Eric Hoffer in the San Francisco Library

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American Iconoclast:
The Life and Times of Eric Hoffer

Former migratory worker and longshoreman, Eric Hoffer burst on the scene in 1951 with his irreplaceable tome, The True Believer, and assured his place among the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. His prolific output includes such classics as The Passionate State of Mind, The Ordeal of Change, Reflections on the Human Condition, The Temper of Our Time, In Our Time, First Things-Last Things, Working and Thinking on the Waterfront, Before the Sabbath, his memoir Truth Imagined, and the recent collection of his columns The Syndicated News Articles. With more than nine books to his credit, Hoffer remains a vital figure with his cogent insights to the nature of mass movements and the essence of humankind.

Hoffer script

Hoffer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983. Each year Hoffer is memorialized through The Eric Hoffer Award for prose and books.

The Passionate State of Mind

(ISBN 1933435097 , 120 pgs)

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There is in most passions a shrinking away from ourselves. The passionate pursuer has all the earmarks of a fugitive.

Passions usually have their roots in that which is blemished, crippled, incomplete and insecure within us. The passionate attitude is less a response to stimuli from without than an emanation of an inner dissatisfaction.

A poignant dissatisfaction, whatever be its cause, is at bottom a dissatisfaction with ourselves. It is surprising how much hardship and humiliation a man will endure without bitterness when he has not the least doubt about his worth or when he is so integrated with others that he is not aware of a separate self.

from The Passionate State of Mind

It is my impression that no one really likes the new. We are afraid of it. It is not only as Dostoyevsky put it that “taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most.” Even in slight things the experience of the new is rarely without some stirring of foreboding.

In the case of drastic change the uneasiness is of course deeper and more lasting. We can never be really prepared for that which is wholly new. We have to adjust ourselves, and every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem: We undergo a test; we have to prove ourselves. It needs inordinate self-confidence to face drastic change without inner trembling.

from The Ordeal of Change

The Passionate State of Mind

(ISBN 1933435100, 136 pgs)

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Reflections on the Human Conidition by Eric Hoffer

(ISBN 1933435143, 80 pgs)

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Nature attains perfection, but man never does. There is a perfect ant, a perfect bee, but man is perpetually unfinished. He is both an unfinished animal and an unfinished man. It is this incurable unfinishedness which sets man apart from other living things. For, in the attempt to finish himself, man becomes a creator. Moreover, the incurable unfinishedness keeps man perpetually immature, perpetually capable of learning and growing. ...

Everywhere we look at present we see something new trying to be born. A pregnant, swollen world is writhing in labor, and everywhere untrained quacks are officiating as obstetricians. These quacks say that the only way the new can be born is by a Caesarean operation. They lust to rip the belly of the world open.

from Reflections on the Human Condition

Our age is not the age of the masses but the age of the intellectuals. Everywhere you look you can see intellectuals easing the traditional men of action out of their seats of power. In many parts of the world there are now intellectuals acting as large-scale industrialists, as military leaders, as statesmen and empire builders. By intellectual I mean a literate person who feels himself a member of the educated minority. It is not actual intellectual superiority which makes the intellectual but the feeling of belonging to an intellectual elite. ...

from The Temper of Our Times

Reflections on the Human Conidition by Eric Hoffer

(ISBN 1933435224, 106 pgs)

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Reflections on the Human Conidition by Eric Hoffer

(ISBN 1933435282, 96 pgs)

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In the alchemy of man’s soul almost all noble attributes—courage, honor, love, hope, faith, duty, loyalty—can be trans-muted into ruthlessness. Compassion alone stands apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil within us. Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: Where there is com-passion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless. Thus the survival of the species may well depend on the ability to foster a boundless capacity for compassion. ...

from In Our Time

Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America. An excellent historian thinks Americans are “the most frightening people in the world,” and a foremost philologist sees America as “the most aggressive power in the world, the greatest threat to peace and to international cooperation.” Others call America a “pig heaven,” “a monster with 200 million heads,” “a cancer on the body of mankind.” ... There is no doubt that in our permissive society the intellectual has far more liberty than he can use; and the more his liberty and the less his capacity to make use of it, the louder his clamor for power—power to deprive other people of liberty. ...

from First Things Last Things

Reflections on the Human Conidition by Eric Hoffer

(ISBN 1933435275, 96 pgs)

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Reflections on the Human Conidition by Eric Hoffer

(ISBN 1933435299, 136 pgs)

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They have been predicting the dire things that would happen to art, literature, and culture in general if the lowbrow masses asserted themselves and imposed their tastes on a society. But could anything equal the inanity and imposture spewed by avant-garde cliques and accepted by self-appointed guardians of our culture? ... Eventually the inanities will be swept away by people of talent who will build the new with a sure hand. My feeling is that when talented people who have something to say use the new techniques their work will be accessible even to the uninitiated. ... How easy it is to forget a mood or perhaps feelings in general. We can remember an act or something we saw, heard, or smelled, but we cannot remember the feelings of happiness, despair, elation, dejection, etc., unless we have encased them in words. ....

from Working and Thinking on the Waterfront

They have been predicting the dire things that would happen to art, literature, and culture in general if the lowbrow masses asserted themselves and imposed their tastes on a society. But could anything equal the inanity and imposture spewed by avant-garde cliques and accepted by self-appointed guardians of our culture? ... Eventually the inanities will be swept away by people of talent who will build the new with a sure hand. My feeling is that when talented people who have something to say use the new techniques their work will be accessible even to the uninitiated. ... How easy it is to forget a mood or perhaps feelings in general. We can remember an act or something we saw, heard, or smelled, but we cannot remember the feelings of happiness, despair, elation, dejection, etc., unless we have encased them in words. ....

from Before the Sabbath

Reflections on the Human Conidition by Eric Hoffer

(ISBN 1933435305, 140 pgs)

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Reflections on the Human Conidition by Eric Hoffer

(ISBN 1933435011, 120 pgs)

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They have been predicting the dire things that would happen to art, literature, and culture in general if the lowbrow masses asserted themselves and imposed their tastes on a society. But could anything equal the inanity and imposture spewed by avant-garde cliques and accepted by self-appointed guardians of our culture? ... Eventually the inanities will be swept away by people of talent who will build the new with a sure hand. My feeling is that when talented people who have something to say use the new techniques their work will be accessible even to the uninitiated. ... How easy it is to forget a mood or perhaps feelings in general. We can remember an act or something we saw, heard, or smelled, but we cannot remember the feelings of happiness, despair, elation, dejection, etc., unless we have encased them in words. ....

from Truth Imagined

Man's ascent through the millennia must be seen as a cease-less striving to break away from the nonhuman cosmos. The age-long groping for freedom is an aspect of this blind striving to step outside the iron necessities which rule nature. The attempt to make human affairs as precise and predictable, as scientific, as a process in nature is an attempt at dehumanization. ... The equation, human nature = nature, if read from left to right, gives us not only the scientific approach of Marx, Darwin, Freud and Pavlov but also the approach of ruthless soul engineers such as Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler who experimented with blood. When read from right to left the equation gives us the magical approach, the belief that nature, not unlike human nature, can be influenced by words, and by other means which had proved their efficacy in the manipulation of human affairs.

from The Syndicated News Articles

Reflections on the Human Conidition by Eric Hoffer

(ISBN 9781933435374, 256 pgs)

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