Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The True Believer. Eric Hoffer.

New York: Time Incorporated
1951 (1963)

Why read it? Hoffer has thought deeply about mass movements and seems to put those thoughts on paper in a random fashion. What's missing is transitions from one paragraph to another. However, the ideas from paragraph to paragraph are connected. The reader has to make the connections. In Hoffer's opinion, "True Believers" are frustrated people who seek to lose their personalities in a cause, any cause, for which they are willing to do anything, even give their lives. Hoffer explores the many implications of this type of personality.

Ideas and quotes from the book for discussion:
"Hoffer's hero is the 'the autonomous man,' the confident man at peace with himself, engaged in the present.' "

" 'The true believer'...begins as a frustrated man driven by guilt, failure and self-disgust to bury his own identity in a cause oriented to some future good."

"...spoiling the present with dreams of the future."

"In our world, frustration is the inescapable and unendurble fate of the many; they can break away from this fate only by losing themselves in causes, ends, and movements greater than themselves."

"Key terms, 'frustrated' and 'mass movement' seem to depend on each other."

"The fanatic who dies for a cause is willing to sacrifice others as well as himself for his truth."

"There is nothing that a fanatic will not do to achieve his goal; the end justifies the use of any means."

"Thus in the end...the movement is an instrument of power for the successful and an opiate for the frustrated."

"Though there are obvious differences between the fanatical Christian, the fanatical Mohammedan, the fanatical nationalist, the fanatical Communist and the fanatical Nazi, it is yet true that the fanaticism which animates them may be viewed and treated as one."

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