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by Gustave Lebon

  • ISBN: 0554346451
  • Author: Gustave Lebon
  • ePub ver: 1136 kb
  • Fb2 ver: 1136 kb
  • Rating: 4.1 of 5
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 188
  • Publisher: BiblioLife (August 18, 2008)
  • Formats: lrf lrf mobi txt
  • Category: Fitness
  • Subcategory: Psychology & Counseling
epub The Crowd download

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (French: Psychologie des Foules; literally: Psychology of Crowds) is a book authored by Gustave Le Bon that was first published in 1895.

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (French: Psychologie des Foules; literally: Psychology of Crowds) is a book authored by Gustave Le Bon that was first published in 1895.

Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931), a French social psychologist, is often seen as the father of the study of crowd psychology

Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931), a French social psychologist, is often seen as the father of the study of crowd psychology. Le Bon believed an understanding of crowd psychology was essential for a proper understating of the both history and the nature of man. As he wrote in his classic and highly influential work The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind: It is crowds rather than isolated individuals that may be induced to run the risk of death to secure the triumph of a creed or an idea, that may be fired with enthusiasm for glory and honour.

Le Bon provides entertaining analysis of the characteristics of crowds. The Crowd is the most highlighted book on my kindle. His primary thesis is that crowds become entities that surpass any of the individual members and essentially take on a life of their own. He also provides compelling details about the types of men that rise to govern and lead crowds. It is as depressing as it is uplifting; I do not recommend it to people with weak stomachs or to naive humanists with delusions about the inherent goodness of humanity.

Gustav Le Bon's The Crowd is not only a classic, but one of the best-selling scientific books in social psychology and collective behavior ever written. Here, Le Bon analyzes the nature of crowds and their role in political movements

Gustav Le Bon's The Crowd is not only a classic, but one of the best-selling scientific books in social psychology and collective behavior ever written. Here, Le Bon analyzes the nature of crowds and their role in political movements. He presents crowd behavior as a problem of science and power, a natural phenomenon with practical implications. Originally published in 1895, Le Bon's was the first to expand the scope of inquiry beyond criminal crowds to include all possible kinds of collective phenomena

More books by Gustave le Bon. (view all). The Psychology of Revolution.

he ancients denominated destiny, nature, or providence, which we call the voices of the dead, and whose power it is impossible to overlook, although we ignore their essence. It would seem, at times, as if there were latent forces in the inner being of nations which serve to guide them. More books by Gustave le Bon.

Analyzing the psychology of crowds, Le Bon explains in details two fundamental elements that everybody should know .

Analyzing the psychology of crowds, Le Bon explains in details two fundamental elements that everybody should know and assimilate: 1) A crowd is a crowd. Whatever it is composed of idiots or savants, a crowd is an anonymous mass, a shapeless monster that brings to the surface the most basic, primal and violent instincts of its members. What causes people to become acquiescent, and in many cases participate in the oppression of others?

Gustave Le Bon. Publication date. Book digitized by Google and uploaded to the Internet Archive by user tpb.

Gustave Le Bon. Addeddate.

Gustave Le Bon (1841–1931) was a French social psychologist, sociologist, anthropologist, inventor, and amateur physicist. He is best known for his 1895 work The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. His writings incorporate theories of national traits, racial and male superiority, herd behavior and crowd psychology.

This is a pre-1923 historical reproduction that was curated for quality. Quality assurance was conducted on each of these books in an attempt to remove books with imperfections introduced by the digitization process. Though we have made best efforts - the books may have occasional errors that do not impede the reading experience. We believe this work is culturally important and have elected to bring the book back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide.
Comments (7)

I was drawn to this book because it was mentioned many times in Ann Coulter's book DEMONIC (which is a must-read). LeBon was a sociologist who studied human behavior, and he recorded his insights into the life of "crowds" (including political ones) in this short volume. There are many insights here that apply to things we've recently seen in the news, such as Obama's 2008 campaign, the union uprisings in Wisconsin, etc. But one thing you should know, which Coulter fails to mention, is that LeBon was a rampant atheist (typical of his French generation) who sees religion as one manifestation of the uninformed "crowd mind." But he's also critical of how the actions of crowds have stained the history of France (1789, 1870, etc.).

