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The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

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A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer -- the first and most famous of his books -- was made into a bestseller when President Eisenhower cited it during one of the earliest television press conferences. Completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today, The True Believer is a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one.

177 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1951

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About the author

Eric Hoffer

25 books490 followers
Eric Hoffer was an American social writer and philosopher. He produced ten books and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983 by President of the United States Ronald Reagan. His first book, The True Believer, published in 1951, was widely recognized as a classic, receiving critical acclaim from both scholars and laymen, although Hoffer believed that his book The Ordeal of Change was his finest work. In 2001, the Eric Hoffer Award was established in his honor with permission granted by the Eric Hoffer Estate in 2005.

Early life

Hoffer was born in the Bronx, New York City in 1902 (or possibly 1898), the son of Knut and Elsa Hoffer, immigrants from Alsace. By the age of five, he could read in both German and English. When he was age five, his mother fell down a flight of stairs with Eric in her arms. Hoffer went blind for unknown medical reasons two years later, but later in life he said he thought it might have been due to trauma. ("I lost my sight at the age of seven. Two years before, my mother and I fell down a flight of stairs. She did not recover and died in that second year after the fall.I lost my sight and for a time my memory"). After his mother's death he was raised by a live-in relative or servant, a German woman named Martha. His eyesight inexplicably returned when he was 15. Fearing he would again go blind, he seized upon the opportunity to read as much as he could for as long as he could. His eyesight remained, and Hoffer never abandoned his habit of voracious reading.

Hoffer was a young man when his father, a cabinetmaker, died. The cabinetmaker's union paid for the funeral and gave Hoffer a little over three hundred dollars. Sensing that warm Los Angeles was the best place for a poor man, Hoffer took a bus there in 1920. He spent the next 10 years on Los Angeles' skid row, reading, occasionally writing, and working odd jobs. On one such job, selling oranges door-to-door, he discovered he was a natural salesman and could easily make good money. Uncomfortable with this discovery, he quit after one day.

In 1931, he attempted suicide by drinking a solution of oxalic acid, but the attempt failed as he could not bring himself to swallow the poison. The experience gave him a new determination to live adventurously. It was then he left skid row and became a migrant worker. Following the harvests along the length of California, he collected library cards for each town near the fields where he worked and, living by preference, "between the books and the brothels." A seminal event for Hoffer occurred in the mountains where he had gone in search of gold. Snowed in for the winter, he read the Essays by Michel de Montaigne. Montaigne's book impressed Hoffer deeply, and he often made reference to its importance for him. He also developed a great respect for America's underclass, which, he declared, was "lumpy with talent."

Longshoreman

Hoffer was in San Francisco by 1941. He attempted to enlist in the Armed forces there in 1942 but was rejected because of a hernia. Wanting to contribute to the war effort, he found ample opportunity as a longshoreman on the docks of The Embarcadero. It was there he felt at home and finally settled down. He continued reading voraciously and soon began to write while earning a living loading and unloading ships. He continued this work until he retired at age 65.

Hoffer considered his best work to be The True Believer, a landmark explanation of fanaticism and mass movements. The Ordeal of Change is also a literary favorite. In 1970 he endowed the Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Laconic Essay Prize for students, faculty, and staff at the University of California, Berkeley.

Hoffer was a charismatic individual and persuasive public speaker, but said that he didn’t really care about people. Despite authoring 10 books and a newspaper column, in retirement Hoffer continued his robust life of the mind, thinking and writing alone, in an apartment.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,418 reviews
Profile Image for Mike.
297 reviews134 followers
February 22, 2017
So you've decided to start your own cult or mass movement. Fantastic. Just remember that it's not all fun and games- there's a good deal of planning and work involved. You'd be well-advised to read Eric Hoffer's The True Believer in full before you do anything, but here, as I understand them, are a few of his main points:

First of all, somewhat counter-intuitively, the contents of your platform or doctrine are almost irrelevant. Whatever you do, don't wrack your brain or search your soul for legitimate solutions to people's problems- complete waste of time. Remember that the primary motivation most people have for joining the movement is found within themselves (more on this in the next paragraph). You will need a story, of course, but its basic requirements are that it a) illustrates (or reinforces) that the present is intolerable, and b) promises great success, even a utopia, in the far, distant future. The vaguer and more nebulous this promise, the less concrete (modern example: "make America great again"), the better. As Hoffer writes,
...though a mass movement at first turns its back on the past, it eventually develops a vivid awareness, often specious, of a distant glorious past...a vivid awareness of past and future robs the present of its reality. It makes the present a...section in a procession or parade. The followers...see themselves in a soul-stirring drama played to a vast audience- generations gone and generations yet to come.

Remember that people generally do not join because of the rightness or wrongness of your cause. They join, rather, to forget their individual existences. Hoffer is describing what he believes is a certain psychological type:
...a mass movement, particularly in its active...phase, appeals to those not intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self...Their innermost craving is for a new life- a rebirth- or...a sense of purpose and worth by an identification with a holy cause. As individuals they feel themselves to be failures, but in a group they can ascribe to their lives purpose and meaning, even if it is only in "the eyes of posterity."
Let your opponents patiently try to persuade with reason and logic- don't get caught up in that game. Instead, keep in mind that the seed of belief is this inner desperation to lose one's self in a holy cause. The playing field is emotion, not reason, and the vitality of the movement ultimately depends on its ability to foster cohesion, unity, the sense of being part of a tribe. Establish this, and it doesn't matter how self-evidently absurd your movement's core beliefs are (see: Scientology); perhaps their absurdity is even part of your movement's test of loyalty and faith. Those who desire this sense of communion, and taste it just once, may never again be able to live without it. Hoffer writes,
It is doubtful whether the fanatic who deserts his holy cause or is suddenly left without one can ever adjust...to an autonomous...existence. He remains a homeless hitch hiker on the highways of the world thumbing a ride on any eternal cause that rolls by...He is even ready to join...against his former...cause, but it must be a genuine crusade- uncompromising, intolerant, proclaiming the one and only truth...

Though his single-minded dedication is a holding on for dear life, he easily sees himself as the supporter and defender of the holy cause to which he clings...He cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to his reason or moral sense. But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another. He cannot be convinced but only converted.

Propaganda should also be designed with this in mind; it doesn't persuade anyone who doesn't want, on some level, to be persuaded. As Hoffer writes, "rather than instill opinion it [propaganda] articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of its recipients...it is the music of their own souls they hear in the impassioned words of the propagandist." That said, persuasion without accompanying coercion is often ineffective. Take it from no less an authority than Joseph Goebbels, who apparently once said, "a sharp sword must always stand behind propaganda if it is to be really effective." Sorry to say, but violence is going to be necessary.

Likewise the fomenting of suspicion among your followers, which brings us to...The Enemy. Yes, you're going to need an enemy. Perhaps you already have one selected, in which case you're ahead of the game. But this enemy,
the indispensable devil of every mass movement- is omnipresent. He plots both outside and inside the ranks of the faithful. It is his voice that speaks through the mouth of the dissenter...If anything goes wrong within the movement, it is his doing.
As Hitler said, apparently in an unguarded moment, "if the Jew did not exist, we would have had to invent him."

But if the movement encounters difficulties, why not just admit it? If you have to ask, you still have a lot to learn.
...mass movements strive to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the...absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth...outside it...The fanatical Communist refuses to believe any unfavorable report or evidence about Russia, nor will he be disillusioned by seeing with his own eyes the cruel misery there...
The "fact-proof screen" is of course another way to instill unity and cohesion. Outside influence reminds your followers that there are (perhaps justifiable) opinions and beliefs that counter those your movement teaches; such opinions must always be characterized as dissent, heresy, samizdat, "the dishonest media", etc., lest the unity of your movement be threatened.

According to Hoffer, the Nazis and Communists strangely, or maybe not so strangely, often looked to the ranks of their enemy for potential converts.
...each proselytizing mass movement seems to regard the zealous adherents of its antagonist as its own potential converts. Hitler looked on the German communists as potential National Socialists...On the other hand, Karl Radek looked on the Nazi Brown Shirts as a reserve for future Communist recruits.
Maybe they sensed, intuitively, that psychologically they were the same, placed only by circumstance on opposing sides.

