Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults / Edition 1

Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults / Edition 1

by Janja A. Lalich
     
 

ISBN-10: 0520240189

ISBN-13: 9780520240186

Pub. Date: 09/15/2004

Publisher: University of California Press

Heaven's Gate, a secretive group of celibate "monks" awaiting pickup by a UFO, captured intense public attention in 1997 when its members committed collective suicide. As a way of understanding such perplexing events, many have come to see those who join such cults as needy, lost souls, unable to think for themselves. This book, a compelling look at the cult

Overview

Heaven's Gate, a secretive group of celibate "monks" awaiting pickup by a UFO, captured intense public attention in 1997 when its members committed collective suicide. As a way of understanding such perplexing events, many have come to see those who join such cults as needy, lost souls, unable to think for themselves. This book, a compelling look at the cult phenomenon written for a wide audience, dispels such simple formulations by explaining how normal, intelligent people can give up years of their lives -- and sometimes their very lives -- to groups and beliefs that appear bizarre and irrational. Looking closely at Heaven's Gate and at the Democratic Workers Party, a radical political group of the 1970s and 1980s, Janja Lalich gives us a rare insider's look at these two cults and advances a new theoretical framework that will reshape our understanding of those who join such groups.

Lalich's fascinating discussion includes her in-depth interviews with cult devotees as well as reflections gained from her own experience as a high-ranking member of the Democratic Workers Party. Incorporating classical sociological concepts such as "charisma" and "commitment" with more recent work on the social psychology of influence and control, she develops a new approach for understanding how charismatic cult leaders are able to dominate their devotees. She shows how members are led into a state of "bounded choice," in which they make seemingly irrational decisions within a context that makes perfect sense to them and is, in fact, consistent with their highest aspirations. In addition to illuminating the cult phenomenon in the United States and around the world, this important book also addresses our pressing need to know more about the mentality of those true believers who take extreme or violent measures in the name of a cause.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520240186
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
09/15/2004
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
353
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsxiii
Prefacexv
Acknowledgmentsxxi
1.Introduction: Cults and True Believers1
Definitional Issues3
Cults in the Headlines8
The Bounded Choice Perspective14
The Comparative Research Project19
Part 1Heaven's Gate
2.Gurus, Seers, and New Agers25
Entering Heaven's Gate26
Formative Principles31
Sociocultural Influences32
Religious and Spiritual Influences34
Technologies of Change37
3.The Beginning: "The Two" Arrive42
The Formative Years42
The Development of Bounded Choice (Part 1)53
4.Evolution of the Charismatic Community63
Consolidating the Membership63
The Development of Bounded Choice (Part 2)71
5.Denouement91
The Death of Nettles91
Going and Staying Underground93
Leaving the Human Level95
The Development of Bounded Choice (Part 3)98
Part 2The Democratic Workers Party
6.Revolutionaries, Rebels, and Activists113
Historical and Ideological Influences114
Sociocultural Influences118
The Emergence of the New Communist Movement121
A Typical Recruit123
A Convergence of Forces for a New Party124
7.The Founding of the Democratic Workers Party126
The Arrival of a Leader126
The Development of Bounded Choice (Part 1)137
8.The Cadre Formation149
The Formation of the Party149
The Development of Bounded Choice (Part 2)160
9.Decline and Fall193
The Glory Days195
The Unraveling202
The Failure of Bounded Choice206
Part 3Theoretical Perspective
10.The True Believer: The Fusion of Personal Freedom and Self-Renunciation221
The Significance of the Social Context221
Structures of Freedom and Constraint222
The Bounded Reality of the True Believer233
11.Bounded Choice: Cult Formation and the Development of the True Believer247
Bounded Choice in Relation to Other Conformity Theories247
Cult Formation: The Self-Sealing Social System251
The Social Psychology of the Individual Change Process254
The Limited Choices of the True Believer257
Bounded Choice as a Larger Social Phenomenon261
Appendix265
Notes275
Bibliography303
Index317

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