T Nation

The more things change...


#1

With the progressive perishing of its ideal the race loses more and more the qualities that lent it its cohesion, its unity, and its strength.

The personality and intelligence of the individual may increase, but at the same time this collective egoism of the race is replaced by an excessive development of the egoism of the individual, accompanied by a weakening of character and a lessening of the capacity for action.

What constituted a people, a unity, a whole, becomes in the end an agglomeration of individualities lacking cohesion, and artificially held together for a time by its traditions and institutions.

It is at this stage that men, divided by their interests and aspirations, and incapable any longer of self-government, require directing in their pettiest acts, and that the State exerts an absorbing influence.

With the definite loss of its old ideal the genius of the race entirely dissapears; it is a mere swarm of isolated individuals and returns to its original state - that of a crowd.

(...)

To pass in pursuit of an ideal from the barbarious to the civilised state, and then, when this ideal has lost its virtue, to decline and die, such is the cycle of the life of a people.

Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd, 1895


#2

See the decline of ancient Rome for details...


#3

Decline of the west...


#4

I may be totally mis-reading that, but I have to disagree with what I percieve is being said (I guess being dead the guy can't argue back though). It sounds like he is saying that as individuals we can't survive in a society, and by and large for most people that may be true, but I think that the goal should not be a group united in the pursuit of betterment for the entire group... I am not a political person in any way but that sounds mighty communist in my opinion. I think that each individual should strive to better themselves and that would in turn better the society.

But until people take responsibility for their own actions, and learn to take charge of their future, then the group mentality will flourish until, like Gustave le Bon said, it will eventually die, but I believe people living in a group lose the ability to act much faster and with much stonger character than a person working toward goals that he/she chose themselves.


#5

SHORTDAVE: Its hard to detail LeBons work in a couple of paragraphs. So far, the one at the start of the thread made the biggest impression on me.

As for individuality, character, and intelligence, I read something in LeBon`s book that relates in part to it:

The conclusion to be drawn from what precedes is, that the crowd is always intellectually inferior to the isolated individual, but that, from the point of view of feelings and of the acts these feelings provoke, the crowd may, according to circumstances, be better or worse than the individual. All depends on the nature of the suggestion to which the crowd is exposed.

(...)

This truth (yielding or refraining) may be physiologically expressed by saying that the isolated individual possesses the capacity of dominating his reflex actions, while a crowd is devoid of this capacity.


#6

Okay apparently I stand with my thumb up my bum.... I mean corrected, I stand corrected. That's cool, I agree it is very hard to capture a person's thoughts in a few paragraphs, but showing me those makes me understand what he is saying much more.

Thanks for the knowledge.

-Dave


#7

No problem. Fascinating book. As a bonus, I now understand politicians far better.

I must also say that, unfortunately, the age old saying We get the country/politicians we deserve will always be true, as long as a crowd remains a crowd. It`s genetic, both biologically and culturally.

One could see politicians ALMOST as modern day heroes. Facing a crowd victim of its past and culture, incapable of reason and independent though IN GROUPS, politicians are akin to sailboat captains: they cannot control the winds of change, the best they can do is manage their approach and manage the forces at hand.

That being said, in terms of change, the best people can hope for is a revolution, and even that is beyond any persons` influence.

Yes, certain individuals can and will potentiate crowdsthought into actions and revolutions, but if the Ideas time has not come, no one can go against the crowd. Very much like genepool changes.

Fascinating read, if one likes the subject.


#8

isn't Le Bon the one who said that the group chooses its sickest member as leader?


#9

NEPHORM: Maybe. The guy also wrote a couple of other books. If I find it, I`ll post it back here.

There sure is a leveling of mob-IQ, even amongst educated men (i.e. back to unconscious uninhibited insticts). Crowd is influenced most by images. Powerful orators can influence them rather easily.

Ringleaders, so to say, and agitators also have their part. They could be dumbasses or lucky. With a childlike-tempered crowd, you most probably need an leader prone to emotional-outbursts, and dumbasses fit this bill rather nicely.