And oh yes- eventually you're going to need a leader. There's no need to search the ends of the earth for someone of "...exceptional intelligence, noble character and originality", which according to Hoffer, "seem neither indispensable nor perhaps desirable." The following qualities, rather, would seem to be those to look for:
audacity and a joy in defiance; an iron will; a fanatical conviction that he is in possession of the one and only truth; faith in his destiny and luck; a capacity for passionate hatred; contempt for the present; a cunning estimate of human nature; a delight in symbols (spectacles and ceremonials); unbounded brazenness which finds expression in a disregard for consistency and fairness; a recognition that the innermost craving of a following is for communion and that there can never be too much of it; a capacity for winning and holding the utmost loyalty of a group of able lieutenants.

Now don't screw it up. It was sometime after the Soviets had turned the tide of the war at Stalingrad, I once read, that it became common for Germans to start rolling their eyes or responding with obscenities to colleagues on the street who would greet them with the customary salute. Why? I think it has to do with the second-to-last quality quoted above: "a capacity for winning." Hitler was finally losing, and it suddenly seemed absurd to raise your arm and proclaim allegiance to that funny-looking guy with the losing cause. This, as I see it, is the one thing that will turn your followers against you. So just be sure to never lose- and if you do, for god's sake cover it up. Once your followers see what a fraud you are...well, you do know how Mussolini and Ceausescu died, don't you?
Profile Image for Ahmed.
909 reviews7,329 followers
January 7, 2018

واحد من أهم الكتب التي قرأتها في حياتي , تلك الكتب التي تقدم لك
الفكرة وتعرضها لك بصورة غاية في البساطة والجودة لتنتهي من الكتاب وقد تشبّع ذهنك بأفكار جديدة أو لنقل افكار لم تكن لتتقبلها لو لم تُعرض لك بتلك البساطة.

نحن أمام كتاب من العظمة بمكان , استخدم الحركات الجماهيرية كظاهرة تستحق الدراسة (وهي كذلك فعلًأ) وبدأ في دراستها وتقديمها بصورة مجمعة جيدة ليتضح في النهاية أن مصدر تلك الحركات مهما اختلفت اتجاهاتها وثقافتها ولغتها هو في النهاية واحد:
فمهما كانت القضايا المقدمة التي يموت من أجلها فإنهم , على الأرجح , يموتون للسبب نفسه وهو إيمان المرء بتلك القضايا .

في الكتاب دراية واسعة بتركيب المجتمعات والأهم وهو تركيب النفس الانسانية وعمقها , ونرى فيها تركيز شديد على عقلية الانسان المحبط وكيف يدفعه إحباطه إلى مختلف الاتجاهات التي قد يكون معظمها خطأ :

فالمشكلة أن الإنسان المحبط يرى عيبًا في كل ما حوله ومن حوله ,وينسب كل مشكلاته إلى فساد عالمه , ويتوق إلى التخلص من نفسه المحبطة وصهرها في كيان نقي جديد , وهنا يجئ دور الجماعة الثورية الراديكالية التي تستغل ما ينوء به المحبط من مرارة وكراهية وحقد , فتسمعه ما يشتهي أن يسمع , وتتعاطف مع ظلاماته , وتقوده إلى الكيان الجديد الذي طالما حنّ إلى الانصهار فيه , من هذا اللقاء الحاسم بين عقلية الفرد المحبط الضائع وبين عقلية القائد الإجرامي المنظم ينشأ التطرف , ومن التطرف ينبت الإرهاب ومن هنا نرى أن اليأس والاحباط قد يمثلوا الدافع الرئيس للارهاب والتطرف.

وفي الكتاب تركيز على الدوافع الدينية والدين بشكل عام في حياتنا , وكيف يؤثر على خطواتنا الحياتية المختلفة

ففي النهاية الإيمان بقضية مقدسة هو -إلى درجة كبيرة- محاولة للتعويض عن الإيمان الذي فقدناه بأنفسنا

كما يرى الكاتب أن الدين كان عامل رئيس في تكوين الحركات البلشفية والنازية فيقول :

والمظاهر الدينية للثورتين البلشفية والنازية واضحة للعيان . تحتل المطرقة والمنجل في الأولى , والصليب المعقوف في الثانية , المكانة نفسها التي يحتلها الصليب المسيحي . وطقوس المراكب الحاشدة في الحركتين تحل محل المسارات الدينية . ولكل من الحركتين عقيدة , وقدّيسون و أضرحة مقدّسة , كما أن الحركتين قوميتان بامتياز . كانت الثورة النازية قومية منذ البداية , أما الثورة البلشفية فأصبحت قومية في تطور لاحق

الكتاب مقسم إلى 18 فصل وكل فصل من الأهمية بمكان , وترجمة د\ غازي بن عبدالرحمن القصيبي كانت ترجمة ممتازة وكافية للغاية .

المهم : الكتاب عظيم الشرح وعظيم التقديم , يترك في نفسك أثر عظيم وفهم واضح للأمور التي قد تكون غفلت عنها قبل ذلك .

من الكتب التي لابد للمرء من الاطلاع على ما يشبهها .
72 reviews
December 8, 2008
#2 on my list of the ten most influential books in my life. At this point mybest guess is that I read this around 1960. It was a clear and incisive look at the people who believe as a matter of faith and not as a matter of logic or fact. What is more amazing is that the author was a longshoreman who had no formal education beyond high school. Reading his insights was my first understanding of the workings of the minds of irrational people. The principles of mass irrationality apply to religion, politics and most other group behavior of human beings. While it is usually incomprehensible to rational actors Mr. Hoffer's book always comes to mind when I need to grasp the motivation of certain groups. His ideas are as certain today as they were when I first encountered them over 40 years ago.
Profile Image for بثينة العيسى.
Author 22 books24.9k followers
June 18, 2013

كتاب ممتاز. بعد أن تتعرف على سيكولوجيا الجماهير مع غوستاف لوبون تقرأ هذا الكتاب لكي تتعرف الأسباب التي تدفع الفرد إلى الانخراط في حراك جماهيري، وما هي خصائص هذا الفرد وكيف يعمل دماغه. كتاب مهم جداً لفهم طبيعة التطرف في الأفراد وتحليل الكثير من الظواهر الاجتماعية من حولنا. ترجمة د. القصيبي - الله يرحمه - رشيقة جداً، كأنه مكتوب بالعربية.
Profile Image for Jamie Smith.
471 reviews65 followers
February 4, 2019
This book possesses a terrible timelessness. Though written a few years after World War II to examine the factors that led people to embrace fascism and communism, it still rings true for our times, clearly explaining the reasons why so many people have embraced anger, intolerance, and a foolish wish to return to an America that never was. People need to read Eric Hoffer now more than ever.

Those who see themselves as stuck in a life with no prospects, losers at the game of economic and social success, want to know what happened and who is going to do something about it. They are uninterested in explanations of global macroeconomic forces and long term dislocations caused by skill imbalances. They want someone to blame, someone, that is, other than themselves.

In this short book Hoffer dissects their anger and fear, their willingness to surrender themselves to leaders who will do their thinking for them, their susceptibility to even the crudest of propaganda, and their need to find an enemy to blame and to strike out against. None of this needs to have any basis in rational thought, because if they were capable of rationally analyzing their situation they would not have jumped on this bandwagon to begin with.

How do we deal with this? We would like to think that education would do it, or economic recovery, or even religion, but all of those were available previously and did not stop the slide into irrationality. As Mark Twain said, “You can’t reason someone out of something that they weren’t reasoned into in the first place.”

I suppose all we can do is recognize the problems when they occur, and work diligently to oppose the forces of ignorance, intolerance, and violence. We have no choice. If we can’t stand up against them, we will lose our freedom, our security, and our rights. By the time the good and decent German citizens in the 1930s realized what was going on, it was too late for them. Let’s hope it is not too late for us.

