reader, I cannot help but to recall all other eulogies I read before about the same mass movement!