chapter  8
26 Pages

The Leader and his Crowd: Freud’s Group Psychology (1921)

By the time of the Great War, enough was known about crowds for crowd theory to concern itself with the specialized problem of leadership. The focus of theoretical concern had been shifting away from the crowd, and on to the leaders of the crowds, since about 1890. Of course, crowd theorists had always been interested in leaders, but some measure of how the theory of crowd leadership increasingly became a specialized problem of crowd theory can be seen from the fact that, beginning with Le Bon, each new generation of crowd theorists claimed that its predecessors had failed to understand properly what the mechanisms of crowd leadership were. So Le Bon thinks that Taine failed to understand the psychology of Jacobinism, though he is an admirer of Taine’s, while Freud, who is an admirer of Le Bon’s, thinks that Le Bon’s account of the crowd fails because Le Bon has not gone deeply enough into the question of what binds the leader to the led, and this despite Le Bon’s own claim that he is applying the latest findings of depth psychology to the problem.