This is a book that each of us needs to strongly recommend to our friends. It explains the present as well as the past. Let’s hope it is not also a roadmap to our future.
Profile Image for James.
Author 8 books86 followers
March 4, 2008
Outstanding. A concise and astute portrait of the personality type that is drawn to authoritarian institutions, whether political or religious. Hoffer makes an excellent case that the mass movements - the fascists, the communists, and the various brands of religious fundamentalists, that have caused so much death, suffering, and chaos throughout history in their attempts to impose their values and belief systems on others, have all depended on people of basically similar character to fill their ranks.

The true believer, as Hoffer portrays him/her, is someone who yearns for certainty and fears ambiguity; who sees the world in dualistic terms, black and white with no gray areas; who prefers to simply follow orders, letting others make the hard ethical decisions; who revels in belonging to an exclusive group and looking down on outsiders, particularly if they belong to a group the leaders have chosen as scapegoats.

Every voter should read this book and then look at the world today - the politics of fear and division, the growth of fundamentalist religion, the strident bigots on talk radio and TV - and then start working to reduce the danger they all pose to the freedoms in our Constitution, to the separation of church and state, and to our standing in the world.
Profile Image for وضحى.
191 reviews276 followers
April 12, 2012
بين دفتي هذا الكتاب تناول الكاتب ايريك هوفر الذي أبدع في طرحه إياه في أربعينيات القرن المنصرم، مسألة الحركات الجماهيرية الناتجة عن التطرف وكيف أنها ثمرة الإحباط والتذمر وازدراء الذات عند الأفراد ،الأمر الذي يدفعهم إلى الانصهار والتماهي مع أي جماعة من شأنها نسف ماضيهم المرير والبدء من جديد بغض النظر عن هدف وفكرة الحركة!
ما يجعل الكتاب أكثر امتاعاً، كون مترجمه للعربية الدكتور غازي القصيبي يساند الكاتب الذي يستشهد بشخصيات ومواقف من تاريخه القريب آنذاك، بما يوافق الفكرة ويعززها من تاريخنا القريب أيضاً!
حقيقةً -وكما أشار غازي القصيبي- أن الكتاب فعلا يترجم الإرهاب الحاصل في زماننا والتطرف الذي عمل على توليده وتقويته في نفس الوقت
كتاب يستحق الشكر والثناء وتكرار القراءة
Profile Image for Kamal.
320 reviews338 followers
June 26, 2020
كتاب خفيف ظريف لطيف لمحبى الاقتباسات والأفكار المُعلبة
حدث لى موقف أثناء قراءة هذا الكتاب أظن أنه الأجدر أن أذكره بدلاً عن الجمل المتينة الفاخرة التى يزخر بها الكتاب
قابلت أحد هؤلاء البسطاء اللطفاء يحتسى الشاى فى أحد فى كافيه العمل فتحدثنا مع بعض الزملاء المتواجدين على الأوضاع التى يفرضها انتشار وباء كورونا فى مصر والعالم وكيف أن الخوف والهلع من الفيروس يجتاح كل الأوساط وينتشر بين الكبار والصغار فرد علينا هذا السائق الجميل برد بليغ يستحق أن تُكتب عنه كتب وأبحاث ومقالات عن هؤلاء المنبوذين كما وصفهم الكتاب هنا أو المهمشين كما أحب أن أصفهم:
الرد كان كالآتى:
يابشمهندس لا أحد يخاف الموت والفيروس غير الأغنياء وأصحاب الأموال أما نحن فلا فرق لدينا بين الموت والحياة ففى الحالتين نحن أموات
جملة بقدر ما هى بليغة بقدر ما هى مُربكة ومُزعجة فجملة كتلك كفيلة بقيام ثورات وسقوط حكام وأنظمة
Profile Image for Murtaza .
664 reviews3,402 followers
October 10, 2019
In trying to understand why this book has been so popular for so long, I can only conclude that its because it is infinitely useful for political purposes. This is basically a book of musings about what drives the average follower of a mass ideological movement, as well as the life-cycles and nature of such movements. Rather than any empirical argument there is a lot of psychoanalysis and pithy philosophical quotes. A book of musings is fine, but Hoffer is unable to make anything even close to an authoritative statement about anything. He just makes declarations and moves on. Unless you assign him some kind of divine inspiration — or more likely are invested in taking what he has to say and applying it to your political enemies — it is highly questionable what the point of this book is.

This book came out in the 1950s, not long after the defeat of Nazism and with the fear of Communism still large in peoples minds. I can see then how the book answered a specific need at the time to get some kind of handle on these movements. Hoffer goes even further and yokes in Christianity and Islam together with these modern ideologies in one more-or-less seamless category of "mass movements." Although these modern movements undoubtedly have religious overtones it's also possible to get very lazy with this analogy and even become wildly inconsistent in argument. I'm not going to bother going through a point-by-point analysis but needless to say his grasp of history is very superficial and mostly based on popular stereotypes. Hoffer's general idea of what causes people to join mass movements today is their own feeling of inner void, with outside material factors not being decisive. People get swept up in things for personal reasons not necessarily related to the stated goals of any movement. This should already be obvious to anyone. Almost everything Hoffer says in this book that is true is similarly obvious.

The book is mercifully redeemed by its brevity. For this Hoffer deserves some genuine credit. His book is a useful tool for denigrating and insulting any new political movement by accusing their members of personal psychological shortcomings. No doubt everyone is driven by such shortcomings at some level, no less those in the status quo. The problem is this book fails to substantiate anything, it just makes blank assertions which may or may not be useful to someone in power at a given political moment. Also in an era of deep ironic feeling (at least in the West) where people are disinclined to believe too much in anything, it is unclear who exactly this book still applies to. Pass.
Profile Image for Mohammed.
415 reviews505 followers
May 27, 2022
في أحد الاعتصامات الشبابية التي واكبت ثورة 2011 في اليمن، بلغني خبر مداهمة من الأمن المركزي للموقع فاتصلت بأحد الأقارب المواظبين على الاعتصام لاطمئن عليه وأحذره من الذهاب إلى هناك إن كان بعيداً. جرى هذا الحوار:

- أين أنت؟ سَمِعنا أن الأمن يقتحم الساحة بعنف.
- صحيح لقد أبلغني رفاقي. أنا في المنزل الآن وسأتوجه فوراً للحاق بهم.
- ؟؟؟

نحن هنا بصدد مؤمن صادق لا يفكر كالأشخاص العاديين. فهو لا "يوثر السلامة" ولا "يلعب على المضمون" ولا "يفكر في نفسه أولاً". لا بد أنك تسائلت عدة مرات عن الذين يخرجون في الشمس تأييداً لقائد حزبي فاسد أو يهاجرون إلى أقاصي الدنيا ليخوضون المعارك. قد تسائل مترجم هذا الكتاب د.غازي القصيبي عن الأسباب التي تدفع أشخاصاً للقيام بأعمال انتحارية ضد مدنيين، و لما وجد ضالته في هذا الكتاب قرر ترجمته.

تستمد الحركات الجماهيرية وقودها البشري بشكل رئيسي من المحبَطين الذين تساوت لديهم الخيارات ولا يرون نوراً في آخر النفق. ينضم إليهم أيضا ذوو المصالح الخاصة، المبدعون الذين جف نهر إبداعهم أو فشلوا في إنتاجه، المللون و المذنبون الذين أثقلتهم خطاياهم. كلهم يهربون من أنفسهم وواقعهم ليذوبوا في الجماعة ويصبحون جسداً واحداً. يركز المؤلف على الدور الأساسي للمحبطين، إذ يمثلون السواد الأعظم من وجهة نظره. وهنا نتسائل عمّا فعلته الدول العربية من أجل المحبطين... سوى لومهم بالطبع.

تتحرك الجماهير ولها فكرة أساسية، والأهم من ذلك أن لها عدواً واضحا ومحدداً، ترمي إلى هزيمته بأي ثمن، حتى لو كان الثمن هو الفوضى. يصل المؤمن الصادق إلى اعتبار شفاء الغليل هدفاً يسعى إليه بغض النظر عن النتائج. ولا بد أن يكون لهذا الحراك زعيم يستطيع إدارة هذا الطاقة البشرية وتوجيه المشاعر السلبية لصالح الحركة.

