The Psychology Of Revolution

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When renowned French sociologist GUSTAVE LE BON (1841-1931), who pioneered the field of mass psychology, took a fresh, scientific look at the subject of revolution-and in particular, the French Revolution-he stripped away legend and illusion to find the core reality.

In this profound and insightful work, a replica of the 1913 edition, he explores the mob mentality of revolutionaries-religious, scientific, and political-examines the motives of their leaders, and discusses how new forms of democratic belief and practice arise from popular movements.

Students of history and the human mind alike will find it a fascinating read.

ALSO FROM COSIMO: Le Bon's The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596059757
  • Publisher: Cosimo
  • Publication date: 10/1/2006
  • Pages: 340
  • Sales rank: 1,529,069
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER II RELIGIOUS REVOLUTIONS I. The importance of the study of Religious Revolutions in respect of the comprehension of the great Political Revolutions. A Portion of this work will be devoted to the French Revolution. It was full of acts of violence which naturally had their psychological causes. These exceptional events will always fill us with astonishment, and we even feel them to be inexplicable. They become comprehensible, however, if we consider that the French Revolution, constituting a new religion, was bound to obey the laws which condition the propagation of all beliefs. Its fury and its hecatombs will then become intelligible. In studying the history of a great religious revolution, that of the Reformation, we shall see that a number of psychological elements which figured therein were equally active during the French Revolution. In both we observe the insignificant bearing of the rational value of a belief upon its propagation, the inefficacy of persecution, the impossibility of tolerance between contrary beliefs, and the violence and the desperate struggles resulting from the conflict of different faiths. We also observe the exploitation of a belief by interests quite independent of that belief. Finally we see that it is impossible to modify the convictions of men without also modifying their existence. These phenomena verified, we shall see plainly why the gospel of the Revolution was propagated by the same methods as all the religious gospels, notably that of Calvin. It could not have been propagated otherwise. But although there are close analogies between the genesis of a religious revolution, such as the Reformation, and that of a great political revolutionlike our own, their remote consequences are very different, which explains the diffe...
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Revision of History 11
Part I The Psychological Elements of Revolutionary Movements
Book I General Characteristics of Revolutions
Chapter I. Scientific and Political Revolutions 23
1. Classification of Revolutions 23
2. Scientific Revolutions 25
3. Political Revolutions 26
4. The results of Political Revolutions 31
Chapter II. Religious Revolutions 34
1. The importance of the study of Religious Revolutions in respect of the comprehension of the great Political Revolutions 34
2. The beginnings of the Reformation and its first disciples 35
3. Rational value of the doctrines of the Reformation 37
4. Propagation of the Reformation 39
5. Conflict between different religious beliefs. The impossibility of tolerance 40
6. The results of Religious Revolutions 46
Chapter III. The Action of Governments in Revolutions 49
1. The feeble resistance of Governments in time of Revolution 49
2. How the resistance of Governments may overcome Revolution 53
3. Revolutions effected by Governments. Examples: China, Turkey, &c. 54
4. Social elements which survive the changes of Government after Revolution 58
Chapter IV. The Part Played by the People in Revolutions 60
1. The stability and malleability of the national mind 60
2. How the People regards Revolution 63
3. The supposed part of the People during Revolution 66
4. The popular entity and its constituent elements 69
Book II The forms of Mentality Prevalent During Revolution
Chapter I. Individual Variations of Character in time of Revolution 75
1. Transformations of Personality 75
2. Elements of character predominant in time of Revolution 77
Chapter II. The Mystic Mentality and the Jacobin Mentality 86
1. Classification of mentalities predominant in time of Revolution 86
2. The Mystic Mentality 87
3. The Jacobin Mentality 92
Chapter III. The Revolutionary and Criminal Mentalities 97
1. The Revolutionary Mentality 97
2. The Criminal Mentality 99
Chapter IV. The Psychology of Revolutionary Crowds 102
1. General characteristics of the crowd 102
2. How the stability of the racial mind limits the oscillations of the mind of the crowd 105
3. The role of the leader in Revolutionary Movements 109
Chapter V. The Psychology of the Revolutionary Assemblies 113
1. Psychological characteristics of the great Revolutionary Assemblies 113
2. The Psychology of the Revolutionary Clubs 116
3. A suggested explanation of the progressive exaggeration of sentiments in assemblies 119