This Kindle edition is adequate for reading, and includes footnotes within the body of the text (which is helpful).
I just finished this book for the second time. Each time I've read this was while a Presidential Election season (2008 & 2012) was underway. Although the book was written 116 years ago in 1896, the author, Gustave Le Bon, was obviously a brilliant mind with a mastery of his subject and the ability and dedication needed to produce a concise and systematic study of the psychology and persuasion of the popular mind.

I can't praise the author enough. This is classic literature and poetry. It is a brilliant analysis of a timeless subject made before certain conventional wisdoms of psychology had even been firmly established. And it makes accommodations for predictable variability's in human behavior, which makes this book accessible to future generations and as timeless as the subject it studies.

It's as if the Obama Campaign has implemented this book's instructions perfectly. For example, the book, among other things, instructs the following:

"The possession of prestige does not suffice, however, to assure the success of a candidate. The electors tickles in particular for the flattery of his greed and vanity. He must be overwhelmed with the most extravagant blandishments, and there must be no hesitation in making him the most fantastic promises. If he is a working man it is impossible to go too far in insulting and stigmatising employers of labour. As for the rival candidate, an effort must be made to destroy his chance by establishing by dint of
affirmation, repetition, and contagion that he is an arrant scoundrel, and that it is a matter of common knowledge that he has been guilty of several crimes...."

"The candidate's written programme should not be too categorical, since later on his adversaries might bring it up against him; in his verbal programme, however, there cannot be too much exaggeration. The most important reforms may be fearlessly promised. At the moment they are made these exaggerations produce a great effect, and they are not binding for the future, it being a matter of constant observation that the elector never troubles himself to know how far the candidate he has returned has followed out the electoral programme he applauded, and in virtue of which the election was supposed to have been secured...".

"The candidate who hits on a new formula as devoid as possible of precise meaning, and apt in consequence to flatter the most varied aspirations, infallibly obtains a success...."

The ONLY negatives--and I feel finding some potential flaw is obligatory--would a somewhat bigoted bias of the writer as well as the inconvenience of the book being over 100 years old. On the latter point, I've already said, the author was brilliant enough and the subject timeless enough that the book basically time a particular place in time.

On the former point, he made a couple of questionable assertions such as women and children are inferior. Well, it is nice to at least get a look at a time before political correctness has overtaken a subject so that we could consider the question that existed before the question itself was eliminated by the power political correctness.

Most people would balk at that assertion without even thinking about it. Myself, on the other hand, would say that we he is implicitly suggesting here is that he doesn't value an emotionally biased person as much as a rationality biased person.

In this sense at least, his assertion is logical and a statement of opinion to which he's entitled. However, I disagree and believe people who are more emotional may be taken for granted more, which doesn't mean that aren't as important.

Otherwise, read this book and read it now while the questions it addresses are most relevant to the present.

Fine Stars *****

James R. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D.
© February 16, 20012

This is the second of three reviews of Le Bon's works. The first was, "The Psychology of Peoples" (1894). Reviewed here is "The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind" (1896). The third will be "The Psychology of Revolution" (1913).

Gustave Le Bon was born on May 7, 1841 before either the American Civil War or the French Revolution. He lived into his ninety-second year dying on December 13, 1931, after the First World War, but shortly before Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. The Nazi dictator used Le Bon's psychology to hypnotize the German people to his purposes.

The Frenchman, a trained physician, followed his bliss, which was sociology and social psychology expounding on theories of crowd psychology, national traits and herd behavior. He also pursued the hard sciences, but it was in the soft sciences that his reputation was made.


You read this book in light of the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street moment, the removal of the dictators in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt, and the ensuing vacuum of instability and chaos that has followed, and you cannot help but realize nothing has changed regarding the crowd since the pondering of Gustave Le Bon.

He says at the outset that as mentally inferior as crowds are it is dangerous to meddle with their construction, as social organisms are as complicated as any organism making it unwise to force it, attempt to transform it, or to interfere with it. He writes, "Nature has recourse at times to radical measures, but never after our fashion, which explains how it is that nothing is more fatal to a people than the mania for great reforms."

The study of crowds must consider how they relate to practical reason and pure reason, and whether they take fictitious shapes or real shapes, and if they display theoretical values or practical values. Behind these, it is important also to assist whether they are guided by visible facts or invisible causes. Crowds are eerie in that they rise out of ancient mysterious forces such as destiny, nature and providence, as if the soul of the crowd comes from voices of the dead.

