Gustave Le Bon

Charles-Marie Gustave Le Bon (French: [ɡystav lə bɔ̃]; 7 May 1841 – 13 December 1931) was a French polymath whose areas of interest included anthropology, psychology, sociology, medicine, invention, and physics.[1][2][3] He is best known for his 1895 work The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, which is considered one of the seminal works of crowd psychology.[4][5]

A native of Nogent-le-Rotrou, Le Bon qualified as a doctor of medicine at the University of Paris in 1866. He opted against the formal practice of medicine as a physician, instead beginning his writing career the same year of his graduation. He published a number of medical articles and books before joining the French Army after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. Defeat in the war coupled with being a first-hand witness to the Paris Commune of 1871 strongly shaped Le Bon's worldview. He then travelled widely, touring Europe, Asia and North Africa. He analysed the peoples and the civilisations he encountered under the umbrella of the nascent field of anthropology, developing an essentialist view of humanity, and invented a portable cephalometer during his travels.

In the 1890s, he turned to psychology and sociology, in which fields he released his most successful works. Le Bon developed the view that crowds are not the sum of their individual parts, proposing that within crowds there forms a new psychological entity, the characteristics of which are determined by the "racial unconscious" of the crowd. At the same time he created his psychological and sociological theories, he performed experiments in physics and published popular books on the subject, anticipating the mass–energy equivalence and prophesising the Atomic Age. Le Bon maintained his eclectic interests up until his death in 1931.

Ignored or maligned by sections of the French academic and scientific establishment during his life due to his politically conservative and reactionary views, Le Bon was critical of democracy and socialism. Le Bon's works were influential to such disparate figures as Theodore Roosevelt and Benito Mussolini, Sigmund Freud and José Ortega y Gasset, Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin.

Gustave Le Bon
Portrait of a man in his thirties with swept back hair and a large beard
Gustave Le Bon, 1888
Charles-Marie-Gustave Le Bon

7 May 1841
Died13 December 1931 (aged 90)
Resting placePère Lachaise Cemetery
Alma materUniversity of Paris (M.D.)
Scientific career
InfluencesBénédict Morel, Charles Darwin, Jean-Martin Charcot, Paul Broca, Herbert Spencer, Gabriel Tarde, Ernst Haeckel, Hippolyte Taine
InfluencedBenito Mussolini, José Ortega y Gasset, Sigmund Freud, Wilfred Trotter, Oswald Spengler, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, Edward Bernays, Robert E. Park, Wilfred Bion, Muhammad Abduh



Charles-Marie Gustave Le Bon was born in Nogent-le-Rotrou, Centre-Val de Loire on 7 May 1841 to a family of Breton ancestry. At the time of Le Bon's birth, his mother, Annette Josephine Eugénic Tétiot Desmarlinais, was twenty-six and his father, Jean-Marie Charles Le Bon, was forty-one and a provincial functionary of the French government.[6] Le Bon was a direct descendant of Jean-Odet Carnot, whose grandfather, Jean Carnot, had a brother, Denys, from whom the fifth president of the French Third Republic, Marie François Sadi Carnot, was directly descended.[7]

When Le Bon was eight years old, his father obtained a new post in French government and the family, including Gustave's younger brother Georges, left Nogent-le-Rotrou never to return. Nonetheless, the town was proud that Gustave Le Bon was born there and later named a street after him.[7] Little else is known of Le Bon's childhood, except for his attendance at a lycée in Tours, where he was an unexceptional student.[8]

In 1860, he began medicinal studies at the University of Paris. He completed his internship at Hôtel-Dieu de Paris, and received his doctorate in 1866. From that time on, he referred to himself as "Doctor" though he never formally worked as a physician. During his university years, Le Bon wrote articles on a range of medical topics, the first of which related to the maladies that plagued those who lived in swamp-like conditions. He published several other about loa loa filariasis and asphyxia before releasing his first full-length book in 1866, La mort apparente et inhumations prématurées. This work dealt with the definition of death, preceding 20th-century legal debates on the issue.[9]

Life in Paris

Gustave Lebon 1
Portrait of Gustave Le Bon, c. 1870

After his graduation, Le Bon remained in Paris, where he taught himself English and German by reading Shakespeare's works in each language.[10] He maintained his passion for writing and authored several papers on physiological studies, as well as an 1868 textbook about sexual reproduction, before joining the French Army as a medical officer after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in July 1870.[11] During the war, Le Bon organised a division of military ambulances. In that capacity, he observed the behaviour of the military under the worst possible condition—total defeat, and wrote about his reflections on military discipline, leadership and the behaviour of man in a state of stress and suffering. These reflections garnered praise from generals, and were later studied at Saint-Cyr and other military academies in France. At the end of the war, Le Bon was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.[12]

Le Bon also witnessed the Paris Commune of 1871, which deeply affected his worldview. The then thirty-year-old Le Bon watched on as Parisian revolutionary crowds burned down the Tuileries Palace, the library of the Louvre, the Hôtel de Ville, the Gobelins Manufactory, the Palais de Justice, and other irreplaceable works of architectural art.[13]

