Eric Hoffer's The True Beliver: Manifestations in Mass Movements

Friday, February 22, 2002 to Thursday, June 27, 2002
flyer

flyer
Flyer designed by Stanford University student David Vogel

This exhibit, which was researched and prepared by students in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric, an undergraduate writing program at Stanford, seeks to connect the theories of social philosopher Eric Hoffer with real-world movements, using materials from the Hoover Institution Archives.

This exhibit, which was researched and prepared by students in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric, an undergraduate writing program at Stanford, seeks to connect the theories of social philosopher Eric Hoffer with real-world movements, using materials from the Hoover Institution Archives.

Hoffer, America’s “working-class philosopher,” was a San Francisco resident who worked as a longshoreman during the day. In the evenings, he read at the public library, recording his thoughts as they occurred to him. His first book, The True Believer (1951), won him high esteem, with universities and political institutions showcasing him as a teacher and guest lecturer. Hoffer balanced his new academic career with his job on the docks, which he kept until late in life. In 1981, Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his insights into radical movements and other social phenomena.

Ann Watters’s writing class read The True Believer this January. Seeking to examine the relevance of Hoffer’s conclusions to actual historical events, the class searched the Hoover Institution’s vast archives for primary texts associated with mass movements, discovering, along with summaries of Hoffer’s theories, related materials from Nazi Germany, Gandhi’s nonviolent protests, the American civil rights movement, and the Islamic jihad and chose examples to display.

Drawing from the Institution’s unique Hoffer collection, the students also researched the philosopher’s manuscripts, letters, and personal effects. This exhibit presents, among other interesting items, his original handwritten draft of The True Believer and his Medal of Freedom.

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