Adding to the intrigue, Le Bon insists, the ideas that feed the frenzy of the crowd emanate from solitary minds. He asks the rhetorical question, "Is it not the genius of the crowds that has furnished the thousands of grains of dust forming the soil in which they have sprung up?"

Behind the societal upheavals are profound modifications in the ideas of the peoples. "The memorable events of history are the visible effects of the invisible changes in human thought."

Fundamental to this transformation is the destruction of those religious, political and social beliefs upon which the society is rooted and has become outmoded. This transformation is accelerated by modern scientific and industrial discoveries that upset the norms, change relationships and social contracts. Because the old still has relevance and is not totally destroyed, and the new has not yet been firmly established, it is a dangerous and chaotic period in transition of palpable anarchy.

Evidence that society is in the "Era of the Crowd" is the crumbling of the pillars of institutional society seemingly without recourse. Nothing menaces the crowd in its senseless spread of chaos and disruption then not to be taken seriously.

The crowd has no mind, no heart, or theoretical underpinning. It procures its ideas in an eclectic association of disparate interests like a rebel without a cause, an amorphous configuration without a leader stumbling forward with cries of desperation.

The crowd stumbles forward with illusions of what science and economic transformation has destroyed. It was true in Le Bon's time as it is true today, as technological society struggles to adjust to a digital age. "Science promised us truth, or at least knowledge of such relations as our intelligence can seize. It never promised us peace or happiness."

The power of crowds is demonstrated in the Arab Spring, but for Le Bon, some one hundred years ago, the advent to power of the masses marked the last stages of Western civilization.

Societies become worn out with their moral forces losing strength along with convictions. He claims a small intellectual aristocracy, but never a crowd has always directed civilization through periods of history. Crowds are destroyers of civilizations, which is their only power.

The leaders of crowds who become founders of religions, political movements and ideologies have always been, according to him, unconscious psychologists possessed of an instinctive but sure knowledge of the character of the crowd.

Mao Zedong's "Long March" fits this description. In October 1934 over a period of 370 days and 12,500 miles, Mao marched his Red Army of the Communist Party from Jiangxi to Shaanxi, China. This ramshackle army was on the brink of annihilation by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek's troops, and escaped with only one-tenth of its army at the end of the march. Mao had however formulated a strategy during this year that would unite China into a single communist nation. The rest is history.

On the other hand, Napoleon had a marvelous understanding of the psychology of the French people, but completely misunderstood the psychology of crowds belonging to other races. Mao did something that no previous Chinese leader had ever done. He united a huge country with many dialects and cultures, as well as ethnicities into a nation.

The psychology of crowds has little respect for laws and institutions, and is powerless to hold opinions other than those imposed upon them. Given this, crowds are best led by seeking what first makes an impression and then seduces them. Logic or rational thinking has no sway. What may be best is to champion crowds as victims displayed in a vision of how to destroy the victimizers.

The mind of crowds is a sacrificial personality at the start as it is driven by the unconscious. It is a dumbing down of crowds' collective intelligence replaced by a pervasive sentiment so that crowds, "Can be as easily heroic as criminal."

Once the conscious personality vanishes the collective mind is formed. This results in the crowd forming into a single being. This finds a number of individuals accidentally side by side with dissimilar socioeconomic status, education, interests and authority taking on the character of true believers. Thoughts and feelings are no longer theirs, but are now other-directed if a crowd is to be, but Le bon warns:

"At certain moments half a dozen men might constitute a psychological crowd, which may not happen in the case of hundreds of men gathered together by accident."

In the 1960s, Swiss mathematician Rudolf Starkermann expressed in mathematical physics how the psychology of a group of four or more changes, which corroborates Le Bon's theoretical hypothesis.

Le Bon differentiates between heterogeneous and homogeneous crowds. He sees them merging into a common collective mind, first by the nature and intensity of the exciting causes, and then the uniformity of the environment creating a consistency of characters. Ultimately, this "makes them feel, think, and act in a manner quite different from that in which each individual of them would feel, think, and act were he in a state of isolation." He concludes, the psychological crowd is a provisional being, "which for a moment are combined exactly as the cells which constitute a living body."

