The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements

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The True Believer
Cover of the 2002 First Perennial Classics Edition
Author(s) Eric Hoffer
Cover artist Base Art Co./Terry Rohrbach
Country United States of America
Language English
Genre(s) Sociology
Publisher Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Publication year 1951
Pages 177
ISBN 9780060505912

Cover Text

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. Completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today, The True Believer is a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one.

"True Beliver" theory

Regarding the "True Believer" theory claimed by the book, see the article True Believer.

About the Author

Eric Hoffer (1902 -- 1983) was self-educated. He worked in restaurants, as a migrant fieldworker, and as a gold prospector. After Pearl Harbor, he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco for twenty-five years. The author of more than ten books, including The Passionate State of Mind, The Ordeal of Change, and The Temper of Our Time, Eric Hoffer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Part I The Appeal of Mass Movements

  • I. The Desire for Change 3
  • II. The Desire for Substitutes 12
  • III. The Interchangeability of Mass Movements 16

Part II The Potential Converts

  • IV. The Role of the Undesirables in Human Affairs 24
  • V. The Poor 26
  • The New Poor 26
  • The Abjectly Poor 27
  • The Free Poor 31
  • The Creative Poor 34
  • The Unified Poor 34
  • VI Misfits 46
  • VII The Inordinately Selfish 48
  • VIII The Ambitious Facing Unlimited Opportunities 49
  • IX Minorities 50
  • X The Bored 51
  • XI The Sinners 53

Part III United Action and Self-sacrifice

  • XII Preface 58
  • XIII Factors Promoting Self-sacrifice 62
  • Identification With a Collective Whole 62
  • Make Believe 66
  • Depreciation of the Present 68
  • "Things Which Are Not 76
  • Doctrines 79
  • Fanaticism 83
  • Mass Movements and Armies 88
  • XIV Unifying Agents 91
  • Hatred 91
  • Imitation 101
  • Persuasion and Coercion 105
  • Leadership 111
  • Action 120
  • Suspicion 124
  • The Effects of Unification 126

Part IV Beginning and End

  • XV Men of Words 130
  • XVI The Fanatics 143
  • XVII The Practical Men of Action 147
  • XVIII God and Bad Mass Movements 153
  • The Unattractiveness and Sterility of the Active Phase 153
  • Some Factors Which Determine the Length of the Active Phase 157
  • Useful Mass Movements 162
  • Notes 169

Other Works by this Author

Publication Data

The True Believer, Eric Hoffer, 1951, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, ISBN 9780060505912

External Links