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The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (Book Review)

Since its first publication in French language in 1895, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (French: Psychologie des Foules; literally: Psychology of Crowds) has offered a penetrating, profound study of an important being or phenomenon of the present age, the crowd, and thus been one of the most influential small books in the world today. Even when we read it today, more than a century after its first publication, Le Bon’s book addresses readers and problems of our epoch as it did to readers and problems century ago. In our age of democracy, activities of crowds are playing more and more important roles, particularly when we extend the concept of crowd to cover not only political crowd, but also religious, ethnic, racial, or even gender crowds. In our time, “organized crowds have always played an important part in the life of peoples” as it did a century ago (p.5). In our time, “the destinies of nations of nations are elaborated at present in the heart of the masses, and no longer in the councils of princes.”(p.15). Meanwhile, in our time, “the substitution of the unconscious action of crowds for the conscious activity of individual is one of the principle characteristic of the present age”, as it was a century ago (p.5). Of course, the crowd phenomenon is not only characteristic of a totalitarian regimes. It is also characteristic of any democratic societies, including those most matured ones in North America and Europe.

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