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The legacy of Eric Hoffer
Town Hall ^ | 18/6/03 | Thomas Sowell

Posted on 08/06/2013 10:16:58 AM PDT by Eleutheria5

The twentieth anniversary of the death of Eric Hoffer, in May 1983, passed with very little notice of one of the most incisive thinkers of his time -- a man whose writings continue to have great relevance to our times.

How many people today even know of this remarkable man with no formal schooling, who spent his life in manual labor -- most of it as a longshoreman -- and who wrote some of the most insightful commentary on our society and trends in the world?

You need only read one of his classics like The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements to realize that you are seeing the work of an intellectual giant.

Having spent several years in blindness when most other children were in school, Hoffer could only do manual labor after he recovered his sight, but was determined to educate himself. He began by looking for a big book with small print to take with him as he set out on a job as a migratory farm worker.

The book that turned out to fill this bill -- based on size and words -- was the essays of Montaigne. Over the years, he read many landmark books, including Hitler's Mein Kampf, even though Hoffer was Jewish. If ever there was a walking advertisement for the Great Books approach to education, it was Eric Hoffer.

Among Hoffer's insights about mass movements was that they are an outlet for people whose individual significance is meager in the eyes of the world and -- more important -- in their own eyes. He pointed out that the leaders of the Nazi movement were men whose artistic and intellectual aspirations were wholly frustrated.

.....

(Excerpt) Read more at townhall.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Miscellaneous; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: erichoffer; hoffer; longshoreman; ordealofchange; sowell; truebeliever
An old article by yet another intellectual giant, Mr. Sowell, that I post here only because I just finished reading Hoffer's Ordeal of Change, only the second book that I've read of his, the first being The True Believer.
1 posted on 08/06/2013 10:16:58 AM PDT by Eleutheria5
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To: Eleutheria5

I love Hoffer and I have read him for years.


2 posted on 08/06/2013 10:22:19 AM PDT by SMARTY ("The test of every religious, political, or educational system is the man that it forms." H. Amiel)
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To: Eleutheria5

Hoffer missed out on formal schooling. No wonder he turned out to be so well-educated and wise.


3 posted on 08/06/2013 10:23:39 AM PDT by Pining_4_TX (All those who were appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:48)
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To: Eleutheria5

Truly, for those who have never read his books, Hoffer is a great treasure who should be discovered. His books are short and accessible and filled with great insight.


4 posted on 08/06/2013 10:26:24 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy (21st century. I'm not a fan.)
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To: ClearCase_guy

He ranks up there with Lin Yu Tang among the great neglected thinkers of the 20th Century. Can’t wait to read more of him.


5 posted on 08/06/2013 10:28:33 AM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: ClearCase_guy

Perhaps now more than ever Hoffers books should be compulsory reading.... in non government schools

I cat find it presently but I loved his presentation of the young nazi’s statement about why he had joined the nazi party.....to BE somebody...

Perhaps this thread, should it continue on long enough will end up as a big fat google reference to Hoffer...and a few not utterly commited obama zombies may be HELPED!


6 posted on 08/06/2013 10:32:07 AM PDT by MeshugeMikey (Chicago Murder Updates..http://homicides.redeyechicago.com/)
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To: SMARTY

Introduced to him by my 10th. grade Civics and Social Studies teacher. A very conservative fellow who no doubt would be drummed out of the school system today.


7 posted on 08/06/2013 10:39:16 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: Eleutheria5
His opening to Chapter XV:

“Mass movements do not usually rise until the prevailing order has been discredited.”

Only the shell of our thoroughly discredited republic remains. It is time.

8 posted on 08/06/2013 10:44:19 AM PDT by Jacquerie (To restore the 10th Amendment, repeal the 17th.)
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To: Eleutheria5

I read the headline as “The Legacy of Eric Holder” and kept waiting for him to make it in. Great article though. We’re incorporating “The Great Books” style into our kids’ education.


9 posted on 08/06/2013 10:45:53 AM PDT by demshateGod (The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.)
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To: Eleutheria5

“How many people today even know of this remarkable man with no formal schooling, who spent his life in manual labor.”

I was on my way to Vietnam and mentioned how much I respected Eric Hoffer to my dad. The next thing I know all of his books arrived in the mail in Vietnam. Dad had found his phone number and called him to share my admiration and find out where he could buy the books for me. This brings tears to my eyes because my dad worked so hard all his life as a Signal Maintainer for the SP but was a voracious reader.


10 posted on 08/06/2013 10:46:04 AM PDT by Portcall24
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To: ClearCase_guy

His works are a standard in my hard copy library.


11 posted on 08/06/2013 10:52:48 AM PDT by Noumenon (What would Michael Collins do?)
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To: Jacquerie

“Only the shell of our thoroughly discredited republic remains. It is time.”

But the possible mass movements that continuously recruit the misfits and losers of society are Islam, OWS, and angry black people. We on the right are too happy with our respective lots to join a mass movement, so we are prime candidates to become their victims.


