Eric Hoffer


American Longshoreman, Social Writer and Philosopher awarded Presidential Medal of Freeedom

Author Quotes

There is no alienation that a little power will not cure.

There is a tendency to judge a race, a nation or any distinct group by its least worthy members.

The real persuaders are our appetites, our fears and above all our vanity. The skillful propagandist stirs and coaches these internal persuaders.

There are no chaste minds. Minds copulate whenever they meet.

The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass-movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the single-handed defiance of the world.

The less satisfaction we derive from being ourselves, the greater our desire to be like others.

The most effective way to silence our guilty conscience is to convince ourselves and others that those we have sinned against are indeed depraved creatures, deserving every punishment, even extermination. We cannot pity those we have wronged, nor can we be indifferent toward them. We must hate and persecute them or else leave the door open to self-contempt.

The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.

The effectiveness of a doctrine must not be understood, but has to be believed in. We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand. A doctrine that is understood is shorn of its strength.

The impulse to escape an untenable situation often prompts human beings not to shrink back but to plunge ahead.

Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.

The differences between the conservative and the radical seem to spring mainly from their attitude toward the future. Fear of the future causes us to lean against and cling to the present, while faith in the future renders us receptive to change.

Resistance, whether to one’s appetites or to the ways of the world, is a chief factor in the shaping of character.

People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.

Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.

Our sense of power is more vivid when we break a man’s spirit than when we win his heart. For we can win a man’s heart one day and lose it the next. But when we break a proud spirit, we achieve something that is final and absolute.

Mass movements do not usually rise until the prevailing order has been discredited.

Nationalism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism, militarism, cartelization and unionization, propaganda and advertising are all aspects of a general relentless drive to manipulate men and neutralize the unpredictability of human nature.

In the alchemy of man’s soul almost all noble attributes - courage, honor, love, hope, faith, duty, loyalty, and so on - can be transmuted into ruthlessness. Compassion alone stands apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil proceeding within us. Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: where there is compassion, even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.

His momentous achievements are rarely the result of a clean forward thrust but rather of a soul intensity generated in front of an apparently insurmountable obstacle which bars his way to a cherished goal.

Estrangement from the self… is a precondition for both plasticity and conversion.

Good judgment in our dealings with others consists not in seeing through deceptions and evil intentions but in being able to waken the decency dormant in every person.

In times of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

All social disturbances and upheavals have their roots in crises of individual self-esteem, and the great endeavor in which the masses most readily unite is basically a search for pride.

Discontent is at the root of the creative process… the most gifted members of the human species are at their creative best when they cannot have their way, and must compensate for what they miss by realizing and cultivating their capacities and talents.

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American Longshoreman, Social Writer and Philosopher awarded Presidential Medal of Freeedom