The outbreak of World War I saw the collapse of socialist notions of class solidarity and reaffirmed the enduring strength of nationalism. The workers of the world did not unite, but turned on one another and slaughtered their fellows in what was then the bloodiest war in history. There have been many efforts to explain the outbreak of war in 1914, but few from so intimate a perspective as LeBon's. He examines such questions as why German scholars tried to deny Germany's obvious guilt in the war, and what explained the remarkable resolve of the French army to persevere in the face of unprecedented adversity.

To such questions, LeBon proposes answers built upon principles well articulated in the larger body of his work. He transforms the character of the debate by demonstrating how psychological principles explain more persuasively both the causes of German academic ignominy and the origins of French valor. Convinced as he was that only psychology could illuminate collective behavior, LeBon dismisses purely economic or political interpretations as ill-conceived and inadequate precisely because they fail to appreciate the role of psychology in the collective behavior of national statesmen, prominent scholars, and ordinary soldiers.

The Psychology of the Great War provides a bridge to study both crowd behavior and battlefield behavior by illustrating how ordinary people are transformed into savages by great events. This element in LeBon's thinking influenced Georges Sorel's thinking, as he had seen the same phenomenon in those who participated in general strikes and revolutions. And in a later period and different context, Hannah Arendt gave this strange capacity of the ordinary to be transformed into the extraordinary the name "banality of evil." The book will be of interest to social theorists, psychologists concerned with group behavior, and historians of the period.

One of the most influential works of social psychology in history, The Crowd was highly instrumental in creating this field of study by analyzing, in detail, mass behavior. The book had a profound impact not only on Freud but also on such twentieth-century masters of crowd control as Hitler and Mussolini — both of whom may have used its observations as a guide to stirring up popular passions. In the author's words, "The masses have never thirsted after the truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim."
Although the volume focuses on crowd psychology, it is also brilliantly instructive on the effects of the generally accepted beliefs of a nation's citizenry on the processes of history. Among the topics covered here are general characteristics and mental unity of the crowd; the crowd's sentiments and morality; its ideas, reasoning power, and imagination; opinions and beliefs of crowds and the means used by leaders to persuade; classification of crowds, including criminal and electrical assemblages, as well as the functioning of criminal juries and parliamentary assemblies.
A must-read volume for students of history, sociology, law, and psychology, The Crowd will also be invaluable to politicians, statesmen, investors, and marketing managers. "Any study of crowd behavior, popular psychology, fascism, etc. would do well to begin with Le Bon's work." — Anson Rabinbach, Professor of History, Princeton University.
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