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The True Believer - Eric Hoffer

The True Believer - Eric Hoffer

Harper Collins UK

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Our take

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) was a son of Alsatian immigrants to the U.S. who lost his parents at a young age and spent most of his life working odd jobs before becoming a dock worker. He also became a self-taught author of 10 books and lecturer who successfully combined his intellectual work with his job at the docks. "The True Believer" (1951) was his first book and the one that made him famous. Based on years of reflection and observation, this book explores the forces driving the rise of mass movements, such as fascism, Nazism, and communism. It suggests that for 'true believers' willing to die for a cause, the causes themselves are, in fact, interchangeable. Joining a mass movement is simply a way to find a refuge "from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence." After over half a century, Hoffer's reflections have not lost their relevance.

Publisher's description

The famous bestseller with “concise insight into what drives the mind of the fanatic and the dynamics of a mass movement” (Wall St. Journal) by the legendary San Francisco longshoreman.

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.

Called a “brilliant and original inquiry” and “a genuine contribution to our social thought” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., this landmark in the field of social psychology is completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today as it delivers a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one.

Praise and awards

“The True Believer glitters with icy wit. . . bristles with deadly parallels. . . . It is a harsh and potent mental tonic.” — New York Times

“If you want concise insight into what drives the mind of the fanatic and the dynamics of a mass movement at their most primal level, may I suggest an evening with Eric Hoffer.” — John McDonough, Wall St. Journal

“[Hoffer] is a student of extraordinary perception and insight. The range of his reading and research is vast, amazing. He has written one of the most provocative books of our immediate day.” — Christian Science Monitor

“Its theme is political fanaticism, with which it deals severely and brilliantly. . . . It owes its distinction to the fact that Hoffer is a born generalizer, with a mind that inclines to the wry epigram and icy aphorism as naturally as did that of the Duc de La Rochefoucauld.” — The New Yorker

“Hoffer has outlined a remarkably clear and suggestive theory about the kind of social change he sums up as ‘mass movements,’ supplied concrete illustrative materials drawn from a wide historical range, and put them together in a brief, readable, and provocative book.” — New York Herald Tribune

“This brilliant and original inquiry into the nature of mass movements is a genuine contribution to our social thought.” — Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

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