Le Bon then suggests that none of us can escape hidden motives and that "the most eminent of men seldom surpass the standard of the most ordinary individuals."

Ergo, crowds "can only bring to bear in common the work in hand those mediocre qualities which are the birthright of every average individual. In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated."

That said he adds, "An assembly of men of distinction, but specialists in different walks of life, are not sensibly superior to the decisions that would be adopted by a gathering of imbeciles."

He makes this claim because: (1) the sentiment of responsibility that controls individuals disappears in a crowd: (2) individuals readily sacrifice their personal interests to the collective interests of the crowd; and (3) cause is a suggestive contagion that may be quite contrary to that of the individuals.

The conscious personality gone, the magnetic influence of the crowd paralyzing the brain with hypnotic zeal, behavior is reduced, zombie like, to a hypnotic trance.

In terms of morality and sentiment, the crowd is a retreat into the primitive as it is driven by unconscious motives subject to obeying generous or cruel dispositions to action, as self-preservation no longer dominates behavior. This finds the individual in the crowd vacillating between being a willing executioner or martyr. Crowds move by momentum and are as incapable of willing as thinking for any length of time.

Crowds, Le Bon sees, are distinguished by feminine characteristics, but never more pronounced than among Latin peoples. It is why women often dominate the initial phases of crowds.

Suggestibility and credulity are fundamental to crowds who are inattentive to detail and prefer easy explanations to their causes as they hover on the "borderland of unconscious," as the improbable does not exist for a crowd.

Le Bon calls this the "imagination of a throng," as a crowd thinks in images. These images are often so incoherent to reason, "that they are almost always blind to truth," confusing these images with real events refiguring action of the imagination to invoke reality in the mind. This amounts to "collective hallucination." "From the moment that they form part of a crowd the learned man and the ignoramus are equally incapable of observation."

Whether the feelings of a crowd are good or bad, they cannot differentiate between simplicity and exaggeration, as "a throng knows neither doubt nor uncertainty." Likewise, with an absence of responsible behavior going forward, there is a sense of impunity. "In crowds the foolish, ignorant, and envious persons are freed from the sense of their insignificance and powerlessness, and are possessed instead by the notion of brutal and temporary but immense strength."

Crowds are intolerant, dictatorial, and will not entertain, discuss, or accept any contradiction to their cause, as it is self-justified. "The type of hero dear to crowds will always have the semblance of a Caesar. His insignia attracts them, his authority overawes them, and his sword instills them with fear."

Le Bon insists, however, that the crowd once abandoned to itself, weary of disorder, will instinctively gravitate to servitude, as a crowd is profoundly conservative and instinctively vulnerable to depersonalization.

Moral purpose may seed the crowd but it is too impulsive and mobile to be moral for any length of time. A crowd may be guilty of murder but it may also be capable of lofty acts of devotion.

Le Bon takes the reader through the landscape of the ideas, reasoning power and imagination of crowds, suggesting that every civilization rose out of some kind of a crowd. He shows how accidental and passing ideas created by the moment sometimes coalesce into a movement. This takes the right experiences, the right climate, and the right laws of heredity, the right beliefs and biases to solidify into a magnetic cause. It happened with Christianity, Islamism, and Judaism.

On the other hand, "The philosophical ideas which resulted in the French Revolution took nearly a century to implant themselves in the mind of the crowd." It is why ideas adopted by crowds are always several generations behind when philosophers first agonized over them.

Le Bon is emphatic in saying crowds do not reason and are not to be influenced by reasoning. They cherry pick ideas that fit their cause being disinterested in the connections or contradictions.

He examines remote factors that influence beliefs of crowds, systematically exploring races, traditions, the times, political, social and educational institutions, then applies these attributes to images, illusions, experience and reason.

Le Bon's ideas on the leadership of crowds and the nature of that persuasion have traction with our times. Every living creature, he claims, instinctively gravitates to an authority figure or chief. This chief is usually nothing more than a ringleader or agitator with whom the crowd can identify.

Leaders invariably begin as complete followers totally hypnotized by the power of ideas. Robespierre, a leader in the French Revolution, was hypnotized by the philosophical ideas of Rousseau, including the philosophers Inquisition to propagate them.

