The True Believer is a challenging book to read, but an important one. In this book, Eric Hoffer explores the nature of mass movements.
Students of business must be students of human behavior, including mass behavior. What motivates people to become involved in mass movements? What is the profile of the types of individuals that tend to become involved in these movements?
Some of the historical movements Hoffer explores include the spread of Christianity, Nazi Germany, Fascism and communism.
Modern parallels include fanatic Islam groups, Jonestown, militia groups, skinheads, Moonies.
The environment that has nurtured past mass movements has been social decline. For example, a society that had enjoyed prosperity experiencing economic decline. This leads us to concern about the current state of affairs in Japan, Indonesia, Korea and Germany.
The group of people that are most susceptible to being recruited in mass movements are misfits: people who don't feel they fit into the normal social structure. In our current situation, many people who formerly would have found work as manual laborers are being replaced by machines. Some of them are having difficulty earning a decent living. They are jealous and afraid of immigrants who initially arrive as cheap labor competitors and then step up into mainstream society because of a strong education ethic. Our educational standards are being raised to better prepare children for living in a high-technological, high-communication, fast-changing society. But not all people have an aptitude for highly technical skills.
The True Believer is a disturbing book, but one each of us should read so we can be sensitive to the direction of change in our world and respond to avoid more tragedies.
Buy it on Amazon: The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (Perennial Classics).
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