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The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind [Paperback]

Gustave Le Bon
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 8 2002
One of the greatest and most influential books of social psychology ever written, brilliantly instructive on the general characteristics and mental unity of a crowd, its sentiments and morality, ideas, reasoning power, imagination, opinions and much more. A must-read volume  for students of history, sociology, law and psychology.

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The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind + Propaganda + Crystallizing Public Opinion
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Product Description

About the Author

Gustave LeBon (1841-1931) was a French physician who wrote widely on scientific subjects, including anatomy and physiology, anthropology, and history. Many of his writings focused in particular on national traits, crowd behavior, and racial superiority. His numerous books include The Civilization of Arabs, The Psychology of Peoples, and The Crowd.

Robert Nye is George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the department of history at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Crime, Madness and Politics in Modern France: The Medical Concept of National Decline and The Origins of Crowd Psychology: Gustave Le Bon and the Crisis of Mass Democracy in the Third Republic.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More insightful than Macchiavelli Jan. 9 2004
This is a short book whose pages have a far greater impact than the title might suggest. As many reviewers have already noted, the book simply explains the mechanisms that guide the popualr imagination and outlines the simple principles that enable the few who grasp them to hold control over vast populations. What struck me particulalry was how the recipes for power suggested by Gustave Le Bon are reflected in contemporary neo-liberal economic and socio-cultural agendas. Those who are involved in developing education policies will find the book especially useful. Writing over a century ago,Le Bon criticized the liberal education system and advocated the more common sense practical type of learning that neo-liberal agendas have been pushing for since the late 70's. It also makes a strong case for the impact of simple messages over crowds. Common sense arguments, logic and thoughtful concerns, LE Bon argues, are lost on the masses. Indeed, it is widely believed that this was one of Benito Mussolini's favorite books. We are living ever more in an era of simplistic thinking. By reading this book you will understand how this has occurred and how demagogues rise to power. As with another reviewer, I also stay away from crowds. This book unraveled the unconscious instincts that always make me avoid crowds and anything that is too popular.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 9/11 and 'The Crowd' Dec 22 2003
By Stan
I think the reviewer Derek Pillion summed up this book rather well. But I want to relate something that came into my mind after reading the following passage from chapter III:
"A hundred petty crimes or petty accidents will not strike the imagination of crowds in the least, whereas a single great crime or a single great accident will profoundly impress them, even though the results be infinitely less disastrous than those of the hundred small accidents put together.
The epidemic of influenza, which caused the death but a few years ago of five thousand persons in Paris alone, made very little impression on the popular imagination. The reason was that this veritable hecatomb was not embodied in any visible image, but was only learnt from statistical information furnished weekly.
An accident which should have caused the death of only five hundred instead of five thousand persons, but on the same day and in public, as the outcome of an accident appealing stronly to the eye, by the fall for instance of the Eiffel Tower [sic], would have produced, on the contrary, an immense impression on the imagination of the crowd.
... To know the art of impressing the imagination of crowds is to know at the same time the art of governing them."
What came into my mind after reading that passage? Airplanes and collapsing towers. This book is a must read for any thinking person.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why I Avoid Large Groups of People. Aug. 4 2003
By zonaras
_The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind_ by French social theorist Gustave LeBon is a short treatise on the principles of large gatherings of people. As the disclaimer on the title page notes, the ideas in LeBon's book were popular at the time of the late 19th century but are no longer in vogue today. The reasons for this are obvious, as LeBon unpretentiously puts to fault all the rhetoric about "democracy," "equality," "fraternity," and "equality" as being mere catchphrases that self-serving demagouges use to control the spirit of the masses. He cites the French Revoloution and the demands of Socialism and Communism during his time. LeBon outlines the way crowds tend to think (in vivid images illogically connected), how they reason (they don't for all practical purposes), how they express exaggerated emotion, how they are very quick to take action without coherent thought and of the general extreme-conservativism and intolerance of crowds. The individual who becomes part of a crowd tends to loose himself, and feels invincible as he is aware of the similarity of mind and purpose of all those surrounding him. LeBon notes how individuals become unthinking entities of the Herd, and can be unconsciously made to do acts, which can either be of great criminality or heroism. The reasoning of the solitary individual is superior to that of a crowd which has no individuality. All are "equal" in a crowd where, for instance, a mathemetician is caught up in the same spirit as a laborer and class and intelligece differences fall to the lowest common denominator. Read more ›
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By A Customer
As I write this, the President's people are using public opinion polls to find out whether it would better serve his political ends to confess or to continue his denials in the Lewsinky affair. Eerily, this and more was predicted and explained in detail in 1895 (!) by the author of The Crowd.
If you want to understand the political scene today--the decline of statesmanship, the rise of spin-meistership, the mindless polling, the pandering to the electorate, the throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks lowest common denominator pragmatisim of our political leaders--read this book!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars In the Name of Iran
Have you ever wonder why people gang-up on others? Why during Vancouver Riot in 2011, there were people that they had no criminal records or association with crime. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Peyman ADLDOUSTI
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
Great book if you have to deal with the crowd and the popular mind. A quick read but very thought provoking.
Published 5 months ago by Dr. I. F. Jagas
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore Negatives
Some reviewers here have had disparaging remarks about Le Bon's "The Crowd" but I found it very satisfying. Read more
Published on April 8 2001 by Martin J. Riske
5.0 out of 5 stars Important and general
Many will attack the presentation, and fail to bring in the age of the work, not published in English until 1896. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2000 by James Allard
4.0 out of 5 stars worth a look
This book is definitely full of stereotypes and sweeping generalizations. However, that does not negate the value of this study. Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2000
3.0 out of 5 stars pointless, but was the first book on crowd psych
This book is filled with generalizations and class based stereotypes. All of its assertions have been refuted by actual study (see tim couch, coser etc. Read more
Published on Dec 14 1999 by clayton
5.0 out of 5 stars hitler and mussolini
Hitler read this book and Mussolini knew it by heart. Great book if you want to enter politics and control the crowd.
Published on June 22 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and on-target
Granted, much of what Le Bon writes in The Crowd went over my head. At the same time, a good portion is clear enough for the layperson to grasp.
Published on June 18 1999 by C. Anderson
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