Must read for political science, sociology, history and international studies students.
Self-taught sociologist Eric Hoffer is best known for his seminal work The True Believer - Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. Written in the aftermath of the rise of fascism and World War II, the book attempts to explain how failed and frustrated people find reason and redemption in irrational mass movements.
Hoffer analyzes mass movements with fascinating lucidity. He uncovers some of their salient characteristics: hatred of the present, an articulated goal for the future, a useful despised enemy, imitation of their enemies in dress and tactics, and blissful surrender of the individual to a collective whole. Also examines the lifespan of a mass movement.
By attempting to explain how destructive mass movements operate, Hoffer's work has contributed to humanity's self-awareness.
Hoffer actually lived as a stevedore, welder and manual laborer for most of his adult life.
Hoffer's other books expand on the paradox that modern individualism - rootless and alienating - makes modern mass movements (a wish for community purpose) possible.