Gustav Le Bon -The Crowd: Study of the Popular Mind

Pierre

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axj said:
Laura said:
Yes, I've got those and a couple other things marked in my copy, but believe me, despite a few assumptions he makes that were common belief at the time which are rather silly, the REST of the book is a slam dunk. Don't get put off early, and don't make assumptions until you have finished the book. Then compare what you have read with what you have observed in real life.

His main research on crowds does indeed seem quite profound. And I also wouldn't be surprised if his ideas were directly used by the nazi party - seeing how they employed mass gatherings of all sorts.

Yes Hitler used these subjugation techniques as did all the other great leaders. Le Bon mentions Napoleon, Alexander, Mahomet, etc. Unfortunately, most of the times those leaders were not using the crowd suggestibility for its benefit but for their own personal objective (fame, self-aggrandizement, etc.). Caesar was an exception and Le Bon shows how the collective fascination for Caesar paved they way for the reign of Augustus that was going to last almost half a Century.

Le Bon also shared an excellent analysis of the role played by schizoids in the hysterization process. Without naming them, he describes how these mesmerizing individuals deeply believe the nonsense they are relaying and, in turn contaminate the crowd.

Le Bon has a 'romantic' vision of the French Revolution where the crowd led the event though several sources (including Douglas Reed) show that it was a manufactured event. However Le Bon might be partly right in the sense that the crowd was ripe to join a revolution because of the images and symbols that were infused in the 'collective mind' during the preceding decades.

Le Bon's class prejudices made him also believe that at his time (beginning of the XXth Century) the crowd had the power and the elites were only following the desires and impulses of the crowd (socialism). The rest of the XXth Century has shown that beyond the veneer of democracy, freedom and socialism, the crowd remained instrumentalized and enslaved to lies, suggestions and manipulation used by its leaders.

By the way, for the French readers, the original version is highly enjoyable, Le Bon has a very sharp and clear writing style.
 

Gandalf

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Pierre said:
By the way, for the French readers, the original version is highly enjoyable, Le Bon has a very sharp and clear writing style.

Oh DCM, Great ! :dance:

It will be a pleasure to read it in French.
 

Laura

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Thinking about it, it seems that what we see on the internet in trolls and waves of attack on individuals or groups very often is an application of the phenomena Le Bon describes.

Take a look at this:
UK teachers face increasing online abuse from students, parents
http://rt.com/news/uk-teachers-online-abuse-728/

The very public wave of online abuse has been making an impact on teachers’ abilities and mental health.

“Teachers are often devastated by the vile nature of the abuse they are suffering,” said the general secretary of NASUWT, Chris Keates. They “are often traumatized by the attacks made on them through social media. Some have lost their confidence to teach once they see foul and personal remarks made by pupils in their classes and have left the profession.”

“Others have been so disturbed by the comments that their health has been affected,” Keates added.

Now, true, a lot of teachers are not so good, but that's the fault of THEIR education and the hiring/pay system. They are their own kind of crowd, so to say, while the students/parents are an opposing crowd.

The whole freaking society has been spoiled from the foundations up by psychpathology and I just don't think it can be fixed.
 

Gawan

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Thanks for sharing and I have this book since a long time on a wish list but never had a chance to read it, but will do so next.

Here is a free German version available:

_https://archive.org/details/Le-Bon-Gustave-Psychologie-der-Massen
 

loreta

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kalibex said:
Thank you, Laura & Gandalf, for the information about these currently free books.

Yes, thank you very much. Learning is always fun!
 

Buddy

The Living Force
I just finished the book. I'm amazed at the resemblance to Gurdjieff's descriptions of humanity as a whole being mechanical. I also enjoyed the several obvious hints Le Bon gives concerning how the characteristics of a 'psycholgical crowd' so closely match those of an individual functioning in a hypnotic state or otherwise with their 'conscious personality' set aside for whatever reason. Essentially the same as Gurdjieff's description of an individual being unconscious, acting from the tide of forces flowing at the level of the psychological substratum.


Laura said:
Thinking about it, it seems that what we see on the internet in trolls and waves of attack on individuals or groups very often is an application of the phenomena Le Bon describes.

It does seems so and I find myself just as interested in 'deciphering men's motives' in this kind of context as Le Bon was during his time studying the historical accounts of the French Revolution.

As an aside, if anyone's interested, Le Bon's The Psychology of Revolution also adds depth and additional perspectives on what he talks about in Crowds even though he wrote it first, I think. Wonderful stuff!