From 1871 on, Le Bon was an avowed opponent of socialist pacifists and protectionists, who he believed were halting France's martial development and stifling her industrial growth; stating in 1913: "Only people with lots of cannons have the right to be pacifists."[14] He also warned his countrymen of the deleterious effects of political rivalries in the face of German military might and rapid industrialisation, and therefore was uninvolved in the Dreyfus Affair which dichotomised France.[13]

Widespread travels

Gustave Le Bon 1880
Le Bon in Algiers, 1880

Le Bon became interested in the emerging field of anthropology in the 1870s and travelled throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa. Influenced by Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer and Ernst Haeckel, Le Bon supported biological determinism and a hierarchical view of the races and sexes; after extensive field research, he posited a correlation between cranial capacity and intelligence in Recherches anatomiques et mathématiques sur les variations de volume du cerveau et sur leurs relations avec l'intelligence (1879), which earned him the Godard Prize from the French Academy of Sciences.[15] During his research, he invented a portable cephalometer to aid with measuring the physical characteristics of remote peoples, and in 1881 published a paper, "The Pocket Cephalometer, or Compass of Coordinates", detailing his invention and its application.[16]

In 1884, he was commissioned by the French government to travel around Asia and report on the civilisations there.[11] The results of his journeys were a number of books, and a development in Le Bon's thinking to also view culture to be influenced chiefly by hereditary factors such as the unique racial features of the people.[17][18] The first book, entitled La Civilisation des Arabes, was released in 1884. In this, Le Bon praised Arabs highly for their contributions to civilisation, but criticised Islamism as an agent of stagnation.[19][20] He also described their culture as superior to that of the Turks who governed them, and translations of this work were inspirational to early Arab nationalists.[21][22] He followed this with a trip to Nepal, becoming the first Frenchman to visit the country, and released Voyage au Népal in 1886.[23]

He next published Les Civilisations de l'Inde (1887), in which he applauded Indian architecture, art and religion but argued that Indians were comparatively inferior to Europeans in regard to scientific advancements, and that this had facilitated British domination.[24] In 1889, he released Les Premières Civilisations de l'Orient, giving in it an overview of the Mesopotamian, Indian, Chinese and Egyptian civilisations. The same year, he delivered a speech to the International Colonial Congress criticising colonial policies which included attempts of cultural assimilation, stating: "Leave to the natives their customs, their institutions and their laws."[25] Le Bon released the last book on the topic of his travels, entitled Les monuments de l'Inde, in 1893, again praising the architectural achievements of the Indian people.[26]

Development of theories

Gustave Le Bon V
Gustave Le Bon on horseback

On his travels, Le Bon travelled largely on horseback and noticed that techniques used by horse breeders and trainers varied dependent on the region. He returned to Paris and in 1892, while riding a high-spirited horse, he was bucked off and narrowly escaped death. He was unsure as to what caused him to be thrown off the horse, and decided to begin a study of what he had done wrong as a rider.[27] The result of his study was L'Équitation actuelle et ses principes. Recherches expérimentales (1892), which consisted of numerous photographs of horses in action combined with analysis by Le Bon. This work became a respected cavalry manual, and Le Bon extrapolated his studies on the behaviour of horses to develop theories on early childhood education.[28]

Le Bon's behavioural study of horses also sparked a long-standing interest in psychology, and in 1894 he released Lois psychologiques de l'évolution des peuples. This work was dedicated to his friend Charles Richet though it drew much from the theories of Théodule-Armand Ribot, to whom Le Bon dedicated Psychologie des Foules (1895).[29] Psychologie des Foules was in part a summation of Le Bon's 1881 work L'Homme et les sociétés—which Émile Durkheim referenced in his doctoral dissertation De la division du travail social.[30]

Both were best-sellers, with Psychologie des Foules being translated into nineteen languages within one year of its appearance.[31] Le Bon followed these with two more books on psychology, Psychologie du Socialisme and Psychologie de l'Éducation, in 1896 and 1902 respectively. These works rankled the largely socialist academic establishment of France.[32]

Gustave Le Bon
Gustave Le Bon, c. 1900

Le Bon constructed a home laboratory in the early 1890s, and in 1896 reported observing "black light", a new kind of radiation that he believed was distinct from, but possibly related to, X-rays and cathode rays.[33] Not the same type of radiation as what is now known as black light, its existence was never confirmed and, similar to N rays, it is now generally understood to be non-existent, but the discovery claim attracted much attention among French scientists at the time, many of whom supported it and Le Bon's general ideas on matter and radiation, and he was even nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903.[34]

In 1902, Le Bon began a series of weekly luncheons to which he invited prominent intellectuals, nobles and ladies of fashion. The strength of his personal networks is apparent from the guest list: participants included cousins Henri and Raymond Poincaré, Paul Valéry, Alexander Izvolsky, Henri Bergson, Marcellin Berthelot and Aristide Briand.[35]

