SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF THE CROWD

THEORIES OF THE CROWD

 

KIERKEGAARD

"I should like to write a book and show how mankind en masse gives itself up to evil, how nowadays it happens en masse. That is why people flock together in order that natural and animal hysteria should get hold of them, in order to feel themselves stimulated, inflamed and ausser sich. The [riotous] scenes on the Blockburg are the absolute pendants to this demonic pleasure, where the pleasure consists in losing oneself in order to be volatilised into a higher potency, where being outside onself one hardly knows what one is doing or saying, or who or what is speaking through one, while the blood courses faster, the eyes are bright and staring, the passions and lust seething." The Journals of S.Kierkegaard, 1850 entry.

YEATS

"Yeats spoke with great intelligence of the British public during its quite senseless bursts of revengeful hypocrisy and morality such as is displayed in the Parnell case, the Wilde case, the Whitaker Wright case etc etc. He explains the unanimity of the mob by the fact that it has become hypnotised by a word, a notion, and shows the senseless behaviour of a man under the effect of hypnotic suggestion..." Charles Ricketts, Self-Portrait, diary entry May 1914.

 

C.R.W.NEVINSON

"Nevinson is radically anti-democratic, 'What,' he asks,' has anybody yet succeeded in teaching a mob ? A mob will always be somebody's tool Better a thousand times that it should be the tool of the hereditory and futile aristocrat than that of the tedious and inane professional agitator. The great majority of mankind will inevitably and invariably be fools ..." K.Hare, London's Latin Quarter 1926 of the painter C.R.W.Nevinson.

MACDOUGALL

"It has often been said that some races or peoples are by nature more readily hypnotised than others; of the French people especially this has been maintained..." William McDougall entry on "Hypnotism", Encyclopaedia Britannica 1910.

FULOP-MILLER

"Thus mass production necessitated a forcible normalisation of needs, classifying human beings in accordance with its own standards , introducing fictive qualities into life, and creating the illusion of uniformity where nature had created multiplicity." p.355

BENJAMIN ,

"The flaneur plays the scout in the marketplace. As such he is also the explorer of the crowd. Within the man who abandons himself to it, the crowd inspires a sort of drunkenness, one accompanied by very specific illusions: the man flatters himself that, on seeing a passerby swept along by the crowd, he has accurately classified him, seen straight through to the innermost recesses of his soul - all on the basis of his singular appearance."Arcades, p.21,

BAUDELAIRE

"Not everyone is capable of taking a bath of multitude; enjoying crowds is an art... The solitary and thoughtful stroller draws a unique intoxication from this universal communion. He who easily espouses crowds knows feverish delights, of which the selfish will be eternally deprived, locked up like a chest, and the lazy confined like a mollusc..."

"Crowds", from The Parisian Prowler, prose poems translated by Edward Kaplan, The University of Georgia Press, Athens and London 1997 pp 21 et seq.

 

CHARLES RICKETTS (designer UK)

The danger to the Anglo-Saxon race “should be described as irresponsibility. The mob is diseased by the mob, we are suffering from the effects of the majority Babel and intellectual Hooliganism, a state of things so complicated and unimportant that old tests, based on a smaller and more intellectual experience, are no longer valid. Soon everything will become equally important i.e not important at all. This is the curse of the moment and the curse of the many.” Diary December 1900.

GALTON

" I shall endeavour to prove that that the slavish attitudes in man are a direct consequence of his gregarious nature which itself is a result both of his primeval barbarism and of the forms of his subsequent civilisation.' Francis galton, essay "Gregarious and Slavish Instincts", see Brett's History of Psychology, London 1962

see also Galton's Hereditary Genius, its Laws and Consequences 1869

 

 

American and English Crowds compared

The Illustrated London News

1926

click for enlargement