Laura said:
Take a look at this:
UK teachers face increasing online abuse from students, parents
http://rt.com/news/uk-teachers-online-abuse-728/

The very public wave of online abuse has been making an impact on teachers’ abilities and mental health.

“Teachers are often devastated by the vile nature of the abuse they are suffering,” said the general secretary of NASUWT, Chris Keates. They “are often traumatized by the attacks made on them through social media. Some have lost their confidence to teach once they see foul and personal remarks made by pupils in their classes and have left the profession.”

“Others have been so disturbed by the comments that their health has been affected,” Keates added.

Now, true, a lot of teachers are not so good, but that's the fault of THEIR education and the hiring/pay system. They are their own kind of crowd, so to say, while the students/parents are an opposing crowd.

For the abusers to constitute a 'psychological crowd' in Le Bon's terms, there will be found 'exciting' or 'pre-disposing' incidents or vivid imagery which consists of shared, specific ideas and sentiments that serve to organize and turn a collective mind of abusers toward the purpose of abusing teachers. I'm culling articles for that potential discovery now just from personal interest to find out where the 'prestige' is. Le Bon states the beginning of the end of such a crowd action can be when 'that which cannot be questioned' is indeed questioned and analyzed in depth - and found wanting.

Of course the pattern of activity will remain, the target(s) of abuse will just change, I suppose. :/
 

Anthony

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This book also shows how fallible reductionsim is. What can you learn about
the behavior of the crowd from observing a single individual? Nothing but fool yourself
into thinking that a group of individuals would form a sort of super organism.
 

Gaby

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The Spanish version is available here:

PSICOLOGÍA DE LAS MASAS

Estudio sobre la psicología de las multitudes

_http://www.laeditorialvirtual.com.ar/pages/LeBon/LeBon_PsicologiaDeLasMasas.htm#_Toc88815879
 

Altair

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Just finished the book. It's astounding how timely his ideas are although the book was published in 1895. Isn't the book a candidate for the recommended reading?
 

adam7117

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Going through the book at the moment - it isn't very long but I do find it a bit tricky in places. It has been a while since I read a book written in the older style of English. The language may be more challenging but the contents are outstanding. Looking at the Kindle notes, I appear to have highlighted excerpts from every other page! :rolleyes:

Thanks for the tip.
 

Laura

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Yes, I think it is a must read and should go on our list.

I've peeked into his other works and that was VERY disappointing. He made the huge mistake of thinking that race was the key to ponerization. He didn't realize that any group can be shaped by its leadership (which can be pathological) and environment and that this is the key, NOT racial characteristics.

Later, when I have time, I'll go through the previous book he mentions more carefully to see if there is anything useful to be extracted, but so far, it doesn't look very promising.
 

Gaby

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Just came upon a great quote from this book, just as I was meditating upon the very same subject during these days.

_http://www.brocku.ca/MeadProject/Lebon/LeBon_1895/LeBon_1895_06.html

"In the three stages of instruction, those of childhood, adolescence and youth, the theoretical and pedagogic preparation by books on the school benches has lengthened out and become overcharged in view of the examination, the degree, the diploma, and the certificate, and solely in this view, and by the worst methods, by the application of an unnatural and anti-social regime, by the excessive postponement of the practical apprenticeship, by our boarding-school system, by artificial training and mechanical cramming, by overwork, without thought for the time that is to follow, for the adult age and the functions of the man, without regard for the real world on which the young man will shortly be thrown, for the society in which we move and to which he must be adapted or be taught to resign himself in advance, for the struggle in which humanity is engaged, and in which to defend himself and to keep his footing he ought previously to have been equipped, armed, trained, and hardened. This indispensable equipment, this acquisition of more importance than any other, this sturdy common sense and nerve and will-power our schools do not procure the young Frenchman; on the contrary, far from qualifying him for his approaching and definite state, they disqualify him. In consequence, his entry into the world and his first steps in the field of action are most often merely a succession of painful falls, whose effect is that he long remains wounded and bruised, and sometimes disabled for life. The test is severe and dangerous. In the course of it the mental and moral equilibrium is affected, and runs the risk of not being re-established. Too sudden and complete disillusion has supervened. The deceptions have been too great, the disappointments too keen."

That is precisely the case for many people I've met during the scholar years and it was also my case. Thanks to this network I'm up and running, but it is really a mad world out there and our educational system only prepares us to be slaughtered...
 

