A self-educated man, Eric Hoffer was most likely born in 1898. He wrote in his spare time after doing shifts on the San Francisco docks, where he continued to work, even after becoming a successful author.
Hoffer began writing The True Believer in the 1940s, as Nazism and fascism spread across Europe. Most analysts who were trying to work out how these movements became so powerful focused on their leaders and the ideas they trumpeted. Hoffer focused on the followers. He saw that people joining mass movements all had common traits. Feeling worn down, they had lost their sense of self-worth and saw in the movement a way to restore some meaning to their lives.
A half-century after the book's initial publication, the terror attacks on the US of September 11, 2001 brought it renewed attention. Why? Because Hoffer created a work that explains not just the events of his day, but the events of ours, too, giving us a way to understand why people behave in seemingly irrational ways.
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