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