Part II
Book I The Origins of the French Revolution
Chapter I. The Opinions of Historians concerning the French Revolution 123
1. The Historians of the Revolution 123
2. The theory of Fatalism in respect of the Revolution 126
3. The hesitation of recent Historians of the Revolution 130
4. Impartiality in History 133
Chapter II. The Psychological Foundations of the Ancien Regime 137
1. The Absolute Monarchy and the Basis of the Ancien Regime 137
2. The inconveniences of the Ancien Regime 138
3. Life under the Ancien Regime 141
4. Evolution of Monarchical feeling during the Revolution 144
Chapter III. Mental Anarchy at the time of the Revolution and the influence attributed to the Philosophers 147
1. Origin and Propagation of Revolutionary Ideas 147
2. The supposed influence of the Philosophers of the eighteenth century upon the Genesis of the Revolution. Their dislike of Democracy 152
3. The philosophical ideas of the Bourgeoisie at the time of the Revolution 156
Chapter IV. Psychological Illusions respecting the French Revolution 158
1. Illusions respecting Primitive Man, the return to the State of Nature, and the Psychology of the People 158
2. Illusions respecting the possibility of separating Man from his Past and the power of Transformation attributed to the Law 160
3. Illusions respecting the Theoretical Value of the great Revolutionary Principles 162
Book II The Rational, Affective, Mystic, and Collective Influences Active During the Revolution
Chapter I. The Psychology of the Constituent Assembly 167
1. Psychological influences active during the French Revolution 167
2. Dissolution of the Ancien Regime. The assembling of the States-General 170
3. The constituent Assembly 172
Chapter II. The Psychology of the Legislative Assembly 183
1. Political events during the life of the Legislative Assembly 183
2. Mental characteristics of the Legislative Assembly 185
Chapter III. The Psychology of the Convention 190
1. The Legend of the Convention 190
2. Results of the triumph of the Jacobin Religion 193
3. Mental characteristics of the Convention 197
Chapter IV. The Government of the Convention 202
1. The activity of the Clubs and the Commune during the Convention 202
2. The Government of France during the Convention: the Terror 205
3. The End of the Convention. The Beginnings of the Directory 210
Chapter V. Instances of Revolutionary Violence 213
1. Psychological Causes of Revolutionary Violence 213
2. The Revolutionary Tribunals 215
3. The Terror in the Provinces 218
Chapter VI. The Armies of the Revolution 223
1. The Revolutionary Assemblies and the Armies 223
2. The Struggle of Europe against the Revolution 224
3. Psychological and Military Factors which determined the success of the Revolutionary Armies 227
Chapter VII. Psychology of the Leaders of the Revolution 232
1. Mentality of the men of the Revolution. The respective influence of violent and feeble characters 232
2. Psychology of the Commissaries or Representatives "on Mission" 234
3. Danton and Robespierre 238
4. Fouquier-Tinville, Marat, Billaud-Varenne, &c. 245
5. The destiny of those Members of the Convention who survived the Revolution 250
Book III The Conflict Between Ancestral Influences and Revolutionary Principles
Chapter I. The Last Convulsions of Anarchy. The Directory 252
1. Psychology of the Directory 252
2. Despotic Government of the Directory. Recrudescence of the Terror 255
3. The Advent of Bonaparte 259
4. Causes of the Duration of the Revolution 262
Chapter II. The Restoration of Order. The Consular Republic 265
1. How the work of the Revolution was confirmed by the Consulate 265
2. The re-organisation of France by the Consulate 267
3. Psychological elements which determined the success of the work of the Consulate 270
Chapter III. Political Results of the Conflict between Traditions and the Revolutionary Principles during the last Century 275
1. The psychological causes of the continued Revolutionary Movements to which France has been subject 275
2. Summary of a century's Revolutionary Movements in France 280
Part III The Recent Evolution of the Revolutionary Principles
Chapter I. The Progress of Democratic Beliefs since the Revolution 289
1. Gradual propagation of Democratic Ideas after the Revolution 289
2. The unequal influence of the three fundamental principles of the Revolution 292
3. The Democracy of the "Intellectuals" and Popular Democracy 293
4. Natural Inequalities and Democratic Equalisation 296
Chapter II. The Results of Democratic Evolution 300
1. The influence upon social evolution of theories of no rational value 300
2. The Jacobin Spirit and the Mentality created by Democratic Beliefs 302
3. Universal Suffrage and its representatives 307
4. The craving for Reforms 310
5. Social distinctions in Democracies and Democratic Ideas in various countries 312
Chapter III. The New Forms of Democratic Belief 316
1. The conflict between Capital and Labour 316
2. The evolution of the Working Classes and the Syndicalist Movement 318
3. Why certain modern Democratic Governments are gradually being transformed into Governments by Administrative Castes 322
Conclusions 326
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