تكمن أبرز الصعوبات في الانتقال من حالة الفوضى إلى التنظيم ومن الحرب إلى السلم. عندها تطالب القيادات أتباعها بالصبر والنظر إلى الهدف البعيد بعد أن كانت وعدتهم بالحلول السريعة. يظهر عندئذِ المستنفعون وأصحاب المناصب وقد لا يجني المحبطون سوى المزيد من الإحباط، بالإضافة إلى أن الحركة قد تلبس الرداء الذي خلعته من عدوها وتدير الأمور بنفس طريقته.

أما المثقفون –كما ينظر لهم الكاتب- فدورهم يكون في البداية. بقدرتهم على صياغة العبارات والكلام المنمق يساهمون في تهييج الجمهور، ولكن ترتعد فرائصهم ما أن تعم الفوضى، بعكس الجنود والرعاع الذين يبدعون في تلك الظروف. يرى هوفر أن المثقف سهل الاستقطاب، خاصة في المراحل المبكرة، قد يتنازل عن عقيدته لقاء منصب أو مكسب ثم يبرر لنفسه فعلته. هذا إلى جانب أنه يسهل التخلص منه بعد أن تستتب الأمور للقيادة، خاصة وأن المثقف مزعج لأنه يستمر بالتفكير بشكل فردي وذلك يشكل معضلة للجماعة.

ليست كل الحركات الجماهيرية سيئة بالضرورة، بل قد تكون دافعاً للتغيير الإيجابي وتسيير الأمور في اتجاه أفضل.

يعيب الكتاب الاقتضاب في بعض المواضع التي تتطلب التفصيل، كما أن هناك بعض الشطحات الناجمة عن التأمل. يستبق المؤلف كل هذا بقوله أن الكتاب ليس دراسة أكاديمية بل محض أفكار. لاحظت أيضاً سوء تشخيصه للحركة الصهيونية –حسب السياق- كحركة ناضلت ضد البريطانيين وليست حركة قامت بدعم من الإنجليز و بوعد منهم. لم أتفق مع كل ما ورد في الكتاب لكنه كان فرصة ممتازة لمراجعة كل الأحداث التي عاصرتُها على ضوءه، وحاورت ذهني على صفحاته، وستبقى بعض أفكاره عالقة في ذهني للتحقق منها أو تفنيدها حسب ما أشهده فيما تبقى من العمر.
Profile Image for Issa Deerbany.
374 reviews391 followers
March 8, 2020
كتاب إبداعي
كيف تقوم الثورات وحركات التمرد ، من يحركها ومن يقودها ومن يجني ثمارها.
كيف ينضم لها الناس وكيف يصبحون مخلصين لها وعلى استعداد للتضحية بكل شيء من أجلها.

الإحباط من اهم أسباب النقمة على الوضع الحاضر وحسب طبيعة المجتمع وتحالفاته للسيطرة على الوضع الحالي. فتحالف رجال الاعمال مع السلطة واهمال المثقفون يجعلهم محبطون ويقومون بتأجيج الثورة.

المثقفون المحبطون يقومون بتأجيج الثورة والدعوة الى إشعالها ولكن لا يقومون بقيادتها، قادتها هم المتطرفون الذين يريدون ليس تغييرا شكليا بل انهيار النظام القديم وتشكيله من جديد في حين المثقف ما يطل��ه تحسين للأوضاع بدون إلغاء النظام القديم.
والآن بعد النجاح فالثورة بحاجة الى العمليين فالشخص العملي هو من ينظم الاعمال ويقود الثورة اما اذا قادها المتطرف فمحكوم عليها بالفشل.
مع وجود أمثلة على الحركات والثورات خلال العصور والسنوات الماضية وأشخاص ما زالوا يعيشون في الذاكرة.

والترجمة اكثر من رائعة.
Profile Image for Alexis.
119 reviews23 followers
June 9, 2013
This book for me is like when you've just met someone and you're talking to them and you find that you have so much in common, and you like them so much that you stutter in trying to say ten different things at once because you're so excited and then you just trip over your own foot and fall in the lake.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books331 followers
October 1, 2022
“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”

The effectiveness of a doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude. No doctrine however profound and sublime will be effective unless it is presented as the embodiment of the one and only truth.

There is perhaps no surer way of infecting ourselves with virulent hatred toward a person than by doing him a grave injustice. [As the saying goes: "I hate whom I have wronged."]

There is in us a tendency to locate the shaping forces of our existence outside ourselves. Success and failure are unavoidably related in our minds with the state of things around us. Hence it is that people with a sense of fulfillment think it a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change.

Usually the strength of a mass movement is proportionate to the vividness and tangibility of its devil. When Hitler was asked whether he thought the Jew must be destroyed, he answered: “No…. We should have then to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy, not merely an abstract one.”

The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.

In a modern society people can live without hope only when kept dazed and out of breath by incessant hustling.

The reason that the inferior elements of a nation can exert a marked influence on its course is that they are wholly without reverence toward the present. They see their lives and the present as spoiled beyond remedy and they are ready to waste and wreck both: hence their recklessness and their will to chaos and anarchy.

The most effective way to silence our guilty conscience is to convince ourselves and others that those we have sinned against are indeed depraved creatures, deserving every punishment, even extermination.
Profile Image for Ali Karimnejad.
303 reviews131 followers
November 24, 2021
وقتی نکته ها و خلاصه ات از یک کتاب 180 صفحه ای میشه 85 صفحه، یعنی یکی از بهترین کتابهای عمرت تا به اون روز رو خوندی.

خیلی آموزنده بود برام. خیلی. سعی میکنم یک ریویویی بنویسم ازش ولی هنوز روی کتاب تسلط ندارم. هنوز کتاب رو من سواره. شاید یکبار دیگه بخونمش

پ. ن : همینجا میخوام از کیانوش دادا تشکر کنم بخاطر همه پر حرفیاش و البته معرفی این کتاب عالی 👍ا
Profile Image for Mohamed Al.
Author 1 book4,754 followers
December 21, 2012
لاشك بأن الدكتور غازي القصيبي قد أحسن الاختيار وأصاب الهدف حين قرر ترجمة كتاب (المؤمن الصادق) إلى العربية ليكون واحداً من روافد إثراء الوعي العربي بما يحتاج إليه ليس فقط من ثمرات المعرفة العالمية بل ومن تجليات الفكر العالمي أيضاً وينمي فلسفته.

