1. IMAGES, WORDS AND FORMULAE.
The magical power of words
and formulae--The power of words bound up with the images they
evoke, and independent of their real sense--These images vary
from age to age, and from race to race--The wear and tear of
words--Examples of the considerable variations of sense of
much-used words--The political utility of baptizing old things
with new names when the words by which they were designated
produced an unfavourable impression on the masses-- variations of
the sense of words in consequence of race differences--The
different meanings of the word "democracy" in Europe and America.
2. ILLUSIONS. Their importance--They are to be found at the
root of all civilisations--The social necessity of
illusions--Crowds always prefer them to truths. 3.
EXPERIENCE. Experience alone can fix in the mind of crowds truths
become necessary and destroy illusions grown
dangerous--Experience is only effective on the condition that it
be frequently repeated--The cost of the experiences requisite to
persuade crowds. 4. REASON. The nullity of its influence on
crowds--Crowds only to be influenced by their unconscious
sentiments-- The role of logic in history--The secret causes of
We have just investigated the remote and preparatory factors
which give the mind of crowds a special receptivity, and make
possible therein the growth of certain sentiments and certain
ideas. It now remains for us to study the factors capable of
acting in a direct manner. We shall see in a forthcoming chapter
how these factors should be put in force in order that they may
produce their full effect.
In the first part of this work we studied the sentiments, ideas,
and methods of reasoning of collective bodies, and from the
knowledge thus acquired it would evidently be possible to deduce
in a general way the means of making an impression on their mind.
We already know what strikes the imagination of crowds, and are
acquainted with the power and contagiousness of suggestions, of
those especially that are presented under the form of images.
However, as suggestions may proceed from very different sources,
the factors capable of acting on the minds of crowds may differ
considerably. It is necessary, then, to study them separately.
This is not a useless study. Crowds are somewhat like the sphinx
of ancient fable: it is necessary to arrive at a solution of the
problems offered by their psychology or to resign ourselves to
being devoured by them.
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