The Crowd: Extraordinary Popular Delusions by Charles MacKay
Here in a single volume are two classic texts (for the price of 1!) on the crazy things that people do when acting en masse. Both provide lucid and witty insights into the madness of mass psychology. EXTRAORDINARY POPULAR DELUSIONS has been abridged from the original 700 pages to include all sections relating to investments and speculation. These books are both highly recomended reading. (288 pages) From the book cover: The following book is devoted to an account of the characteristics of crowds.
Organized crowds have always played an important part in the life of peoples, but this part has never been of such moment as at present. The substitution of the unconscious action of crowds for the conscious activity of individuals is one of the principa characteristics of the present age.
I have endeavored to examine the difficult problem presented by crowds in a purely scientific manner - that is, by making an effort to proceed with method, and without being influenced by opinions, theories, and doctrines. This, I believe, is the only mode of arriving at the discovery of some few particles of truth, especially when dealing, as is the case here, with a question that is the subject of impassioned controversy. A man of science bent on verifying a phenomenon is not called upon to concern himself with the interests his verifications may hurt. In a recent publication an eminent thinker, M. Goblet d'Alviela, made the remark that, belonging to none of the contemporary schools, I am occasionally found in opposition of sundry of the conclusions of all of them. I hope this new work will merit a similar observation. To belong to a school is necessarily to espouse its prejudices and preconceived opinions.
Crowds, doubtless are always unconscious, but this very unconsciousness is perhaps one of the secrets of their strength. In the natural world beings exclusively governed by instinct accomplish acts whose marvellous complexity astounds us. Reason is an attribute of humanity of too recent date and still to imperfect to reveal to us the laws of the unconscious, and still more to take its place. The part played by the unconscious in all our acts is immense, and that played by reason very small. The unconscious acts like a force still unknown.
If we wish, then, to remain within the narrow but safe limits within which science can attain to knowledge, and not to wander in the domain of vague conjecture and vain hypothesis, all we must do is simply to take note of such phenomena as are accessible to us, and confine ourselves to their consideration. Every conclusion drawn from our observation as a rule, premature, for behind the phenomena which we see clearly are other phenomena that we see indistinctly, and perhaps behind these latter, yet others which do not see at all.
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Traders Press, Inc. (December 1994)