هذا الكتاب يستحق القراءة والإمعان في الأفكار العميقة التي يحملها وخصوصاً في هذه المرحلة الحرجة التي يمر بها الشعب العربي من تاريخه السياسي؛ لأنه يتطرق بالحديث عن الحركات الجماهيرية، طبيعتها، ووسائل تطورها، وبعض أشكال التفكير بها، وقدم بعضاً من الإجابات عن مشكلة التعصب والتشدد أو التطرف لجهة أو فكر أو قضية معينة.
Profile Image for Abu Iyas.
177 reviews86 followers
June 4, 2012
أحياناً أشعر أن فعل التقييم هو مشهد لفعل القُرّاء وهم يضعون الكتابَ على رفوف المكتبة ، إيذاناً بإنتهاءٍ يجعلُ الكتاب في مقامِ تذكارٍ أو صورةٍ مُعلّقة ، إلا بعض الكُتب ، تصطنعُ التأجيل ، وتؤخر التقييم ، فتُبعدُه عن الرف ، تضعهُ مثلا بجوارك ، على الطاولة ، كأنك لم تنتهي منه بعد ، ولا تريد .. مع أنك قرأته ، إلا أنه حقّاً تنتابُكَ استدعاءاتٌ منه، تعودُ إلى صفحةٍ ما ، سطر ، هامش ما.. وتعود وتعود ....٠
كل ما أود قولُه ، أن هذا الكتاب أحدُهُم ..٠
Profile Image for Ross Blocher.
429 reviews1,335 followers
January 9, 2022
The True Believer seeks to explain the causes of mass movements and how political upheavals emerge predictably from psychological and sociological predispositions. It is broad, confident, and hugely insightful. Eric Hoffer wrote The True Believer in 1951, with World War II fresh in memory and other threats emerging around the world - and yet, his insights feel current and often frighteningly prescient (one cannot help but interpret his observations in the light of Trump's presidency: parallels others have drawn). And yet, Hoffer had no formal training: he was widely read and had an amazing mind for synthesis, but worked in restaurants and fields, and as a gold prospector and longshoreman, where he wrote his influential books. He came to prominence after Dwight Eisenhower hailed this volume in 1952, and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Though a short book, The True Believer is dense and takes a while to parse. Hoffer speaks in absolutes: broad, sweeping statements that my mind immediately wants to challenge. He anticipates this, saying, "The reader is expected to quarrel with much that is said... he is likely to feel that much has been exaggerated and much ignored. But this is not an authoritative textbook. It is a book of thoughts, and it does not shy away from half-truths so long as they seem to hint at a new approach and help to formulate new questions." (p60) He's going for simplicity, and indeed - nuance would make this a much longer book. You're sure to find a few new vocabulary words in the process, too. There is also copious use of abstract language that forced me to stop after each sentence and apply the concepts to real-world situations to get a picture of what he's saying. For example, in a typical sentence: "We have seen that the acrid secretion of the frustrated mind, though composed chiefly of fear and ill will, acts yet as a marvelous slime to cement the embittered and disaffected into one compact whole." (p124) Another: "Contrary to what one would expect, propaganda becomes more fervent and importunate when it operates in conjunction with coercion than when it has to rely solely on its own effectiveness." (p106) Sometimes I'll have to re-read a sentence a few times to get a good feel for its meaning: "Oh yeah, that makes sense." Or, "Well, you already made that point just in the last paragraph." Or, "Wow, that's brilliant. I should highlight that."

There were many such passages, and if I had taken a highlighter to all the salient and highly quotable statements, it would be a brightly colored book indeed. I didn't, and so I'm struggling right now to jump straight to the best examples. Here's a few quotes from this Goodreads list:

"Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil."
"The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world."
"People with a sense of fulfillment think it is a good world and would like to conserve it as it is, while the frustrated favor radical change."
"The permanent misfits can find salvation only in a complete separation from the self; and they usually find it by losing themselves in the compact collectivity of a mass movement."
"Propaganda ... serves more to justify ourselves than to convince others; and the more reason we have to feel guilty, the more fervent our propaganda."

I did quarrel with some of what was said, thought of counter-examples here-and-there, and in some ways this book is simply a product of its time. One example: we hear constant refrains about "men of action" and "men of words" without a nod to the existence of women. Hoffer regularly cites Moses and the Exodus as examples, as if those actually happened. And yet, none of these criticisms should preclude anyone from wrestling and working their way through. It's a potent, thought-provoking book, and I'd recommend it simply for the internal dialog it prompts.
Profile Image for Janet.
Author 19 books87.6k followers
February 17, 2021
A mainstay of any library, this slim book on political extremism was written, not by a professor but by a gifted amateur, an American stevedore willing to think through not the historical problem of radicalization in this or that society, but who becomes an extremist. What is the psychology of the extremist as opposed to that of more moderate people. Who is more likely to join an extremist movement? It was written in the 1950's, not long after the defeat of the Third Reich, a time when the problem of extremism was very much on the world's mind.

Hoffer's term "Mass Movements" might be better translated today as "cult." Who exactly becomes a cultist, or is vulnerable to that kind of true belief? Is there something essentially different between someone who becomes a radical anti-semite, a Bolshevik, an evangelical or fanatical religious follower, a white supremacist, a Scientologist and the like, and other people with a less aggressive, black and white, totalitarian view of the world?

Something he notes is the "interchangeability of mass movements." That people find it easier to move from say, Communism to Nazisim, than from communism to socialism or Nazism to mainstream conservatism. "When people are ripe for a mass movement, they're usually ripe for any effective movement, and not solely for one with a particular doctrine or program."

"The inordinately selfish {one of the list of vulnerable types] are particularly susceptible to frustration. The more selfish a person, the ore poignant his disappointments. It is the inordinately selfish, therefore, who are likely to be the most persuasive champions of selflessness. The fiercest fanatics are often selfish people who when forced, by innate shortcomings or external circumstances, to lose faith in those own selves. The separate the excellent instrument of their selfishness from their ineffectual selves and attach it to the service of some holy cause. And though it be a faith of love and humility they adopt, they can be neither loving nor humble."

It is a fascinating, theme based exploration of mass movements, though some people will be disturbed to see their idealistic noble causes lumped in with totalitarian ones. "The superior individual, whether in politics, literature, science commerce or industry plays a large role in shaping a nation, but so do individuals at the other extreme, the failures, misfits, outcasts, criminals, and all those who have lost their footing, or never had one, in the ranks of respectable humanity. The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle."

Very much worth reading--speaks to our highly polarized time, helping us better see what radicalizes people and ultimately suggesting ways in which the non=extreme element of society can be strengthened.
Profile Image for Mohamed Shady.
626 reviews6,548 followers
April 8, 2015
لا أعلم حقيقةً كيف يخرج هؤلاء المحللين بمثل هذه الكتب!
كتاب كهذا يستلزم سنين طويلة من البحث والتدقيق والدراسة..

دراسة دقيقة ومتعمقة للغاية فى تركيب الحركات الجماهيرية وأسباب نشأتها ونتائج عملها..
ينتقل الكاتب من فصل إلى فصل متتبعًا تركيب الأفراد أنفسهم وبنيتهم الثقافية والمادية واسباب انضمامهم أو انعزالهم عن الحركات ال��ماهيرية..
يطرح الكاتب أمثلة من الواقع والتاريخ يوضّح بها أفكاره، كما يتوقع الكثير من الأحداث التى تحدث فيما بعد ( نُشر الكتاب فى خمسينات القرن الماضى ) ومازال الكتاب يُقرأ ويُطبّق على الواقع هذه الأيام..

بعض الفقرات اضطررت إلى قراءتها أكثر من مرة لأفهمها، ولكن فى المجمل الكتاب سهل وبسيط.. كما أن هناك أفكار لم أتفق مع الكاتب فيها، ولهذا طارت النجمة الخامسة..

كتاب قيّم بحق..
Profile Image for Yazeed AlMogren.
400 reviews1,290 followers
August 26, 2014
أحد أروع الكتب التي تتحدث عن كيفية تكوّن الحركات الجماهيرية وكيف تبدأ الثورات ومن هم المتحمسين للإنخراط في القيام بثورة أو أعمال متطرفة كالارهاب وغيره، أعجبني في الكتاب سهولة النص وبساطة المعلومة في شرح آلية سيطرة القادة على الجماهير وكيفية التحكم في عقولهم، من قرأ كتاب سيكولوجية الجماهير للفرنسي غوستاف لوبون حتمًا سيستمتع بقراءة هذا الكتاب.
Profile Image for Mikey B..
961 reviews348 followers
October 7, 2019
I read this to get a better understanding of mass indoctrination whether it be religion, Nazism, Stalinism, and more recent developments in our populist era, namely Trump. The author lists what he feels are the commonalities to all of these, whether it be Nazism, ISIS or the “moonies” or even a small religious movement like the Branch Davidians of David Koresh.

The author uses the word “mass movement”, whereas I would use the word “cult”; perhaps the word “cult” was not in vogue when this was written in 1950.

There were parts of his dissertation that I felt were off-base or irrelevant as when he speaks of colonialism.

A recurring theme is that mass movements appeal to the frustrated. They find meaning in this holy cause – be it religious or secular (like Nazism). Individualism is lost in the mass movement. I have difficulties with this as the author kept emphasizing how one’s individualism was completely evaporated by the mass movement. There were, for example, differences in the behaviour of Germans under the sway of Nazism.

Page 16 (my book)

Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.


All mass movements are uncompromising. They have all the answers; deviationists are not tolerated.