In L'Évolution de la Matière (1905), Le Bon anticipated the mass–energy equivalence, and in a 1922 letter to Albert Einstein complained about his lack of recognition. Einstein responded and conceded that a mass–energy equivalence had been proposed before him, but only the theory of relativity had cogently proved it.[36] Gaston Moch gave Le Bon credit for anticipating Einstein's theory of relativity.[37] In L'Évolution des Forces (1907), Le Bon prophesied the Atomic Age.[38][39] He wrote about "the manifestation of a new force—namely intra-atomic energy—which surpasses all others by its colossal magnitude," and stated that a scientist who discovered a way to dissociate rapidly one gram of any metal would "not witness the results of his experiments ... the explosion produced would be so formidable that his laboratory and all neighbouring houses, with their inhabitants, would be instantaneously pulverised."[40][41]

Portrait of Gustave Le Bon
Doctor Gustave Le Bon, 1914

Le Bon discontinued his research in physics in 1908, and turned again to psychology. He released La Psychologie politique et la défense sociale, Les Opinions et les croyances, La Révolution Française et la Psychologie des Révolutions, Aphorismes du temps présent, and La Vie des vérités in back-to-back years from 1910 to 1914, expounding in which his views on affective and rational thought, the psychology of race, and the history of civilisation.

Later life and death

Gustave Le Bon 1929
Le Bon in 1929, aged eighty-eight

Le Bon continued writing throughout World War I, publishing Enseignements Psychologiques de la Guerre Européenne (1915), Premières conséquences de la guerre: transformation mentale des peuples (1916) and Hier et demain. Pensées brèves (1918) during the war.

He then released Psychologie des Temps Nouveaux (1920) before resigning from his position as Professor of Psychology and Allied Sciences at the University of Paris and retiring to his home.

He released Le Déséquilibre du Monde, Les Incertitudes de l'heure présente and L'évolution actuelle du monde, illusions et réalités in 1923, 1924 and 1927 respectively, giving in them his views of the world during the volatile interwar period.

He became a Grand-Croix of the Legion of Honour in 1929. He published his last work, entitled Bases scientifiques d'une philosophie de l'histoire, in 1931 and on 13 December, died in Marnes-la-Coquette, Île-de-France at the age of ninety.[42]

In putting an end to the long, diverse and fruitful activity of Gustave Le Bon, death deprived our culture of a truly remarkable man. His was a man of most exceptional intelligence; it sprang entirely from within himself; he was his own master, his own initiator.... Science and philosophy have suffered a cruel loss.[43]

Le Bonian thought

Convinced that human actions are guided by eternal laws, Le Bon attempted to synthesise Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer with Jules Michelet and Alexis de Tocqueville.


According to Steve Reicher, Le Bon was not the first crowd psychologist: "The first debate in crowd psychology was actually between two criminologists, Scipio Sighele and Gabriel Tarde, concerning how to determine and assign criminal responsibility within a crowd and hence who to arrest."[44] While this previous attribution may be valid, it is worth pointing out that Le Bon specified that the influence of crowds was not only a negative phenomena, but could also have a positive impact. He considered this as a shortcoming from those authors who only considered the criminal aspect of crowd psychology.[45]


Le Bon theorised that the new entity, the "psychological crowd", which emerges from incorporating the assembled population not only forms a new body but also creates a collective "unconsciousness". As a group of people gather together and coalesces to form a crowd, there is a "magnetic influence given out by the crowd" that transmutes every individual's behaviour until it becomes governed by the "group mind". This model treats the crowd as a unit in its composition which robs every individual member of their opinions, values and beliefs; as Le Bon states: "An individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will".

Le Bon detailed three key processes that create the psychological crowd: i) Anonymity, ii) Contagion and iii) Suggestibility. Anonymity provides to rational individuals a feeling of invincibility and the loss of personal responsibility. An individual becomes primitive, unreasoning, and emotional. This lack of self-restraint allows individuals to "yield to instincts" and to accept the instinctual drives of their "racial unconscious". For Le Bon, the crowd inverts Darwin's law of evolution and becomes atavistic, proving Ernst Haeckel's embryological theory: "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny". Contagion refers to the spread in the crowd of particular behaviours and individuals sacrifice their personal interest for the collective interest. Suggestibility is the mechanism through which the contagion is achieved; as the crowd coalesces into a singular mind, suggestions made by strong voices in the crowd create a space for the racial unconscious to come to the forefront and guide its behaviour. At this stage, the psychological crowd becomes homogeneous and malleable to suggestions from its strongest members. "The leaders we speak of," says Le Bon, "are usually men of action rather than of words. They are not gifted with keen foresight... They are especially recruited from the ranks of those morbidly nervous excitable half-deranged persons who are bordering on madness."


Jules cesar
"The type of hero dear to a crowd will always have the semblance of a Caesar. His insignia attracts them, his authority overawes them, and his sword instills them with fear."

