Eric Hoffer wrote in the 1940s about the mass movements such as the rise of the Bolshevists, the Fascists and the Nazis, but he seemed to be describing the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Arab Spring, and the current populist movements such as Brexit.
Demonstration in Tunisia
We may say that he was a prophet, but more accurately, he had isolated the ingredients that make up mass movements. He understood that mixing discontent for the present and hope for the future breeds a desire for change. He understood that a person plunges into a mass movement to dissolve his/her hated self and to replace it with a grand and almost immortal collective self. He understood the psychology of those who would tend to become followers, as well as those who would seize the chance to lead the movements. He discovered the phases of mass movements and the types of individuals who would lead, from the intellectuals to the fanatics to the pragmatists. He discovered self-sacrifice and unifying actions as the key ingredients to sustaining and advancing mass movements.
Hoffer’s The True Believer is required reading for our age, when populist movements dominate the global arena. It will give us insights into the who, what and how of these mass movements, insights that would help us navigate through our times.