And interestingly in a country with competing mass movements such as Germany in the early 1930’s, membership could change from one to another mass movement (i.e. communists could sway their allegiance and convert to the Nazi Party). The frustrated is on the lookout for any group with a holy cause.

Page 51
[Hitler] knew that the chief passion of the frustrated was to belong.

Page 79
Above all, he must never feel alone.

The mass movements require uncompromising devotion which creates suspicion.

Page 44 Matthew 10: 35-37
For I am come to set man at variance against his father, and daughters against her mother. And the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.

Page 153
It is the sacred duty of the true believer to be suspicious.

Returning army veterans can often be lured into mass movements, they are looking for structure and meaning – and many are “frustrated”.

Hate is a prime unifier in a mass movement. The present is vilified as decadent. Also, reason and logic are deprecated. There is only one truth – a doctrine.

Page 101

If a doctrine is not unintelligible, it has to be vague; and if neither intelligible nor vague, it has to be unverifiable.

All mass movements require a leader – Hitler being a prime example. Hitler was the original leader and led Germany into “action” (other mass movements have successor leaders like Stalin after Lenin). “Action” is another fundamental of a mass movement. But “action” can lead to a state of normality. “Action” requires more individual participation. The author did not fully explain this contradiction.

Also, there were vast differences between Hitler who was worshipped and adored and Stalin, who may have been worshipped, but certainly not fawned over like Hitler, fear is more appropriate when describing Stalin.

A considerable portion of this book worked and did remind me of George Orwell’s “1984”. It illustrates very well the commonality of mass movements – whether they be political or religious. Their doctrines leave no room for dissension. This is short book, clearly written, and well worth reading.
Profile Image for Abdullah.
262 reviews263 followers
November 11, 2018
يتحدث الكتاب عن الحركات الجماهيرية؛ عوامل قيامها وكيف تجتذب الناس إليها، وتجعلهم مؤمنين بها إيمانًا صادقًا.
ينقسم الكتاب إلى أربعة أقسام:
في القسم الأول يتحدث عن جاذبية الحركات الجماهيرية للشعوب بشكل عام، ولماذا هذه الحركات لها جاذبية.. في القسم الثاني يتكلم عن أتباع الحركات الجماهيرية؛ الفقراء والعاجزون عن التأقلم والأنانيون والطموحون والأقليات والملولون ومرتكبو المعاصي؛ فكل هؤلاء هم أساس الحركات الجماهيرية كما يرى الكاتب، ولكل منهم أسبابه التي تجتذبه لتلك الحركات.. يتحدث في القسم الثالث عن بعض الخصائص التي يتميز بها هؤلاء الأتباع مثل العمل الجماعي والتضحية بالنفس.. ثم يعنون الفصل الرابع بـ(البداية والنهاية)، وفيه يتكلم عن المسار التي تتخذه الحركات الجماهيرية، والذي يبدأ برجال الكلمة الذي يشعلون في الناس كراهية النظام، ثم يأتي دور المتطرفين الذين يترجمون ما يقوله رجال الكلمة ويعملون على نشر الفوضى؛ فالفوضى هي البيئة التي يبدع فيها المتطرفون، ويأتي بعد ذلك دور الرجال العمليين؛ "فالحركة الجماهيرية يخطط لها رجال الكلمة، ويظهرها إلى حيز الوجود المتطرفون، ويحافظ على بقائها الرجال العمليون"، ثم يختم الكتاب بفصل في التفريق بين الحركات الجماهيرية النافعة والضارة.
أرى أن الكاتب وقع في خطأين رئيسيين:
-الأول هو التعميم= فالكاتب لم يفرّق بين الحركات الجماهيرية، لكن وضعها جميعًا في سلة واحدة، دون اعتبار للاختلافات المفصلية التي قد تكون بين كل واحدة منها.
مثلًا: حديثه عن أن الحركات تزرع في أعضائها أي عقيدة تريدها، وتدعوهم لعدم التفكير فيها أو غيرها، وتدعو لطمس العقل، طبعًا هو يتكلم عن دعوة الإسلام وكأنها حركة جماهيرية.. بالتالي وقع في الخطأ؛ فالإسلام يدعو أتباعه دومًا للتفكر والإيمان بيقين وعلم بمعتقدات الإسلام.
ومثلًا كلامه عن ذوبان شخصية الشخص في الجماعة، وتفسيره بأن الأشخاص ينتمون بصدق إلى تلك الحركات ليتخلصوا من عبء المسؤولية، لتتحمله الحركة كلها.. الإسلام دعا إلى اتحاد المسلمين، وشبههم بالجسد الواحد، لكنه أبدًا لم يلغي شخصية الفرد، ولم يقل أن خطأ الفرد تتحمله الجماعة، وإنما قال أنه لا تزر وازرة وزر أخرى، وحدد للمسلم علاقتين= علاقة مع ربه؛ يهتم فيها المسلم بنفسه ويستنقذ نفسه من النار، وعلاقة مع مجتمعه؛ يأمر فيها بالمعروف وينهى عن المنكر ويقدّم للناس الخير، ولا تصلح علاقته بمجتمعه إلا إذا صلحت علاقته بربه.. فالإسلام لم يخلق أشخاصًا محبطين، يتخلصون من إحباطهم بإلقائه على كاهل الجماعة، لكنه ألزم كل فرد بإنقاذ نفسه أولًا، ثم إنقاذ مجتمعه.
-الثاني هو التفسير المادي= أرى أن تفسير الكاتب لصدق إيمان المؤمنين بالحركات الجماهيرية فُسّر دومًا على أساس مادي، وقد ألتمس له العذر هنا بحكم دينه ونشأته، لكنه أيضًا أخطأ حيث أسقط تفسيراته على كل الحركات.
مثلًا: حديثه عن إقبال المؤمنين على الموت في سبيل ما يؤمنون به، فسرّه على أساس أن الذي يقبل على هذا مجرد شخص محبط، يرى في انغماسه في جماعته وموته لأجلها حلًا لإحباطه، وإنهاءً لحياته.. في حين أن المسلمين الذين يستشهدون في سبيل الله، يفعلون ذلك أصلًا لحبهم الحياة، فالحياة عندنا هي الحياة الآخرة، والدنيا مجرد قنطرة، وموتنا في سبيل الله قد يكون لأجل أن يعيش المئات من المسلمين غيرنا في أمان بعد ذلك.
مثلًا عند كلامه عن الحركات الجماهيرية النافعة، لم يصنفها على أنها نافعة لأجل أنها تدعو إلى أخلاق حميدة مثلًا، لكنه صنف على أساس أنه فائدة جانبية= فقط لأنها قد تدفع المجتمع للعمل والإنتاج بسبب الحماسة التي تثيرها في الجماهير.
لي تعليق على ترجمة الكتاب.. فالمترجم هو غازي القصيبي، وهو كاتب جيد، لكن ترجمته هنا جاءت لأجل غاية محددة، وهو إسقاط المعاني التي جاء بها الكاتب على الحركات الإسلامية المتطرفة.. ولم يكتف غازي بالترجمة، لكنه كان يذكر في بعض الحواشي كلامًا لشخص يدعى عبد الله ثابت -كان (متطرفًا) في وقت ما- ليبرهن به على صحة كلام المؤلف، ولو كان معه الحق في كثير مما يقول لكنني لم أطمئن للترجمة بسبب شعوري بتحيزه لاتجاه معين من البداية.
الكتاب جيد جدًا في عمومه، ومفيد لتفسير انحياز الناس لبعض الحركات، ومفيد كذلك لنعرف كيف نجذب الناس إلى الأفكار التي ندعو إليها، بطريقة تتناسب مع نفسيات الجميع.
Profile Image for Ian.
692 reviews65 followers
August 22, 2015
I haven't yet read the other reviews of this, as I didn't want my own to be influenced, but I would imagine other reviewers will have commented on the author's background. He had very little formal education, but seems to have been an extraordinarily perceptive and articulate person.

