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Eric Hoffer

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) was an American social Philosopher. He wrote ten books and won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His first book, The True Believer, published in 1951, was widely recognized as a classic. This book, which he considered his best, established his reputation, and he remained a successful writer for most of his remaining years.

Hoffer was the son of German immigrants, and by the age of five, could read in both German and English. At age seven, and for unknown reasons, Hoffer went blind. His eyesight inexplicably returned when he was fifteen. Fearing he would again go blind, he seized upon the opportunity to read as much as he could for as long as he could. His eyesight remained, but Hoffer never abandoned his habit of voracious reading. He was completely self-educated. Through-out his twenties and thirties, he did manual labor. He was working as a longshoreman when he started to write.

His work was not only original, it was completely out of step with dominant academic trends. In particular, it was completely non-Freudian, at a time when almost all American psychology was confined to the Freudian paradigm. In avoiding the academic mainstream, Hoffer managed to avoid the straitjacket of established thought.

Hoffer was among the first to recognize the central importance of self-esteem to psychological well-being. While most recent writers focus on the benefits of a positive self-esteem, Hoffer focused on the consequences of a lack of self-esteem. He finds in self-hatred, self-doubt, and insecurity the roots of fanaticism and self-righteousness. He finds that a passionate obsession with the outside world or with the private lives of other people is merely a craven attempt to compensate for a lack of meaning in one's own life.


1951 The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements

1955 The Passionate State Of Mind

1967 The Temper Of Our Time

1969 Working And Thinking on The Waterfront

1973 Reflections on the Human Condition

1976 The Ordeal Of Change

1976 In Our Time

1979 First Things, Last Things

1979 Before the Sabbath

1983 Truth Imagined


"The Renaissance was a time of mercenary soldiers, ours is a time of mercenary labor." --Before the Sabbath