Brett Williams's Reviews > The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
Brett Williams's review
Nov 30, 2016
Believer is insightful if not always well written. The disjointed nature of some one or two line sections leaves support for their conclusions vacant, making them sound pushy. Hoffer does not allow devotion and dedication sourced in conviction and confidence. For Hoffer the holy cause is always a substitute for a loss of faith in oneself. The theme is that all mass movements – good, bad, Left, Right, social, religious, national – share a family likeness. Mass movements generate a proclivity for united action (challenge not welcome), fanaticism, fervent hope, hatred, intolerance, and release powerful human energy demanding blind faith and single-hearted allegiance. “For though ours is a godless age,” writes Hoffer, “it is the very opposite of irreligious.” Sure to raise hackles, Hoffer writes, “The hammer and sickle or swastika are in a class with the cross.” But he does not mean they are equivalent movements, only that they have equivalent features. In a nutshell, this is human behavior with reason removed, a tool of the passions. Which is not to imply movements have no good rewards. As Hoffer notes, some have organized, and others helped shake the West out of Dark Ages. Interestingly, movements have stages of development from initial radicalism to eventual conservatism in which those attracted seek careers in the new order, not to mold a new world, but to preserve the present. From zeal to orthodoxy. Good book.
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