George Lachmann Mosse claimed that fascist theories of leadership that emerged during the 1920s owed much to Le Bon's theories of crowd psychology. Adolf Hitler is known to have read The Crowd and in Mein Kampf drew on the propaganda techniques proposed by Le Bon.[46][47] Benito Mussolini also made a careful study of Le Bon.[48] Le Bon also influenced Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks.[49]

Just prior to World War I, Wilfred Trotter introduced Wilfred Bion to Le Bon's writings and Sigmund Freud's work Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. Trotter's book Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War (1919) forms the basis for the research of both Wilfred Bion and Ernest Jones who established what would be called group dynamics. During the first half of the twentieth century, Le Bon's writings were used by media researchers such as Hadley Cantril and Herbert Blumer to describe the reactions of subordinate groups to media.

Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, was influenced by Le Bon and Trotter. In his influential book Propaganda, he declared that a major feature of democracy was the manipulation of the electorate by the mass media and advertising. Theodore Roosevelt as well as Charles G. Dawes and many other American progressives in the early 20th century were also deeply affected by Le Bon's writings.[50]


Bibliography compiled from the 1984 reissue of Psychologie du Socialisme.[51]


  • La mort apparente et inhumations prématurées (1866); ("Apparent Death and Premature Burials")
  • Traité pratique des maladies des organes génitaux-urinaires (1869); ("Practical Treatise of Diseases of the Genitourinary System")
  • La vie (Traité de physiologie humaine) (1874); ("Life (Treatise of Human Physiology)")

Anthropology, psychology and sociology

  • Histoire des origines et du développement de l'homme et des sociétés (1877); ("History of the Origins and Development of Man and Society")
  • Voyage aux Monts-Tatras (1881); ("Travel to Tatra Mountains")
  • L'Homme et les sociétés (1881); ("Man and Society")
  • La Civilisation des Arabes (1884); The World of Islamic Civilization (1974)
  • Voyage au Népal (1886); ("Travel to Nepal")
  • Les Civilisations de l'Inde (1887); ("The Civilisations of India")
  • Les Premières Civilisations de l'Orient (1889); ("The First Civilisations of the Orient")
  • Les Monuments de l'Inde (1893); ("The Monuments of India")
  • Les Lois Psychologiques de l'Évolution des Peuples (1894); The Psychology of Peoples (1898)
  • Psychologie des Foules (1895); The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1896)
  • Psychologie du Socialisme (1896); The Psychology of Socialism (1899)
  • Psychologie de l'éducation (1902); ("The Psychology of Education")
  • La Psychologie politique et la défense sociale (1910); ("The Psychology of Politics and Social Defense")
  • Les Opinions et les croyances (1911); ("Opinions and Beliefs")
  • La Révolution Française et la Psychologie des Révolutions (1912); The Psychology of Revolution (1913); The French Revolution and the Psychology of Revolution (1980).
  • Aphorismes du temps présent (1913); ("Aphorisms of Present Times")
  • La Vie des vérités (1914); ("Truths of Life")
  • Enseignements Psychologiques de la Guerre Européenne (1915); The Psychology of the Great War (1916)
  • Premières conséquences de la guerre: transformation mentale des peuples (1916); ("First Consequences of War: Mental Transformation of Peoples")
  • Hier et demain. Pensées brèves (1918); ("Yesterday and Tomorrow. Brief thoughts")
  • Psychologie des Temps Nouveaux (1920); The World in Revolt (1921)
  • Le Déséquilibre du Monde (1923); The World Unbalanced (1924)
  • Les Incertitudes de l'heure présente (1924); ("The Uncertainties of the Present Hour")
  • L'évolution actuelle du monde, illusions et réalités (1927); ("The Current Evolution of the World, Illusions and Realities")
  • Bases scientifiques d'une philosophie de l'histoire (1931); ("Scientific Basis for a Philosophy of History")

Natural science

  • La Méthode graphique et les appareils enregistreurs (1878); ("The Graphical Method and recording devices")
  • Recherches anatomiques et mathématiques sur les variations de volume du cerveau et sur leurs relations avec l'intelligence (1879); ("Anatomical and mathematical research on the changes in brain volume and its relationships with intelligence")
  • La Fumée du tabac (1880); ("Tobacco smoke")
  • Les Levers photographiques (1888); ("Photographic surveying")
  • L'Équitation actuelle et ses principes. Recherches expérimentales (1892); ("Equitation: The Psychology of the Horse")
  • L'Évolution de la Matière (1905); The Evolution of Matter (1907)
  • La naissance et l'évanouissement de la matière (1907); ("The birth and disappearance of matter")
  • L'Évolution des Forces (1907); The Evolution of Forces (1908)