Anthony

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Anyone heard of 'The Crowd in Peace and War', by Sir Martin Conway?

With wonderful lucidity and richness of illustration - Sir Martin demonstrates the
following fundamental facts:

(1) The great majority of men are brought up in, and all their lives belong to, certain psychological “crowds”, i.e., groups of people who think, and above all, feel similarly. Such crowds are those of the home, friends and associates, schools and universities, professions, religious sects, political parties, schools of thought, nations, races, and so on. Even those who read the same newspapers or belong to the same club form a psychological “crowd”.

(2) Such crowds are in the main formed by, nourished on, and dominated by feeling or emotion — not by thought.
A crowd has all the emotions, but no intellect: it can feel, but it cannot think. The opinions of crowds are seldom or never reached by reason, but are merely infectious passions which sweep through the whole body like an electric current, these frequently originating from a single brain. Once caught up in the crowd, the individual rapidly loses his power of individual thought and feeling, and becomes one with the crowd, sharing its life, its opinions, its attitudes, prejudices, and the like.

(3) Very few ever have the courage or the strength to break away from the various crowds to which they belong; the vast majority remain all their lives under the sway of the crowds which have absorbed them.

Our author then proceeds to enumerate and describe the various crowd virtues and to show that they differ from the virtues of the individual, being on the whole at a much lower and more primitive level.

Every crowd, being unable to lead itself, needs and finds a leader. Of such leaders there are three main types.

(a) The Crowd-Compeller. He is one who dominates and leads the crowd by imposing upon it his own ideas by the sheer force of his own personality. Examples of this type are Napoleon, Disraeli, Caesar, Charlemagne.

(6) The Crowd-Exponent. This type, totally distinct from the Crowd-Compeller, is one which feels by natural sensitiveness what the crowd feels, or is going to feel, and which expresses in clear and usually graphic language the emotions of the crowd, which on its own account is inarticulate. Such men seldom think out problems for themselves and then proclaim their gospel. Rather they wait for the emotions of the crowd to take form: then they plunge into the thick of the fray and say with eloquence, power and enthusiasm that which people about them are dimly and vaguely feeling. Examples of this type are very common, especially in the field of politics,

(c) The Crowd-Representative. Crowd leaders of this type are picturesque figureheads rather than individual forces. Typical examples are a constitutional king, a consul, an ambassador, a judge (at any rate in England). These men are merely the people, “public opinion”, personified: they speak with the voice of the people, act for them, and stand for them in the sight of the world. They must suppress or conceal their own individual opinions, and appear to feel as the public feels, to act in conformity with the public wishes and sentiments.

The above is the merest sketch of the leading principles enunciated in the extremely able book mentioned, and the student of Sufism is urged to make a careful study of that work for himself. It will help him not only to appreciate more justly the forces by which 'the public' is swayed, but also to assess at their true value many of his own beliefs, opinions and attitudes towards many questions of the day.

It is clearly of the utmost importance that, in all his feelings and thoughts, the student of Sufism should act deliberately and consciously. The Greek saying Gnothi seauton, Know Thyself, is a fine piece of advice, for self-knowledge is absolutely necessary to any candidate for progress. The Sufi should not allow himself to be swept off his feet by becoming; submerged in a collective emotion — or thought-form, which forms a kind of atmosphere through which every thing is seen and by which everything is coloured, and which so manifestly dominates and sways the many crowds amongst which he moves. It is no easy matter to stand against a strong popular bias, owing to the ceaseless beating upon us of the thought-forms and currents of thought which fill the atmosphere: yet the student must learn to do so.

He should, moreover, be able to recognise the various types of crowd-leaders and to refuse to allow himself to be dominated, persuaded or cajoled into accepting ideas or following lines of action unless he does so quite deliberately, and with all his own faculties alert.

The influence of psychological crowds and crowd-leaders in the world today, as well probably as in every age, is very great indeed, and the forces they wield subtle and far-reaching, so that the student who aims at self-mastery and who wishes to lead his own emotional and intellectual life, must be continuously on his guard against these insidious influences.

A study of 'The Crowd in Peace and War' (and The Science of the Emotions by Bhagavan Das) is an invaluable preliminary to the task of training and developing the emotional body till it becomes a useful and obedient servant of the sovereign will of the Self.

A PDF copy can be found for free here:

_https://ia600302.us.archive.org/21/items/crowdinpeaceandw015597mbp/crowdinpeaceandw015597mbp.pdf
 
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