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Crowds and Power is a revolutionary work in which Elias Canetti finds a new way of looking at human history and psychology. Breathtaking in its range and erudition, it explores Shiite festivals and the English Civil war, the finger exercises of monkeys and the effects of inflation in Weimar Germany. In this study of the interplay of crowds, Canetti offers one of the most p Crowds and Power is a revolutionary work in which Elias Canetti finds a new way of looking at human history and psychology.
In this study of the interplay of crowds, Canetti offers one of the most profound and startling portraits of the human condition. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews.
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Mar 10, BlackOxford rated it really liked it Shelves: german-language , philosophy-theology. The Future Belongs to Crowds An astounding book. It reads like a series of essays by Montaigne but all directed toward the phenomenon of human organisation.
Each essay, which might include references as diverse as the anthropology of South American tribes to the history of European warfare, contains some comment which is not only arresting but revelatory of profound insight. Who knew that an apparently sociological treatise could be so creative, so enthralling, so literate? Crowds and Power is also something like Dr Johnson's dictionary. It shows Canetti's pet-peeves and prejudices as well as his erudition.
Canetti's world is one composed of human groups rather than words, but his achievement is to describe these groups and their dynamics as had never been done before. His unit of analysis is the crowd, which may arise from something more primitive called a pack, but which takes on uniquely crowd-like characteristics and force. The crowd, depending on its type, of which there are several, has an implicit crowd-mind, not dissimilar perhaps from the hive-mind of bees or ten-year old girls.
After establishing his basic crowd-typology, Canetti presents page after page of remarkable observations and conclusions about what makes each type behave as it does. Only a few of his crowds could be termed mobs. Most are institutionalised, or 'closed', crowds, the primary issue of which is to prevent them becoming anything like a mob, which is 'open'. Prototypical of an institutionalised crowd is religion.
Religions 'domesticate' crowds through precisely controlled ritual. Congregants must be united but not excited enough to press for too rapid expansion nor irritated enough by its demands to provoke departure.
Consequently: "Their feeling of unity is dispensed to them in doses and the continuation of the church depends on the rightness of the dosage. Parliamentary crowds are only possible because the losers in democratic election are not killed or physically harmed. It was a threat not just to Clinton but to the essential conditions of elected government. The very solemnity with which elections are conducted, argues Canetti, derives from the renunciation of death an instrument of decision.
His discussion of National Crowd Symbols is presented almost as an aside but is particularly thought-provoking. They have an emotional significance that is real the last night of the Proms comes to mind, as does the role of the Dijkgraaf in the political unity of Holland.
Others are less apparent but of very practical historical import. For example, the Marching Forest of the Army in Germany, a symbol of pan-Germanic strength and unity created by Bismarck was fatally disgraced by the Treaty of Versailles. It is Canetti's not uninformed view that "Hitler would never have come to power if the crowd of the army had not been prohibited by Versailles. Islam, he believes, is inherently a religion of continuous warfare as indicated by selections from the Quran.
But similar references in the Christian and Hebrew Bible are not quoted. Christianity is a 'crowd of lament' for a slain god, and thus one in a line that stretches from the Babylonian cult of Tammuz to the various mysticisms of the Australian aborigines. This is an interesting hypothesis which has been articulated elsewhere but with neither discussion nor additional confirming material in Crowds and Power.
Canetti's final chapters on the use of power within crowds, to manipulate and lead them, are less satisfactory than his analysis of, as it were, naked crowd dynamics. But even here his insights are at least as provocative and stimulating as most organisational theorists today. His definition of the 'increase crowd' which is crystallised around an associated 'increase pack' is not an irrelevant way to view modern corporate organisations.
Given its date of publication , Crowds and Power is a rather sophisticated appreciation of organisation compared with the puerile discussions of such topics as 'Authority Structure' and 'Line vs. Staff' that were common in the mainstream academic discussion of the day.
Crowds and Power is a refreshing look at how human beings act in groups. Refreshing because after almost six decades this inter-disciplinary work has never found a disciplinary home in the social sciences and consequently never has been turned into countless doctoral theses and academic articles. It is a phenomenology not a sociological study. The obvious point of Crowds and Power is to escape from the tacit, largely unexamined presumptions and categories of social scientific thought.