Of this work he says himself "...this is not an authoritative textbook. It is a book of thoughts, and it does not shy away from half-truths so long as they seem to hint at a new approach and help to formulate new questions." I don't agree with absolutely everything the author says in this book, and parts of it are a little dated, but that said, rarely have I read anything that has caused me to think "That's exactly right" quite as often as this. If you have ever wondered, as I have, why passionate supporters of a particular cause are so impervious to evidence that contradicts their preconceptions, this book will give you the answer.

Some years ago I read Patrick Leigh Fermor's "A Time of Gifts", the first part of the trilogy recounting his trek through Europe in 1933-34. At one point, in Germany, he meets a Nazi stormtrooper who tells PLF that he was a former member of the communist Rot Front. I was surprised that a communist would have defected to the Nazis. Eric Hoffer would not have been surprised. His book explains how all mass movements and extremist groups appeal to the same mindset. It is a cause that matters, not the cause.

It's a rare thing to encounter a book that really provides new insights into why the world is the way it is. This goes straight into the top five of non-fiction books that I have read.
Profile Image for عبدالرحمن عقاب.
666 reviews730 followers
December 3, 2015
هذا من أفضل وأهمّ ما قرأته بفضل الله هذا العام.
كتابٌ على قدرٍ عالٍ من الأهمية، لكلّ باحثٍ ومهتمٍّ في السلوك الإنساني( فرادى وجماعات). كما أنّه إطلالةٌ عميقة على "سيكولوجية" التطرّف الذي نحيا زمنًا من أزمان بلاياه وخزاياه و "ديناميكية" جماعاته.كما أنّ في الكتاب تتبّعًا مميّزًا لمآلات الحركات الجماهيرية وفهمًا لمساراتها التاريخية. ولعلّ هذا الزمن هو الأنسب لقراءة الكتاب بالنسبة للمراقب العربي.
وأكاد أقول بثقة أنّ الكاتب قد أحاط بموضوعه إحاطةً شبه تامّة.
وغنيّ عن القول أنّك تستطيع أن ترى في كلّ "جماعة" بذورًا من تطرّف ينمو وينمو، فإما يجمد أو يتغوّل.
الكتاب من إصدارات دار كلمة التي يُشكر لها حسن الانتقاء، وترجمة (غازي القصيبي)- الأديب اللامع.
وأشدّ ما يدهشك أن تعلم أنّ هذا الكتاب صدر في 1950. وقد تأخرت ترجمته إلى العربية لأكثر من نصف قرن!!
Profile Image for Skallagrimsen.
208 reviews37 followers
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October 16, 2022
Published exactly seven decades ago, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, by Eric Hoffer, remains in print to this day. Indeed, it seems to be undergoing a revival of popularity. To date, it's accrued over 8,000 ratings and 1,200 reviews on Goodreads, statistics that most current and “relevant” non-fiction books could only dream of boasting. This book must be considered a classic. Does it deserve to be?

In many ways, The True Believer is a book of its time. In 1951, the most destructive conflict in human history was still a fresh memory. The threat of an even more destructive conflict, an ultimate conflict, with the potential to obliterate civilization or even life itself, had begun to disquiet the collective consciousness of humanity. Modern mass media was in its infancy. (Dwight Eisenhower, who admired Hoffer, famously referenced The True Believer in one of the earliest televised presidential press conferences.) When Hoffer addresses the reader directly, he speaks from within the framework of then-contemporary events. He appeals to the shared experience of a recent past which few living humans now remember. He speculates about a near future that itself has long since passed into history. One gets the impression that the author himself would be surprised to discover his book would still be remembered, debated, considered relevant well into the twenty first century.

Yet its theme is timeless. What are mass movements? How do they begin, and why? What kind of people are drawn to them? Hoffer considers religious, social, and nationalist movements through history. He admits that important distinctions exist between different mass movements; that they vary in their motives, methods, and effects. But in Hoffer's analysis, there are underlying commonalities that explain the rise and persistence of all mass movements. They all “generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action;" he writes, "all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain department of life; all of them demand blind faith and singlehearted allegiance.” Hoffer finds at the root of mass movements a complex of circumstances and psychological types. The impoverished, persecuted minorities, the bored, the restless, the ambitious. A fear of freedom: “freedom from freedom.” The urge to simplify the world into a single, infallible doctrine. To abdicate personal responsibility and become one atom of a greater and omnipotent whole. Hate, hope, weakness, ambition, vision, the promise of paradise or the hope of utopia—these, according to Hoffer, are the ingredients of mass movements.

I found The True Believer tightly argued, psychologically astute, and historically informed. I was impressed by the ease and grace with which it moved from the most ancient civilizations to the Twentieth Century to draw examples in support of its thesis. And I thought it just brilliantly written, with sparkling aphorisms to be extracted from every other page. Some examples:

*

Though ours is a godless age, it is the very opposite of irreligious.

*

The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race, or his holy cause.

*

Our frustration is greater when we have much and want more than when we have nothing and want some. We are less dissatisfied when we lack many things than when we seem to lack but one thing.

*

Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.

*

Dying and killing seem easy when they are part of a ritual, ceremonial, dramatic performance or game. There is need for some kind of make-believe in order to face death unflinchingly. To our real, naked selves there is not a thing on earth or in heaven worth dying for. It is only when we see ourselves as actors in a staged (and therefore unreal) performance that death loses its frightfulness and finality and becomes an act of make-believe and a theatrical gesture. It is one of the main tasks of a real leader to mask the grim reality of dying and killing by evoking in his followers the illusion that they are participating in a grandiose spectacle, a solemn or lighthearted dramatic performance. Hitler dressed eighty million Germans in costumes and made them perform in a grandiose, heroic and bloody opera.

*

The radical and the reactionary both loathe the present. They see it as an aberration and a deformity. Both are ready to proceed ruthlessly and recklessly with the present, and both are hospitable to the idea of self-sacrifice. Wherein do they differ? Primarily in their view of the malleability of man’s nature.

*

It is easier to hate an enemy with much good in him than one who is all bad. We cannot hate those we despise.


*

Some have criticized The True Believer as dismissive of most mass movements as unadulterated evils, perpetrated by megalomaniacs upon weaklings and fools. There is some basis for this. Hoffer spills far more ink discussing the harmful and destructive tendencies of mass movements. But read to its conclusion, the attitude of The True Believer is seen as ambivalence. Hoffer admits that mass movements have had positive as well as negative effects, and that all social change, including beneficial change, relies on them. In any event, he seems to concede they are humanly inevitable. Hoffer’s mission appeared to be cultivating a recognition of the dangers implicit in mass movements, in the hopes of channeling them towards their most productive manifestations.

My own main criticism of The True Believer lies in its partisanship. Hoffer’s examples are drawn mostly from the Nazi and Communist regimes, with occasional mentions of traditional Christian, Confucian, or “Mohammedan” societies. Secular liberal democracies are implied to inhabit a happy middle ground. Hoffer does allow for the potential of nationalism to inspire harmful mass movements. But any discussion of “Americanism” as a baleful ideology is absent. And yet, The True Believer is from a time when just such a militant and paranoid nationalism was surging in the United States. While Hoffer plausibly accuses the Soviet Union as defining itself in opposition to the West, the U.S. in particular, he insinuates that it was as good as an arbitrary decision on it part, without provocation or parallel on the part of the West. The U.S., Hoffer seemed to believe, was the well-intentioned victim of baseless malice. The truth was obviously more complex.

A more balanced account might have cost Eric Hoffer some of the accolades he received from American presidents. But it would have made for a better book.

