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Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults / Edition 1

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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 seen those who join 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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520240186
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 353
  • Sales rank: 1,008,335
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Janja Lalich is Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, Chico. She is coauthor of "Crazy" Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work? (1996) and Captive Hearts, Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships (1994).

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction : cults and true believers 1
2 Gurus, seers, and new agers 25
3 The beginning : "the two" arrive 42
4 Evolution of the charismatic community 63
5 Denouement 91
6 Revolutionaries, rebels, and activists 113
7 The founding of the democratic workers party 126
8 The cadre formation 149
9 Decline and fall 193
10 The true believer : the fusion of personal freedom and self-renunciation 221
11 Bounded choice : cult formation and the development of the true believer 247
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