It remains therefore suggestive, if not inspirational. But very few social scientists would dare cite it to their colleagues. It breaks the rate, as it were, in both creativity and literacy and so is ignored. View all 30 comments. Dec 21, Manny rated it liked it Shelves: linguistics-and-philosophy , pooh-dante , history-and-biography , too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts. Elias Canetti, the Nobel Prize-winning author of this book, would be unhappy to learn that he's now best known as Iris Murdoch's one-time lover.
I had heard that he was the prototype of the diabolical Julius King in A Fairly Honourable Defeat , and I'd also read various lurid accounts of their affair. Among other things, Canetti's wife used to greet Murdoch with a smile when she turned up for their trysts and then make lunch for all of them afterwards; as you can see, a cult leader kind of person Elias Canetti, the Nobel Prize-winning author of this book, would be unhappy to learn that he's now best known as Iris Murdoch's one-time lover.
Among other things, Canetti's wife used to greet Murdoch with a smile when she turned up for their trysts and then make lunch for all of them afterwards; as you can see, a cult leader kind of personality.
So I was curious to find out more about him, and, when Sherwood recommended Crowds and Power in the middle of a discussion thread last month, I went out and ordered a copy. The rest of this review is available elsewhere the location cannot be given for Goodreads policy reasons View all 25 comments. How do mass automatisms engage? Fervour, fury what are the laws that govern the group? Is the man alone the same when he becomes plural? Are the springs that move the mass controlled by an instinct of sociability or precisely by a primary inability to blend into the group?
Conflict, alliance, charge and discharge of collective emotions, what is the architecture of these perpetual and therefore eternal movements? An inescapable study especially when crowds begin to refuse to walk clockwise. Jul 13, A. Stranger rated it really liked it.
Power loves secrecy, and secrecy is vital to the exercise of power. This is a truly fascinating and perspective-altering examination of the phenomenon of crowds, and the power formations out of which various crowd configurations evolved, developed from a literary-mythological-psychological perspective. One of Canetti's principal explicatory methods is to describe custom and ritual amongst the modern remnant of hunting-gathering mankind - Australian aborigines and certain tribes of Southern Africa, for example - as well as using mystic religious ceremonial for il This is a truly fascinating and perspective-altering examination of the phenomenon of crowds, and the power formations out of which various crowd configurations evolved, developed from a literary-mythological-psychological perspective.
One of Canetti's principal explicatory methods is to describe custom and ritual amongst the modern remnant of hunting-gathering mankind - Australian aborigines and certain tribes of Southern Africa, for example - as well as using mystic religious ceremonial for illustrative purposes a violent incident from an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca providing an especially tense and powerful moment.
Packed with startling and revelatory insights - including that crowds desire fulfillment of GEDD : Growth, Equality, Density, and Direction; the way primitive man viewed crowds of animals and transferred them into himself; a method of interpreting crowd behavior in such entities as bacilli and spermatozoids; the manner in which an individual accepts jostling and touching with congeries of others that overcomes his innate revulsion of physical contact with someone or something strange, tainted as the unknown is with stochastic death - nevertheless I have found my interest waning entering the final stretch of the book.
It's as illuminating as hell, yet for all of that I cannot muster the enthusiasm to keep plugging, and I'm itching to move on to something else; thus, I'll shelve it in the old Working Through category and finish it off gradually, in bits and pieces.
Crowds and Power Summary and Review
Has Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti been sitting on your reading list? Pick up the key ideas in the book with this quick summary. Human experience is paradoxical. Probing a deeply ingrained human instinct, he takes readers from prehistoric packs of hunter-gatherers to the emergence of global religions like Islam and Christianity and the nation-state. These book summarys help explain the paradox of why individual humans — so proud of their own uniqueness — seek refuge in the group.
Crowds and Power
And yet our world is largely an ecosystem of crowds — nations, faiths, political ideologies, art movements, fan bases. But no one has captured the paradoxical psychology of crowds more elegantly and dimensionally than Elias Canetti July 25, —August 14, Born in Bulgaria like myself , Canetti emigrated with his family at the age of six, living in various places across Western Europe before settling in Vienna at the age of nineteen, where he immersed himself in the literary world and began writing in German. Canetti begins by considering the deepest psychological driver beneath our conflicted attitude toward crowds — the common root of our aversion and our attraction to them:.