The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, is a sociology book written by Eric Hoffer in 1951. His book attempts to explain and analyze the motives of mass movements, how and why mass movements start, how they advance and the way they will end, and the similarities between all of them. Whether it is, social movements, religious movements, political movements, personality’s movements, and so on. He argues in his book that, the goals of every mass movement are substitutable because all mass movements attract the same followers, use similar tactics, and share certain essential characteristics to get their members.
Some of the examples he uses were, the fanatical Christian, the fanatical Mohammad, the fanatical nationalist, the fanatical Communist, and the fanatical Nazi. In the book Hoffer also quotes a lot of historical events. *** First thing Eric Hoffer discussed in his book, “The True Believer” was how people join mass movements. Some of the reason Hoffer give that people become part of a mass movement is because of the desire for change, the desire for substitutes, and the interchangeability of mass movement.
As people became part of a mass movement, their desire is to begin a new life, “it is a truism that many who join a rising revolution movement are attracted by the prospect of sudden and spectacular change in their conditions of life…A revolutionary movement is a conspicuous instrument of change (1). ” He argues that those powerful revolutionaries, like those in the political movement, are somehow attached to a religious fervor and the people who are interested in those movements are there for a total change.
The leaders of mass movements have a sense that those people who want to be part of their movement have to be convinces that there is going to be a change in their life. Experience is a handicap, people join an organization because of self-interest and to advance themselves to a better level in life. The beginning of the movement involve those people who wants to get rid of their old selves and develop into a new identity, but when the movement gets mature the leader tries to entice people to his/her interest.
If those individuals who are in a mass movement and are not happy with themselves, then they are going to be irrelevant because they would do anything for the religiofication or have faith in the holy cause which substitutes for the loss of the belief they have in themselves. Hoffer also argues that it does not matter what movement a patriotic believer becomes part of, as long there is going to be a change in the person’s life. Every mass movement is going to be competitive and interchangeable because one movement could change to another movement.
For example, a social movement could change to a militant movement. Either way the true believer, believed there is going to be some kind of change in their life. Who are the Potential Converts of Mass Movement? The second part of the book “The True Believer” talks about the people who become part of the mass movement and Hoffer argues that those people who are most likely to be part of a mass movement are those who are recently poor, or as Hoffer calls it, the “new poor” (20), the frustrated, bored, misfits, minorities, and the sinners.
He suggest that not all people who are poor are frustrated; even though, the new poor blame others for their struggle and misfortune. He reasons that the very poor are not good contenders to make a movement successful because “every little meal is fulfillment; to go to sleep on a full stomach is a triumph; every windfall is a miracle” (28). The very poor are satisfied with what they have than to give their lives for some version of a dream they know isn’t going to come true.
On the other hand, the new poor become part of a mass movement because their eyes have been opened to so many economic and material things that if there is any rising mass movement they will become a part of it. Examples of such things happened during the French revolution, where minorities did not rise up because of bad economic conditions but because they were frustrated and they saw the opportunity for something new. “Our frustration is greater when we have much and want more than we have nothing and want some. We are less dissatisfied when we lack many things than when we seem to lack but one thing. ”