The origin of the beliefs of crowds is the consequence of a

preliminary process of elaboration--

Study of the different factors of these beliefs.

1. RACE. The predominating influence it exercises--It

represents the suggestions of ancestors. 2. TRADITIONS.

They are the synthesis of the soul of the race--Social importance

of traditions--How, after having been necessary they become

harmful--Crowds are the most obstinate maintainers of traditional

ideas. 3. TIME. It prepares in succession the establishment

of beliefs and then their destruction. It is by the aid of this

factor that order may proceed from chaos. 4. POLITICAL AND

SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS. Erroneous idea of their part--Their

influence extremely weak--They are effects, not causes--Nations

are incapable of choosing what appear to them the best

institutions--Institutions are labels which shelter the most

dissimilar things under the same title-- How institutions may

come to be created--Certain institutions theoretically bad, such

as centralisation obligatory for certain nations. 5.

INSTITUTIONS AND EDUCATION. Falsity of prevalent ideas as to the

influence of instruction on crowds-- Statistical

indications--Demoralising effect of Latin system of

education--Part instruction might play--Examples furnished by

various peoples.

Having studied the mental constitution of crowds and become

acquainted with their modes of feeling, thinking, and reasoning,

we shall now proceed to examine how their opinions and beliefs

arise and become established.

The factors which determine these opinions and beliefs are of two

kinds: remote factors and immediate factors.

The remote factors are those which render crowds capable of

adopting certain convictions and absolutely refractory to the

acceptance of others. These factors prepare the ground in which

are suddenly seen to germinate certain new ideas whose force and

consequences are a cause of astonishment, though they are only

spontaneous in appearance. The outburst and putting in practice

of certain ideas among crowds present at times a startling

suddenness. This is only a superficial effect, behind which must

be sought a preliminary and preparatory action of long duration.

The immediate factors are those which, coming on the top of this

long, preparatory working, in whose absence they would remain

without effect, serve as the source of active persuasion on

crowds; that is, they are the factors which cause the idea to

take shape and set it loose with all its consequences. The

resolutions by which collectivities are suddenly carried away

arise out of these immediate factors; it is due to them that a

riot breaks out or a strike is decided upon, and to them that

enormous majorities invest one man with power to overthrow a


The successive action of these two kinds of factors is to be

traced in all great historical events. The French Revolution--to

cite but one of the most striking of such events--had among its

remote factors the writings of the philosophers, the exactions of

the nobility, and the progress of scientific thought. The mind

of the masses, thus prepared, was then easily roused by such

immediate factors as the speeches of orators, and the resistance

of the court party to insignificant reforms.

Among the remote factors there are some of a general nature,

which are found to underlie all the beliefs and opinions of

crowds. They are race, traditions, time, institutions, and


We now proceed to study the influence of these different factors.


This factor, race, must be placed in the first rank, for in

itself it far surpasses in importance all the others. We have

sufficiently studied it in another work; it is therefore needless

to deal with it again. We showed, in a previous volume, what an

historical race is, and how, its character once formed, it

possesses, as the result of the laws of heredity such power that

its beliefs, institutions, and arts--in a word, all the elements

of its civilisation--are merely the outward expression of its

genius. We showed that the power of the race is such that no

element can pass from one people to another without undergoing

the most profound transformations.[7]

history being quite unintelligible without it, I devoted four

chapters to its demonstration in my last book ("The Psychological

Laws of the Evolution of Peoples"). From it the reader will see

that, in spite of fallacious appearances, neither language,

religion, arts, or, in a word, any element of civilisation, can

pass, intact, from one people to another.

Environment, circumstances, and events represent the social

suggestions of the moment. They may have a considerable

influence, but this influence is always momentary if it be

contrary to the suggestions of the race; that is, to those which

are inherited by a nation from the entire series of its


We shall have occasion in several of the chapters of this work to

touch again upon racial influence, and to show that this

influence is so great that it dominates the characteristics

peculiar to the genius of crowds. It follows from this fact that

the crowds of different countries offer very considerable

differences of beliefs and conduct and are not to be influenced

in the same manner.

POLITICAL AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS PRESTIGE facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail