The evolution of the present age--The great changes in

civilisation are the consequence of changes in National

thought--Modern belief in the power of crowds--It transforms the

traditional policy of the European states--How the rise of the

popular classes comes about, and the manner in which they

exercise their power--The necessary consequences of the power of

the crowd--Crowds unable to play a part other than

destructive--The dissolution of worn-out civilisations is the

work of the crowd--General ignorance of the psychology of crowds--

Importance of the study of crowds for legislators and statesmen.

The great upheavals which precede changes of civilisations such

as the fall of the Roman Empire and the foundation of the Arabian

Empire, seem at first sight determined more especially by

political transformations, foreign invasion, or the overthrow of

dynasties. But a more attentive study of these events shows that

behind their apparent causes the real cause is generally seen to

be a profound modification in the ideas of the peoples. The true

historical upheavals are not those which astonish us by their

grandeur and violence. The only important changes whence the

renewal of civilisations results, affect ideas, conceptions, and

beliefs. The memorable events of history are the visible effects

of the invisible changes of human thought. The reason these

great events are so rare is that there is nothing so stable in a

race as the inherited groundwork of its thoughts.

The present epoch is one of these critical moments in which the

thought of mankind is undergoing a process of transformation.

Two fundamental factors are at the base of this transformation.

The first is the destruction of those religious, political, and

social beliefs in which all the elements of our civilisation are

rooted. The second is the creation of entirely new conditions of

existence and thought as the result of modern scientific and

industrial discoveries.

The ideas of the past, although half destroyed, being still very

powerful, and the ideas which are to replace them being still in

process of formation, the modern age represents a period of

transition and anarchy.

It is not easy to say as yet what will one day be evolved from

this necessarily somewhat chaotic period. What will be the

fundamental ideas on which the societies that are to succeed our

own will be built up? We do not at present know. Still it is

already clear that on whatever lines the societies of the future

are organised, they will have to count with a new power, with the

last surviving sovereign force of modern times, the power of

crowds. On the ruins of so many ideas formerly considered beyond

discussion, and to-day decayed or decaying, of so many sources of

authority that successive revolutions have destroyed, this power,

which alone has arisen in their stead, seems soon destined to

absorb the others. While all our ancient beliefs are tottering

and disappearing, while the old pillars of society are giving way

one by one, the power of the crowd is the only force that nothing

menaces, and of which the prestige is continually on the

increase. The age we are about to enter will in truth be the ERA