  1. ^ Saler, Michael (2015). The Fin-de-Siècle World. Routledge. p. 450. ISBN 9780415674133.
  2. ^ Piette, Bernard (2014). The Universe of Maxwell. Lulu Press Inc. p. 67. ISBN 9781291960082.
  3. ^ Beck, Matthias (2013). Risk : A Study of Its Origins, History and Politics. World Scientific Publishing Company. p. 111. ISBN 978-9814383202.
  4. ^ Rancière, Jacques (2016). The Method of Equality: Interviews with Laurent Jeanpierre and Dork Zabunyan. Polity. p. 95. ISBN 978-0745680620.
  5. ^ Drury, John; Scott, Clifford (2015). Crowds in the 21st Century: Perspectives from Contemporary Social Science. Routledge. p. 169. ISBN 978-1138922914.
  6. ^ Adas, Michael (1990). Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance. Cornell University Press. p. 195. ISBN 9780801497605.
  7. ^ a b Widener 1979, p. 25
  8. ^ van Ginneken 1992, p. 132
  9. ^ Widener 1979, p. 26
  10. ^ Widener 1979, p. 21
  11. ^ a b Staff writer(s) (10 May 1941). "Gustave Le Bon". Nature. p. 573. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  12. ^ Widener 1979, p. 27
  13. ^ a b Widener 1979, p. 28
  14. ^ Le Bon, Gustave (1913). Aphorismes du temps présent. Ernest Flammarion.
  15. ^ Staum 2011, p. 65
  16. ^ Bud, Robert; Warner, Deborah Jean (1998). Instruments of Science: An Historical Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 157. ISBN 9780815315612.
  17. ^ Söyler, Mehtap (2015). The Turkish Deep State: State Consolidation, Civil-Military Relations and Democracy. Routledge. p. 70. ISBN 9781317668800.
  18. ^ Mitter, Partha (1992). Much Maligned Monsters: A History of European Reactions to Indian Art. University of Chicago Press. p. 268. ISBN 9780226532394.
  19. ^ Quinn, Frederick (2007). The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought. Oxford University Press. p. 104. ISBN 9780199886760.
  20. ^ Hourani, Albert (1962). Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1798-1939. Cambridge University Press. p. 173. ISBN 9780521274234.
  21. ^ Kedourie, Sylvia (1962). Arab Nationalism: An Anthology. Cambridge University Press. p. 182. ISBN 9780520026452.
  22. ^ Kramer, Martin Seth (2011). Arab Awakening and Islamic Revival: The Politics of Ideas in the Middle East. Transaction Publishers. p. 63. ISBN 9781412817394.
  23. ^ Carey, John (2012). The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia 1880-1939. Faber & Faber. p. 31. ISBN 9780571265107.
  24. ^ Seymore, Sarah (2013). Close Encounters of the Invasive Kind: Imperial History in Selected British Novels of Alien-Encounter Science Fiction After World War II. LIT Verlag Münster. p. 108. ISBN 9783643903914.
  25. ^ Betts 1960, p. 68
  26. ^ Sills, David L. (1968). International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Macmillan. p. 82. ISBN 9780028661520.
  27. ^ Widener 1979, p. 14
  28. ^ Widener 1979, p. 15
  29. ^ van Ginneken 1992, p. 172
  30. ^ Wagner, Gerhard (November 1993). "Who's Afraid of "Dr. Le Bon"?". Sociological Theory. American Sociological Association: 321–323.
  31. ^ Ewen, Stuart; Ewen, Elizabeth (2011). Typecasting: On the Arts and Sciences of Human Inequality. Seven Stories Press. p. 346. ISBN 9781583229491.
  32. ^ Nye, Robert A. (1969). An Intellectual Portrait of Gustave Le Bon: A Study of the Development and Impact of the Social Scientist in His Historical Setting. Xerox University Microfilms. p. 5.
  33. ^ Nye, Mary (1974). Gustave Le Bon’s Black Light: A Study in Physics and Philosophy in France at the Turn of the Century. pp. 163–195.
  34. ^ Kragh, Helge (1999). Quantum Generations: A History of Physics in the Twentieth Century. Princeton University Press. pp. 11–12.
  35. ^ Betts 1960, p. 65
  36. ^ Jammer, Max (2009). Concepts of Mass in Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. Princeton University Press. p. 72. ISBN 9781400823789.
  37. ^ Swiderski, Richard M. (2012). X-Ray Vision: A Way of Looking. Universal-Publishers. p. 67. ISBN 9781612331089.
  38. ^ Widener 1979, p. 13
  39. ^ Crosland, Maurice (2002). Science Under Control: The French Academy of Sciences 1795-1914. Cambridge University Press. p. 347.
  40. ^ Widener 1979, p. 19
  41. ^ Kayman, Martin A. (1986). Modernism Of Ezra Pound: The Science Of Poetry. Springer. p. 83. ISBN 9781349182473.
  42. ^ McClelland, J. S. (2005). A History of Western Political Thought. Routledge. p. 660. ISBN 9781134812103.
  43. ^ Staff writer(s) (14 December 1931). "Gustave Le Bon obituary". Journal des débats.
  44. ^ Reicher, Steve (2003). Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Group Processes. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 185.
  45. ^ The Crowd: A study of the Popular Mind. Gustave Le Bon. 1841 [1931] Dover Publications, p. 9.
  46. ^ Eley, Geoff (2008). Citizenship and National Identity in Twentieth-century Germany. Stanford University Press. p. 284.
  47. ^ Gonen, Jay Y. (2013). The Roots of Nazi Psychology: Hitler's Utopian Barbarism. University Press of Kentucky. p. 92.
  48. ^ van Ginneken 1992, p. 186
  49. ^ Ohlberg 2014, p. 162
  50. ^ Ewen, Stuart (1996). PR!: A Social History of Spin. Basic Books. p. 63.
  51. ^ Le Bon, Gustave (1984). Psychologie du Socialisme. pp. 415–416.