12 posted on 08/06/2013 10:54:57 AM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: ClearCase_guy
One of Hoffer's incisive insights:

"It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from their sense of inadequacy and impotence. We cannot win the weak by sharing our wealth with them. They feel our generosity as oppression."

Our ruling class are all enablers of the tyranny of the weak; they use it to their advantage.

13 posted on 08/06/2013 10:57:01 AM PDT by Noumenon (What would Michael Collins do?)
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To: Noumenon

It’s why they dig Islam. That and oil.


14 posted on 08/06/2013 11:05:35 AM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: Eleutheria5
Hoffer's discussion of the psychology of the "true believer," paints a picture quite consistent with the "reasoning" of many of those caught up in the Obama movement. It is not about anything supported by analysis of social problems or conditions--rather more about those who feel inadequate to deal with reality, puffing themselves up with whatever cause is handy.

William Flax

15 posted on 08/06/2013 11:20:11 AM PDT by Ohioan
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To: Noumenon
Your Hoffer quote is indeed incisive; the point observable throughout the history of collectivist/egalitarian tyranny, whether Jacobin, Marxist, Bolshevik, Nazi or Obamanistic.

But who are you referring to as our "ruling class." The political "leadership" is riddled with people described in the quotation--as are many in the upper echelons of Corporate management--not, all, to be sure, but certainly those who pose as great public benefactors by uncritically going along with the agenda of those who propose more centralized power as the answer to all human problems.

Being managed by demagogues, not reasoned analysis, is a characteristic not only of the "true believer," but those who do not need a cause, but are afraid to stand up to those who do. (Consider, for example, Corporate leaders from whom Jesse Jackson has successfully extorted large sums. Or consider those wealthy people who "enthusiastically" have funded Obama's attack on American tradition!)

William Flax

16 posted on 08/06/2013 11:30:53 AM PDT by Ohioan
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To: Noumenon
tyranny of the weak

I really have no idea what Hoffer thought of Ayn Rand, and I don't know what Ayn Rand thought of Hoffer -- but this concept is basically what Rand's "sanction of the victim" amounts to.

I have never liked her choice of words or her expanation of the concept. I think I get her concept, but her explanation of it never pleased me. Your extract from Hoffer is much cleaner and more direct. The ruling class uses weak people are a lever through which power can be exerted against people who are not weak.

17 posted on 08/06/2013 11:32:49 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy (21st century. I'm not a fan.)
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To: Eleutheria5

One of my favorite liberals.


18 posted on 08/06/2013 11:52:35 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks ("Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth.")
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To: demshateGod

Eric Holder’s legacy will one day be to sing the Fulsom Prison Blues while being made a fellow inmate’s bitch.


19 posted on 08/06/2013 1:39:32 PM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: MeshugeMikey
I cat find it presently but I loved his presentation of the young nazi’s statement about why he had joined the nazi party.....to BE somebody...

NAh...

That was Marlon in On the Waterfront.

20 posted on 08/06/2013 2:07:28 PM PDT by Elsie (Heck is where people, who don't believe in Gosh, think they are not going...)
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To: Noumenon
WOW!
21 posted on 08/06/2013 2:09:23 PM PDT by Elsie (Heck is where people, who don't believe in Gosh, think they are not going...)
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To: Ohioan

Obama’s cause, however, is not the sort that will hold a true believer for long. Let’s say socialized medicine is here to stay. What is the next grand crusade? Protecting socialized medicine? Defending gays in the military and gay marriage? The active phase of his “movement” is too short, the aftermath, too mundane to keep the true believers busy. Besides, it’s falling apart. He supported Arab Spring and the MB’s involvement, and it’s blowing up in his face. And when things blow up in the middle east, the price of gas at the pump ultimately goes up, and people get pissed. He might just sew enough discontent among the middle class to cause an anti-Obama mass movement, and finish like Mussolini, and the active phase of that movement would be stringing up his dispirited ex-true believers wherever they’re found. It won’t be pretty, but it might just have staying power where Obamania will ultimately ebb and fade.


22 posted on 08/06/2013 2:09:25 PM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: Eleutheria5
What is the next grand crusade?

Slaughter, atrocity and mass murder against the regime's 'undesirables'. That's what's next. History is my witness.

23 posted on 08/06/2013 2:14:36 PM PDT by Noumenon (What would Michael Collins do?)
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To: Noumenon
We cannot win the weak by sharing our wealth with them. They feel our generosity as oppression.

I can't seem to reconcile this with the outrageous success the Left has had in buying off the weak via social welfare. The weak seem to be grateful and empowered by the handouts.

24 posted on 08/06/2013 2:30:31 PM PDT by Vision Thing (He has a white house, and he wants to paint it black.)
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To: Vision Thing

The ruling class is adept at directing the hate and resentment of the weak against the good and the productive. That’s how it works.


25 posted on 08/06/2013 2:32:34 PM PDT by Noumenon (What would Michael Collins do?)
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To: Noumenon

I need to think through this because it seems important.

This is the first I’ve heard of Hoffer, and I’m under the impression he speaks on behalf of the ruling class that is trying to win over or manipulate the weak, but they can’t do this by sharing the wealth, as per his quote in your post.

