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The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2001

    Fascinating

    The events of September 11 caused me to ask why it is not enough for some people simply to believe what they believe; why they insist everyone must believe as they do or be destroyed. Thanks to Hoffer, I now understand. He paints a chilling portrait of the true believer, who cares less about his cause than the sense of belonging it gives him. Hoffer tells us the true believer wants only to cast off his 'unwanted self,' that he considers himself spoiled, and that he 'seeks a new life--a rebirth' through a holy cause. This is the kind of person who would crash an airplane into the World Trade Center. What I didn't expect from this book was a subtle warning about the implications of this profile on the freedoms so many of us cling to. Think about free speech when you read the part about the intellectual, the 'man of words' who challenges the old order, but whose real call is for freedom. See how he unwittingly sets the stage for his position to be usurped by the 'fanatic' who knows the masses crave not freedom but a new and better regime that will 'hammer them together into one solid, mighty whole' and, once and for all, relieve them of the need to think for themselves. A fascinating book, with ideas I'm still digesting as I reconsider what it means to be free.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 22, 2012

    The Best Explanation

    Originally written decades ago, this is the most useful, insight-laden, helpful background reading for any sort of rudimentary understanding on the nature of evil that was 9/11 as well as many other examples of groupthink. Highly recommended even now for contemporary readers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 16, 2012

    Chilling

    The book consists of the musings of a brilliant thinker, sometimes outlandish, but incisive truth shines from every page. He wrote over fifty years ago, but the ideas and insights apply more than ever to 21st century America.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2004

    A work of great human understanding and aphoristic brilliance

    This is a work of great human understanding that analyzes the totalitarian mind in an accurate and deep way. It is written with aphoristic brilliance in an economy of language that is always moving and thought- provoking. Hoffer was a very decent human being a man of great integrity and this is felt in his writing and understanding of the world. This is a favorite book of mind and I could not recommend it more highly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2001

    Mass Movements Exposed-Both Left & Right

    It is refreshing to know that not every academic during or after the radical sixties, was a sympathizer with the left. Eric Hoffer defines, compares, and contrasts the mass movements that are associated with any side of the political bell curve. He also, according to some of the reviews on B&N's page, has the Hegelian ability to write in such a manner that causes the left(see Kimberly review,20Dec99) and the right to assume that he is defining the opposing ideology in a negative light. However, if one considers that his study was concerned with the student radicals at his beloved Berkley, then one case study is obvious. When one considers that all extreme ideologies, and yes, theologies are dangerous, then the book can serve as a guide for the observant and a wake-up call for those that are not.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2011

    SYSTEMATIC ANALYSIS

    I had difficulty to gain traction in Eric Hoffer's The True Believer. I felt bombarded by wisdoms and common sense sayings that, so I thought, defy an approach to a pressing issue that could not be of less importance today than at the time of the book's writing, 60 years ago. After reading through a bit, I had to revisit the cover: Thoughts on the nature of mass movements. The book delivers on its promise: Thoughts are exactly what you get, rather than a systematic analysis. The author himself points out that he does not aim at authority but rather at provoking questions.

    Hoffer penned his book under the impression of two world wars and the Great Depression, a time of upheaval that shaped modern society. He also represents a point of view of an American, living in a supreme societal system that seems beyond criticism. As such, the author writes under the ABSENCE of mass movements on his home turf. In his own sense, I feel that Hoffer is a true believer. His essential thesis goes something like this: Hey, I am a free American and superior to people of other nations. If you are a true believer, you have surrendered your individuality to the collective multitude. You are eternally incomplete and insecure.

    As much as I like and want to agree to what he says, I cannot trust neither his analysis nor his conclusions. Some of it, yes, but maybe only because I wish his wisdoms to be true. Here is an example of what I am trying to say:

    "The most dangerous moment for the regime of the Politburo will be when a considerable improvement in the economic conditions of the Russian masses has been achieved and the iron totalitarian rule somewhat relaxed. It is of interest that the assassination, in December 1934, of Stalin's close friend Kirov happened not long after Stalin had announced the successful end of the first Five-Year Plan and the beginning of a new prosperous, joyous era."

    The author operates with philosophical statements, which he backs up with unsubstantiated historic analogies. The coincidence does not necessarily confirm or refute the thesis. How that contributes to the knowledge of (religious or political) mass movements, is beyond me. However, I suppose that with this logic, I should be inclined to nod off on the concept that regimes are most volatile when the economy improves. Writing under such impressions as the fall of the Berlin Wall, of Desert Storm, of the Arab Spring that keeps on rocking the entire Middle East, and of my own research on the history of the three Judaic mass religions (see The Great Leap-Fraud - Social Economics of Religious Terrorism), it seems that the target itself is utterly volatile. I could probably make the opposite case that the most dangerous moments of regimes are when economic conditions deteriorate. This would prepare societies for CHANGE (read: Obama's presidential race on undefined change) when longing for hope. Or, maybe I could create a thesis that mass movements are dependent on large economic disparities between regions. I would back it up with the argument that the poor man is not necessarily an unhappy man unless he is faced with the perception of a better alternative. Where I disagree with him most is that religion begins as mass movements. The Gospel itself explains that there remained very few believers after Jesus's (fictional) death. History quite clearly backs up the case that religion is a very, very slow moving target.
    AJ Deus, author of the Great Leap-Fraud

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  • Posted January 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Thought-Provoking

    Written in 1951, Hoffer's arguments and insights easily apply to life today. Hoffer tackles both religious and political movements. This book was written long before the horrors of Jonestown and a half century before "terrorism" became a household word. However, while reading this, I couldn't help but make comparisons to our presence in the Middle East or the religious wars we battle (whether we call them "religious wars" or not). Sadly, we have learned little in the 6 decades since Eric Hoffer wrote this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2004

    A Book for NOW

    I first read this book over 30 years ago and still remember much of it. It is a book to read NOW ( 2004) - with the irrational war in Iraq. I am buying a copy for all my true friends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2001

    Highly appropriate to these times!

    It is hard to believe Eric Hoffer¿s 'The True Believer' was published 50 years ago this year. It is a penetrating study of fanatics and mass movements. I pulled it out after September 11th and am rereading it. Hoffer said, ¿In times of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.¿ He could as well have said: it is the learners who lead in times of drastic change ¿ times like these. An excellent books for students and former students alike!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 1999

    Look to the Right

    The True Believer will definitely put the political manuevering of the Right wing into perspective, especially the rise of the Religious Right, anti-government groups, Christian Patriots, and other groups that want to see America become a country ruled by religion rather than the Constitution. Hoffer describes the means groups use to spread their message, the appeals to brotherhood, to the nation, to patriotism, to traditional family values, and the use of force or violence if necessary. The True Believer is a very insightful book into the nature of mass movements. This book is for anyone with an interest in politics, psychology, sociology, history, to name a few. Anyone reading it is highly encouraged to think about the book's application to real-life events: The rise of Nazism, Communism, religions, or any other political movement.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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