  • Barrows, Susanna (1981), Distorting Mirrors – Visions of the Crowd in Late 19th Century France, Yale University Press
  • Nye, Robert (1975), The Origins of Crowd Psychology – Gustave Le Bon and the Crisis of Mass Democracy in the Third Republic, Sage
  • van Ginneken, Jaap (1992), Crowds, Psychology, and Politics, 1871-1899, Cambridge University Press
  • Betts, Raymond F. (1960), Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory, 1890-1914, U of Nebraska Press
  • Staum, Martin S. (2011), Nature and Nurture in French Social Sciences, 1859–1914 and Beyond, McGill-Queen's Press
  • de Benoist, Alain (1977), Vu de droite. Anthologie critique des idées contemporaines, Copernic
  • Terrier, Jean (2011), Visions of the Social: Society as a Political Project in France, 1750-1950, BRILL
  • Ohlberg, Marieke (2014), The Era of Crowds: Gustave Le Bon, Crowd Psychology and Conceptualizations of Mass-Elite Relations in China, Springer
  • Widener, Alice (1979), Gustave Le Bon, the Man and His Works, Liberty Press

External links

Ahmad Fathy Zaghlul

Ahmad Fathy Zaghlul (1863–1914) was an Egyptian nationalist lawyer and politician. The brother of Saad Zaghloul, Fathy Zahlul studied law in Paris and wrote several law texts. He had several administrative and government posts, and at one point was Deputy Minister of Justice.

In 1906 he was amongst the Egyptian judges at the summary trial for the Denshawai Incident, which damaged his popular reputation in Egypt.An anti-populist liberal, Fathy Zaghlul also translated several works of European social science into Arabic, including À quoi tient la supériorité des Anglo-Saxons? by Edmond Demolins. A translation of Herbert Spencer's The Man Versus the State was left unfinished and unpublished at his death.

Behavioral contagion

Behavioral contagion is a type of social influence. It refers to the propensity for certain behavior exhibited by one person to be copied by others who are either in the vicinity of the original actor, or who have been exposed to media coverage describing the behavior of the original actor. It was originally used by Gustave Le Bon (1895) to explain undesirable aspects of behavior of people in crowds. A variety of behavioral contagion mechanisms were incorporated in models of collective human behavior.

The occurrence of behavioral contagion has been attributed to a variety of different factors, but the predominant theory is that of the reduction of restraints, put forth by Fritz Redl in 1949 and analyzed in depth by Ladd Wheeler in 1966. Even with the popularity of this theory, social psychologists acknowledge a number of factors that influence the likelihood of behavioral contagion occurring, such as deindividuation (Festinger, Pepitone, & Newcomb, 1952) and the emergence of social norms (Turner, 1964). Freedman, Birsky and Cavoukian (1980) have also focused on the effects of physical factors on contagion, in particular, density and number.Ogunlade (1979, p. 205) describes behavioral contagion as a “spontaneous, unsolicited and uncritical imitation of another’s behavior” that occurs when certain variables are met: a) the observer and the model share a similar situation or mood (this is one way behavioral contagion can be readily applied to mob psychology); b) the model’s behavior encourages the observer to review his condition and to change it; c) the model’s behavior would assist the observer to resolve a conflict by reducing restraints, if copied; and d) the model is assumed to be a positive reference individual.

Collective depression

Collective depression is one of many collective mental states, such as collective elation, collective paranoia, collective trauma, or collective grief, which may affect a group, community or whole nation. It is characterised by a prevailing and seemingly permanent sense of inadequacy, despondency, lack of vitality, sadness and hopelessness, shared by a high proportion of the members of a collectivity. As shown by Gustave Le Bon in 1895, it can be passed by contagion, in a way similar to a physical condition.

Collective depression is often found in detained communities, such as ghettos, concentration camps or other places where all prospects of release are extremely improbable, and is recognisable by a high incidence of suicide.

There is debate over the philosophical status of the concept: while Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Franz Borkenau and many others accepted the existence of a collective mind or collective unconscious, much modern thinking treats collective depression as an aggregate of individuals depressions. However, there is growing interest in the concept of mass sociogenic illness where a physical or psychological condition is observed to spread within a group without a common organic cause.

The remedy for collective depression is the restoration of hope, though this may be a task beyond the capabilities of any leader of a community. Collective depression can also be a state of considerable vulnerability, as destructive strategies may be clutched at through misplaced belief in the efficacy of radical measures.