So, does the True Believer deserve its status as a classic? Reservations aside, my answer must remain an enthusiastic yes.
Profile Image for Hafsa.
118 reviews153 followers
August 14, 2016
كتاب يهمني .. يهمكم .. يهمنا جميعا !
دراسة كتاب كهذا تغنينا عن قراءة مدونات عديدة أفكارها ملتوية و تغنينا عن الانصات الى تحليلات فارغة يحاول صاحبها أن يوهمنا بصلابتها ..
هذا الكتاب يستحق القراءة عن جدارة .. لنفهم ما قد جرى و يستمر في الجريان و سيظل جاريا و محوره الإيمان و المستقبل و بيع الوهم و الاحزاب و الجماعات و الشعارات الضخمة حول الحرية و الديمقراطية و العدالة و غيرها من الوعود التي هي في حقيقتها عبارة عن بالون هواؤه غباء الشعوب و احباطها المتكرر و الدائم و أحلامها المسروقة و حماسها المشتعل و أحيانا كثيرة أيضا استعدادها للتضحية و الموت .
كل هذا و أكثر و غيره ستسبر أغواره مع صفحات هذا الكتاب .
شكرا لك ايريك هوفر ♡
Profile Image for Mehmet.
Author 2 books409 followers
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March 28, 2021
"Bir kitle hareketinin yek vücut yapısı içinde kişisel bağımsızlığımızı kaybettiğimiz zaman yeni bir hürriyete kavuşuruz: bu hiç utanmadan ve vicdan azabı çekmeden, nefret etme, yalan söyleme, işkence yapma, adam öldürme ve ihanet etme hürriyetidir." (s.123)

Tıpkı Tiranlık Üzerine: Yirminci Yüzyıldan Yirmi Ders gibi bu da farkındalık uyandıran, ufuk açıcı bir kitap.

Sabah YDS'ye girmiştim. Sınavdan çıkınca adeta bir nevi endüstriyel sessizlik içerisinde (çünkü telefon, hesap makinesi ve her türlü cihaz, alet, vb. ile sınava girmek yasaktı, cebimde beş lira ve bir kimlik vardı) Mersin Üniversitesi'nden evime doğru yürürken kafamın içinde bu kitabın satırları yankılandı durdu. Etrafımda birbirine geçmiş silüetler gibi gördüğüm kalabalığın, kitabın tabiriyle, sonsuz hiçlik içindeki anlamsızlıklarını düşündüm. Elbette öznemin de...

Kitap, bulunması oldukça güç bir kitap. Herhalde 80-81 yıllarında Mülkiye'nin etrafında işportalara çok ucuz fiyatlara düşmüştür. Bir mülkiye mezunundan öğrendiğim kadarıyla o zamanlar elbette baskısı kolaylıkla bulunabiliyordu ve oldukça kelepirdi fiyatı... Bu kitabın basımdan gizemli bir şekilde kayboluşu yakın bir tarihe denk geliyor... Buna değineceğim.

2013-2014 yıllarında beni okumaya en çok teşvik eden bir dostum, Ankara'da bir topluluğun kitap okuma buluşmalarında anlatmıştı bana bu kitabı. Sonunda eklemişti, baskısını bulamazsın diye. Hafızam beni yanıltmıyorsa 2017 yılında, Ankara'da Adilhan pasajında, bugüne kadar aradığım her türlü özel baskıyı, nadir kitabı benim için onca zahmete girerek bulan G. Kitabevi'ndeki N. hanımın çabasıyla bu kitabı edinebilmiştim. (Şimdi düşünüyorum da, belki de Sakarya'da F. Kitabevi'nde vardı. Ne zaman bir kitabı arayıp da bulamasam onun hafızasında ve raflarında çıktı. F. abi nadirkitap'a hiç uğramadığından şimdi araştıramıyorum ama) Sonra nedense iki yıl boyunca rafımda öylece kaldı. Ta ki düne kadar.

Elimde tuttuğum bu baskı, 1980 tarihli, Tur Yayınları'ndan çıkan üçüncü baskı. Çevirmeni Erkil Günur. 90'lı yıllarda Akran Yayınları'ndan yine aynı çeviriden çıkmış. Sonra İm Yayınları'ndan çıkmış. Yeryüzü Yayınları'ndan Hale Şipal'in çevirisiyle de çıkmış. Fakat bu defa ismi Kesin İnançlı. Aslına daha uygun bir isim aslında. 2007 ve 2011 yılları arasında, Erkil Günur'un çevirisi bu defa Atlas Silkindi'yi de basan Plato Yayınları'ndan karşımıza çıkıyor. Bu baskıları temin etmek neredeyse imkansız. Bu gizemli "sonsuz" talebe karşın yayınevleri 2011'den beri bu kitabı basmıyorlar.

Kitabın içeriğine gelince, aslında kitapta o kadar çok yeri not aldım ki; bunları tek tek burada alıntılamak gerçekten çok zor olur. Kendi cümlelerimle ifade etmek istiyorum bunun yerine. Yaşadığımız zamana kadar sayısız kitle hareketini çok iyi çözümleyebilecek anahtar fikirler var bu kitapta. Siyaset alanında yazılmış gibi görünse de, siyasetle ilgili olduğu kadar psikolojiyle ve sosyolojiyle de ilgili bir kitap. Özellikle toplumsal bir isteri haline gelen aşırılıkları, liderlerin peşinden körü körüne giden insanları, bu liderlerin psikolojilerini, büyük devrimleri, devrimler yaşayamayan toplumları, geri kalmışlığı, nefreti, paranoyayı, şüpheyi... Daha pek çok şeyi çok iyi özetlemiş ve analiz etmiş yazar. Tarzının bilimsel bir metadoloji olduğunu söyleyemem. Tarzına en çok uyanın "analiz" olduğunu ifade edebiliriz. Yazar, özellikle Hitler'in, Stalin'in peşinden giden kitleleri anlamak için çaba göstermiş.

Yazarın zorbaları ve bunların arkasından giden müfritleri anlamaya yönelik çabası sonunda onu insanın ruh hallerini anlamaya yaklaştırmış. Öyle ki, bu kitap -tıpkı yukarıda zikrettiğim kitap gibi- size en çok kendinize dair ipuçları verecek. "İnsan kendini yalnızca insanda tanır" diyen Goethe'yi doğrularcasına...

Kesin İnançlılar, aslında toplumun hiç de azımsanmayacak bir kesimi. Belki de biziz, bu marazi durumu hissettirmeden yaşıyor olabiliriz. Bu kitap, insanın ufkunu açan, farkındalık kazandıran bir kitap! Çünkü insanı tanıdıkça, kendinizi tanıyacaksınız.

Yazar, kitabını en güzel kendi tanımlamış:
"Bu bir düşünceler kitabıdır ve yeni görüşler ve yeni sorular ortaya çıkmasına yardım ettiği müddetçe yarı-gerçeklerin ele alınmasından kaçınılmamıştır." (s.84)

Bazen gecelerce sabahlara kadar toplum, dünya, ülke üzerine münakaşa eder dururduk. Hele ki üniversite öğrencisiyken, sayısız münakaşalarda ülkeyi kurtarmayan genç; genç olabilmiş midir? Ta o zamanlar kafamıza takılan soruların bazılarını bu kitapta şimdi buldum. Perikles Atinası'nı yerle bir eden, Roma'nın ihtişamını çamurlu ayaklarıyla çiğneyen, III. Selim'i ney çalarken kılıçla yere seren o kabalığın, katı zorbalığın sebebini yani... Okuyun, siz de göreceksiniz!

Saat 01.17.
Sabah mesai mi var dedi bir kedi?

M.B.
09.09.2019 (Tarih de ilginç)
Mersin

https://agacingovdesi.com/2021/03/28/...
Profile Image for صهيب.
254 reviews155 followers
August 16, 2017
!كنـــز
!عظيـــــم
كتاب غير طبيعي بالمرة



ملاحظة:
المؤلف معذور في إسقاطاته وتعميماته على اعتبار ما يؤمن به هو
فهو -مثلا- لا يعرف معنى الشهادة أو ما شابهها مما يؤمن به المسلم
ـــ
المترجم حاول غير مرة إسقاط أفكار الكتاب على نماذج يرى أنها -إرهابية- خدمة لسلطة بلده بالطبع
وذلك مالم أحبه كثيراً


15:46
16/08/2017
Profile Image for عبداللطيف القرين.
Author 3 books769 followers
May 26, 2017
من أجمل الكتب التي قرأت، يجب أن يقرأه كل أب، كل أم، كل معلم

مهم جدًا، لمن يريد أن يتعرف على الأسباب التي تجعل الإنسان قادرًا على تفجير نفسه!
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