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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
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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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