Collective mental state

Mental state is generally a literary or legal term, and is only used in psychiatry or psychology as the mental state examination, where it refers to the condition of someone's mind. Here there is an assessment of thought processes, memory, mood, cognitive state, and energy level. Where a mental state is shared by a large proportion of the members of a group or society, it can be called a collective mental state. Gustave Le Bon proposed that mental states are passed by contagion, while Sigmund Freud wrote of war fever in his work Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1922), a perfect example of the collective mental state. Franz Borkenau wrote of collective madness, while many writers have discussed collective depression. Psychosis can be passed from one individual to another as induced psychosis or folie à deux, but rarely involves more than two people. Where the mental state involves a large population, it is more appropriate to use plain English rather than psychiatric or psychological terminology.

Crowd manipulation

Crowd manipulation is the intentional use of techniques based on the principles of crowd psychology to engage, control, or influence the desires of a crowd in order to direct its behavior toward a specific action. This practice is common to politics and business and can facilitate the approval or disapproval or indifference to a person, policy, or product. The ethicality of crowd manipulation is commonly questioned.

Crowd manipulation differs from propaganda although they may reinforce one another to produce a desired result. If propaganda is "the consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group", crowd manipulation is the relatively brief call to action once the seeds of propaganda (i.e. more specifically "pre-propaganda") are sown and the public is organized into a crowd. The propagandist appeals to the masses, even if compartmentalized, whereas the crowd manipulator appeals to a segment of the masses assembled into a crowd in real time. In situations such as a national emergency, however, a crowd manipulator may leverage mass media to address the masses in real time as if speaking to a crowd.Crowd manipulation also differs from crowd control, which serves a security function. Local authorities use crowd-control methods to contain and disperse crowds and to prevent and respond to unruly and unlawful acts such as rioting and looting.

Crowd psychology

Crowd psychology, also known as mob psychology, is a branch of social psychology. Social psychologists have developed several theories for explaining the ways in which the psychology of a crowd differs from and interacts with that of the individuals within it. Major theorists in crowd psychology include Gustave Le Bon, Gabriel Tarde, Sigmund Freud, and Steve Reicher. This field relates to the behaviors and thought processes of both the individual crowd members and the crowd as an entity. Crowd behavior is heavily influenced by the loss of responsibility of the individual and the impression of universality of behavior, both of which increase with crowd size.

Crowds and Power

Crowds and Power (German: Masse und Macht) is a 1960 book by Elias Canetti, dealing with the dynamics of crowds and "packs" and the question of how and why crowds obey power of rulers. Canetti draws a parallel between ruling and paranoia. Also, the memoirs of Daniel Paul Schreber are analyzed with an implicit critique of Sigmund Freud and Gustave Le Bon.

The book was translated from German into English by Carol Stewart in 1962 and published by Gollancz.

It is notable for its unusual tone; although wide-ranging in its erudition, it is not scholarly or academic in a conventional way. Rather, it reads like a manual written by someone outside the human race explaining to another outsider in concise and highly metaphoric language how people form mobs and manipulate power. Unlike much non-fiction writing, it is highly poetic and seething with anger.

On asking questions:

"On the questioner the effect is a feeling of enhanced power. He enjoys this and consequentially asks more and more questions; every answer he receives is an act of submission. Personal freedom consists largely in having a defense against questions. The most blatant tyranny is the one which asks the most blatant questions."This work remains important for the insights it provided into the Eastern European upheaval which can be understood within the framework Canetti puts forth. Showing the growth of crowds and their power against even the power of the state.

Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego

Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (German: Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse) is a 1921 book by Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.

In this monograph, Freud describes psychological mechanisms at work within mass movements. A mass, according to Freud, is a "temporary entity, consisting of heterogeneous elements that have joined together for a moment." He refers heavily to the writings of sociologist and psychologist Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931), summarizing his work at the beginning of the book in the chapter Le Bons Schilderung der Massenseele ("Le Bon's description of the group mind"). Like Le Bon, Freud says that as part of the mass, the individual acquires a sense of infinite power which allows him to act on impulses that he would otherwise have to curb as an isolated individual. These feelings of power and security allow the individual not only to act as part of the mass, but also to feel safety in numbers. This is accompanied, however, by a loss of conscious personality and a tendency of the individual to be infected by any emotion within the mass, and to amplify the emotion, in turn, by "mutual induction". Overall, the mass is "impulsive, changeable, and irritable. It is controlled almost exclusively by the unconscious."Freud distinguishes between two types of masses. One is the short-lived kind, characterized by a rapidly transient interest, such as trends. The other kind consists of more permanent and enduring masses, which are highly organized, such as the Church or the military. "The masses of the former type, so to speak, ride on the latter, like the short but high waves on the long swell of the sea." However, the same basic mental processes operate in both kinds of masses.

Freud refers back to his theory of instincts and believes that masses are held together by libidinal bonds. Each individual in the mass acts on impulses of love that are diverted from their original objectives. They pursue no direct sexual goal, but "do not therefore work less vigorously".Freud initially called the (largely unconscious) identification with the other individuals of the mass, all of whom are drawn in the same way to the leader, a binding element. The ego perceives a significant similarity with others in the group and identifies with them. In addition, admiration and idealization of the leader of the group takes place through the process of idealization. The narcissistic libido is displaced to the object which is "loved because of its perfection which the individual has sought for his own ego". Also, a process of identification with the aggressor can take place, for example, as happens in regression.