Thanks for your post in 13: Both the quote and your explanation of it are mind blowing!


26 posted on 08/06/2013 2:50:43 PM PDT by Vision Thing (He has a white house, and he wants to paint it black.)
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To: Noumenon

First he has to disarm and silence them. His last attempt failed. They have the tradition of resistance that Hoffer said is important for those who would stand up against totalitarianism. Even someone who stands alone against oppression is in the company of his ancestors in America.


27 posted on 08/06/2013 2:57:41 PM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: Vision Thing

Eric Hoffer’s worth every bit of your time and contemplation. I used his books to instruct and inform our kids.


28 posted on 08/06/2013 2:59:33 PM PDT by Noumenon (What would Michael Collins do?)
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To: Eleutheria5

“Hoffer’s insights may help explain something that many of us have found very puzzling — the offspring of wealthy families spending their lives and their inherited money backing radical movements.”

Ain’t that the truth - history is full of examples from Lenin to Bill Ayres to OWS.


29 posted on 08/06/2013 3:26:26 PM PDT by aquila48
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To: Vision Thing

They riot over jury verdicts. They believe they are entitled to more, and this is just crumbs from the table of the reparations they are owed. They feel oppressed because of ever-decreasing-in-severity offenses by ‘the man,’ because sometimes one of their own gets shot by a policeman, because middle-class white women hold their purses close to them as they pass. I’ve lived in poor neighborhoods for years, and never yet met a grateful welfare recipient.


30 posted on 08/06/2013 3:27:40 PM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: Noumenon

Also, according to Hoffer there has to be some grand mythical vision of the future to motivate mass murder. What’s their grand vision, that would make them willing to do all that? 12th Imam doesn’t work for leftists, and they stopped believing in the ultimate triumph of the proletariat when the modern day proletariats in America turned against them. Their real allies now are the lumpenproletariats, for whom Marx had nothing but contempt. What messianic vision is left? There’s been a black president, black mayors, black governors, corporate executives, etc., but no paradise on earth that can be made up and believed in. It’s all just muddling through for them now.


31 posted on 08/06/2013 7:31:46 PM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: Noumenon
They feel our generosity as oppression."

That also holds true with foreign aid, though oppression may not be quite the word.

32 posted on 08/06/2013 7:44:05 PM PDT by RobinOfKingston (Democrats--the party of Evil. Republicans--the party of Stupid.)
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To: Eleutheria5
Don't forget "the Passionate State of Mind."

I keep copies of The True Believer around to pass along to friends, and my own copy of "Ordeal" is getting pretty dog-eared.

I could easily become a True Believer in The True Believer. Imagine if Hoffer's work had been more generally applied following 9-11. The history of the past decade might have been radically different if Islam had been understood in the context of a Hofferian mass movement.

No one had a better fix on why Germany arose under the Nazis than Hoffer.

33 posted on 08/06/2013 8:23:41 PM PDT by Prospero (Si Deus trucido mihi, ego etiam fides Deus.)
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To: Prospero

Muslims are the same as the Nazis. Same pathological disorders at work, as described by Hoffer. I haven’t yet come across Passionate State of Mind, but I always end up around second-hand books, and sooner or later I’ll find it.


34 posted on 08/06/2013 9:36:00 PM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: RobinOfKingston

To accept it, they must accept the status of an inferior. That’s why they must hate us, for helping them. They want to immitate the West, the technology, the democracy. But immitation, too, is an admission of inferiority, all as per Hoffer in Ordeal. So they must hate us to regain their pride, or see immitation as a means to the end of conquering the hated West.


35 posted on 08/06/2013 9:41:44 PM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: ClearCase_guy

The problem is getting his books. So far, other than True Believer....the small collection of his books that I have...are mostly prints from the 1970s. You can’t find anything much today. I would think some foundation would pick up his cause, and market the books for the modern age.

I will say this...once you analyze his history....he was entirely self-taught. He read a minimum of one book per day for his entire life, and probably had a better understanding of history and the movements that came and went....than the vast number of historians that we have around today. I would also say that he had a marginal personal life, and most of his hours were spent either in physical work or reading, with almost no social life or pleasures other than reading.


36 posted on 08/07/2013 3:15:35 AM PDT by pepsionice
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To: pepsionice

I’ve heard that his romance with the literati ended abruptly when he came out in favor of American involvement in Vietnam. Lin Yu Tang isn’t in print anymore, either, because he had a fight with Pearl S. Buck and Doubleday dropped him as a result.


37 posted on 08/07/2013 6:58:52 AM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: pepsionice

I was digging back through to see what threads had mentioned Eric Hoffer and found this one.

I believe that he found Truth and wrote it down for others to find. As to not being able to find his books (which makes me weep to think that someone wants to read this great mind and cannot) - the answer is amazon.com. The books cost about $12 each - which seems like a lot for a book that is less than 200 pages long. I assure you the density is there.


38 posted on 09/27/2014 9:14:00 AM PDT by NotQuiteCricket
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