"Leaders are men of action rather than thinkers" They "are commonly recruited from the ranks and files of those morbidly nervous, excitable, half-deranged persons who are bordering on madness." Psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi explores this theory in "A First-Rate Madness" (2011). Ghaemi uncovers the links between leadership and mental illness of such leaders as Napoleon, Lincoln, Churchill, Hitler, Gandhi, FDR and JFK.

Crowds respond to leaders who display excitable, absurd even half deranged ideas because crowds are always ready to listen to the strong willed charismatic person who instinctively posses the qualities crowds lack.

Leaders of crowds have a gift of subtle rhetoric, an instinct for flattery, a fascination with creed, if not a deep devotion to it, and an ability to create pictures with words. "In every social sphere, from the highest to the lowest, as soon as a man ceases to be isolated he speedily falls under the influence of a leader."

The leader serves as the guide to the crowd to where it thinks it wants to go. It should come as no surprise that such leaders wield despotic authority. They understand the need of the crowd not for liberty but for servitude that is always predominant in the soul of the crowd. "Such men are leaders who cannot exercise their function except on the condition that they be led themselves, and continually stimulated, that they have always as their beacon a man or an idea, that they follow a line of conduct clearly traced."

St. Paul and Mahomet typically demonstrate crowd leadership. They understood the world belongs to the passionate with it mattering little whether the leader is intelligent or narrow-minded as long as he is persistence to the fiber of his being.

The means of action are simple. Le Bon sees they follow a clearly defined formula: affirmation, repetition and contagion. Affirmation is based on a jingle that resonates. Take the Occupy Wall Street crowd with its, "One percent dictating to the ninety nine percent." It doesn't have to have initial validity but attains this after repeated repetition, ultimately becoming a contagion to the crowd.

Christianity is an established religion with prestige and dignity, but the early founders were outcasts, riff raft and considered dregs of society. Persistence, affirmation, repetition and martyrdom found it a powerful contagion in which special interests disappeared under its constant action.

"This is the explanation of the fact that every opinion adopted by the populace always ends in implanting itself with great vigor in the highest social strata, however obvious be the absurdity of the triumphant opinion. This reaction of the lower upon the higher social classes is the more curious, owing to the circumstances that the beliefs of the crowd always have their origin in a greater or lesser extent in some higher idea."

True, leaders of crowds are agitators and propagate to the masses a process of deformation of popular truths, but in the long run, once the crowd is assimilated into a new identity in the populace, intelligence shapes the destiny of the world, if indirectly. By that time, philosophers have been shelved and people start behaving as if the new status quo has always existed.

One of the constant tragedies of leaders of crowds is backlash.

"Every successful man, every idea that forces itself into recognition, ceases, ipso facto, to be called in question. The proof that success is one of the principal stepping stones to prestige is that the disappearance of the one is almost always followed by the disappearance of the other. The herd whom the crowd acclaimed yesterday is insulted today should he have been overtaken by failure.

Robespierre launched the "Reign of Terror," putting literally thousands to death on the blade of the guillotine only to be so executed himself. He became more regal than the fallen king, and expected to be treated as a god. "Believers always break the statues of their former gods with every symptom of fury."

If by this point you are intrigued with the scope and penetrating wit of Le Bon, the balance of the book will take you into the arena of politics, fixed beliefs and changeable opinions of crowds with reference to the similarity and differences between heterogeneous and homogeneous crowds. Le Bon doesn't dodge the problem of tranquil crowds that turn criminal, or how men of fair judgment can be seduced by the mania of the crowd despite their intelligence, breeding and education.

We are becoming an increasingly class conscience society with a clash of peoples. Le Bon has something sobering to say about this.

"The power of crowds is to be dreaded, but the power of certain castes is to be dreaded yet more. Crowds are open to conviction, castes never are"

You don't think caste exists in these United States? Look up the Webster's New World College Dictionary, and read the second, third and fourth definitions of the word, and tell me you don't fear American society is vulnerable today.

* * *
I was completely disappointed with this book. I was expecting more of the incredible insights contained in another late 1800's book that I'd just read, Theory of the Leisure Class, by Thorstein Veblen, but Le Bon's book was in no way comparable. I don't know what kind of crowds he studied, but his observations about individuals becoming more stupid in a crowd didn't register with me as a revelation. By the end of the book I thought of him as the Rush Limbaugh of the late 1800s.

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