Thus, Freud came to the conclusion: "A primary mass is a number of individuals who have put one and the same object in place of their ego ideal and consequently identify with each other."

Group dynamics

Group dynamics is a system of behaviors and psychological processes occurring within a social group (intragroup dynamics), or between social groups (intergroup dynamics). The study of group dynamics can be useful in understanding decision-making behaviour, tracking the spread of diseases in society, creating effective therapy techniques, and following the emergence and popularity of new ideas and technologies. Group dynamics are at the core of understanding racism, sexism, and other forms of social prejudice and discrimination. These applications of the field are studied in psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, epidemiology, education, social work, business, and communication studies.

The three main factors affecting a team's cohesion (working together well) are: environmental, personal and leadership.

History of hypnosis

The development of concepts, beliefs and practices related to hypnosis and hypnotherapy have been documented since prehistoric to modern times.

Although often viewed as one continuous history, the term hypnosis was coined in the 1880s in France, some twenty years after the death of James Braid, who had adopted the term hypnotism in 1841.

Braid adopted the term hypnotism (which specifically applied to the state of the subject, rather than techniques applied by the operator) to contrast his own, unique, subject-centred, approach with those of the operator-centred mesmerists who preceded him.

Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War

Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War is the title of an influential book by English surgeon Wilfred Trotter, published in 1916. Based on the ideas of Gustave Le Bon, it was very influential in the development of group dynamics and crowd psychology, and the propaganda of Edward Bernays.

International Institute of Sociology

The International Institute of Sociology (IIS) is a scholarly organization which seeks to stimulate and facilitate the development, exchange, and application of scientific knowledge to questions of sociological relevance. Membership is open to all sociologists as well as to scholars in neighbouring disciplines.

Created in Paris in 1893 by René Worms, it is the oldest continuous sociological association in existence. Its first congress was held in Paris in October 1894 under the chairmanship of René Worms, which formalised the foundation of this institution. The Révue internationale de sociologie, founded the year before, became the printed organ of the Institute. Since its foundation the goal of the IIS has been to bring together sociologists from around the world. It has a longstanding tradition of promoting discussions on the most crucial theoretical issues of the day and on the practical use of social scientific knowledge. Among its members and associates were prominent scholars such as: Franz Boas, Roger Bastide, Lujo Brentano, Theodor Geiger, Gustave Le Bon, Karl Mannheim, William F. Ogburn, Pitirim Sorokin, Georg Simmel, Werner Sombart, Gabriel Tarde, Ferdinand Toennies, Thorstein Veblen, Lester F. Ward, Eliezer Ben-Rafael, Sidney Webb, Max Weber, Florian Znaniecki, and Ludwig GumplowiczEvery two years the IIS organizes a world congress in Sociology. Recent IIS World Congresses were held in Yerevan (2009), Budapest (2008), Stockholm (2005), Beijing (2004), Kraków (2001), Tel Aviv (1999), Köln (1997), Trieste (1995), Paris (1993), Kobe (1991), and Rome (1989).

In addition to the congresses and other meetings, the IIS publishes the Annales de l'Institut International de Sociologie / Annals of the International Institute of Sociology. First published in 1895 after the first world congress, this book series seeks to present cutting-edge research and synthesis.

Le Bon

Le Bon (French for "the Good") may refer to:

Fulk II, Count of Anjou (circa 905–960), nicknamed Foulques le Bon

John II of France (1319–1364), nicknamed Jehan le Bon

Philip the Good (1396–1467), Duke of Burgundy; in French Philippe le Bon

Joseph Le Bon (1765–1795), French politician

Philippe LeBon (1767–1804), French engineer

Gustave Le Bon (1841–1931), French social psychologist, sociologist, and amateur physicist

Simon Le Bon (1958–), singer with Duran Duran

Yasmin Le Bon (1964–), British fashion model

Cate Le Bon, Welsh singer

Charlotte Le Bon (1986-), Canadian actress


Podolyans (Ukrainian: Подоляни, Polish: Podolanie) is one of Ukrainian ethnographic groups given to the people who populated the region of Podolia.

In the 19th century, Gustave Le Bon has found a new peculiar race in the Tatra Mountains, named "Podolians".


Psychologism is a philosophical position, according to which psychology plays a central role in grounding or explaining some other, non-psychological type of fact or law.

Wilfred Trotter

Wilfred Batten Lewis Trotter, FRS (3 November 1872 – 25 November 1939) was an English surgeon, a pioneer in neurosurgery. He was also known for his studies on social psychology, most notably for his concept of the herd instinct, which he first outlined in two published papers in 1908, and later in his famous popular work Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, an early classic of crowd psychology. Trotter argued that gregariousness was an instinct, and studied beehives, flocks of sheep and wolf packs.

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