Old and New Populisms
2. The Hetero-direction of Crowds
2.1. Gustave Le Bon: The Psychology of Crowds
The observations and studies of the controversial but important French scholar, Gustave Le Bon, provide suggestions concerning the psychological and emotional consequences of crowds. In one of his most important works he offers us a number of in-depth considerations, different from those of Ortega and set in a different context, which can help us to understand the importance of the phenomenon (Le Bon, 2004). Le Bon lived at the end of the nineteenth century, in France, in a period that influenced not only positivist sociology but also the other social sciences.
A military doctor and anthropologist, like Lombroso, Le Bon shared the positivist theories typical of those times whereby human behaviour was determined by social context. Inheritance, even in its criminal aspects, became an expression and the basis of a lifestyle inspired by Spencer’s evolutionism and reflected concretely in the psychological, medical, psychoanalytic populist Paris of the 1870s (Van Ginneke, 1991, p. 121). Post-revolutionary France which had consecrated the crowds as new social protagonists of history had, however, also divided scholars.
In particular, the riots, revolts and revolutions that made the history of those years and created France a country and a democracy quite unlike the other European nations of the time, were examined. In 1884, universal male suffrage was introduced and relationships between the elites and masses became an important element for political scientists to analyse (op. cit., p. 135). Paris was a...
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