Eric Hoffer

Eric Hoffer
Eric Hoffer
  • Born: July 25, 1898
  • Died: May 21, 1983
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Writer









Quote Topics Cited
… propaganda on its own cannot force its way into unwilling minds; neither can it inculcate something wholly new; nor can it keep people persuaded once they have ceased to believe. It penetrates only into minds already open, and rather than instill opinion it articulates and justifies opinions already present in the minds of its recipients. The gifted propagandist brings to a boil ideas and passions already simmering in the minds of his hearers. he echoes their innermost feelings. Propaganda & Disinformation
A dissenting minority feels free only when it can impose its will on the majority: what it abominates most is the dissent of the majority. Democracies & Republics
A nation without dregs and malcontents is orderly, decent, peaceful and pleasant, but perhaps without the seeds of things to come. Poverty
A ruling intelligentsia, whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed, and wasted at will. Power
A war is not won if the defeated enemy has not been turned into a friend. War & Peace
Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power. Corruption
Add a few drops of venom to a half truth and you have an absolute truth. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
Charlatanism of some degree is indispensable to effective leadership. There can be no mass movement without some deliberate misrepresentation of facts. Leaders & Leadership
Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world. War & Peace
Failure in the management of practical affairs seems to be a qualification for success in the management of public affairs. Detriments & Qualifications ;Public Office: Benefits
Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents. Miscellaneous
In the eyes of the true believer, people who have no holy cause are without backbone and character. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
It almost seems that nobody can hate America as much as native Americans. America needs new immigrants to love and cherish it. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Immigration & Emigration
It has often been said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the faults of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from the sense of inadequacy and impotence. They hate not wickedness but weakness. When it is their power to do so, the weak destroy weakness wherever they see it. Corruption
It is by its promise of a sense of power that evil often attracts the weak. Power ;Human Nature
It is doubtful if the oppressed ever fight for freedom. They fight for pride and power — power to oppress others. The oppressed want above all to imitate their oppressors; they want to retaliate. Rebellion, Revolution, Insurgency & Resistance
It is easier to hate an enemy with much good in him than one who is all bad. We cannot hate those we despise. The Japanese had an advantage over us in that they admired us more than we admired them. They could hate us more fervently than we could hate them. The Americans are poor haters in international affairs because of their innate feeling of superiority over all foreigners. An American's hatred for a fellow American (for Hoover or Roosevelt) is far more virulent than any antipathy he can work up against foreigners. It is of interest that the backward South shows more xenophobia than the rest of the country. Should Americans begin to hate foreigners wholeheartedly, it will be an indication that they have lost confidence in their own way of life. Human Nature
It is probably true that business corrupts everything it touches. It corrupts politics, sports, literature, art, labor unions and so on. But business also corrupts and undermines monolithic totalitarianism. Capitalism is at its liberating best in a non-capitalistic environment. Business, Commerce & Finance
It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible. What we know as blind faith is sustained by innumerable unbeliefs. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
It is true that [the] present-day young are idealistic. But theirs is the easy idealism that condemns abuses and pushes aside any thought that would reveal the difficulties and complexities inherent in righting wrongs. They are not willing to do the hard work by which alone the world can be improved. Hearing what they say, and seeing what they do, one suspects that one of the main functions of the young’s idealism is finding good reasons for doing bad things. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil. Religion & God
Nature has no compassion. Nature accepts no excuses and the only punishment it knows is death. Environment & Environmentalism
One has the impression that the young do not want to, or perhaps cannot, grow up. Our campuses have become dour, playless nurseries echoing with doctrinaire baby talk. You see six-foot babies clamoring for power and protesting against universities not having adequate arrangements for child care. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident. Human Nature
Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Power
Retribution often means that we eventually do to ourselves what we have done unto others. Miscellaneous
The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do. It is the freedom to refrain, withdraw and abstain which makes a totalitarian regime impossible. Freedom & Liberty
The benevolent despot who sees himself as a shepherd of the people still demands of others the submissiveness of sheep. Miscellaneous ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
The fanatic ... sacrifices his life to prove his worth. Human Nature
The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self. Human Nature
The frustrated follow a leader less because of their faith that he is leading them to a promised land than because of their immediate feeling that he is leading them away from their unwanted selves. Surrender to a leader is not a means to an end but a fulfillment. Whither they are led is of secondary importance. Leaders & Leadership
The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle. History
The history of this country was made largely by people who wanted to be left alone. History
The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews. Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russia did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it, Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchman. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese — and no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees. Discrimination & Prejudice
The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause. Nationalism & Treason ;Citizenship & Patriotism
The real "haves" are they who can acquire freedom, self-confidence, and even riches without depriving others of them. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The suspicious mind believes more than it doubts. It believes in a formidable and ineradicable evil lurking in every person. Miscellaneous
The young have a genius for discovering imagined grievances. It goes without saying that imagined grievances cannot be cured but they enable the young to evade those aspects of reality which do not minister to their self-importance. . . . Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life. Human Nature
There is a tendency to judge a race, a nation, or a distinct group by its least worthy members. Discrimination & Prejudice
Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesize and make their prophecies come true, but they can also lie and make their lies come true. Power
Those who could not thrive when left to themselves never felt at ease in America. Miscellaneous
To have a grievance is to have a purpose in life. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
To know a person's religion we need not listen to his profession of faith but must find his brand of intolerance. Religion & God
Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden. Of what avail is freedom to choose if the self be ineffectual? Freedom & Liberty
We can remember minutely and precisely only the things which never really happened to us. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, "to be free from freedom." It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility? Political Parties & Machines
When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Riots ;Civil Disorder, Riots, Protests & Demonstrations
When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. Freedom & Liberty
When people are free to do as we please, they usually imitate each other. Freedom & Liberty
Where freedom is real, equality is the passion of the masses. Where equality is real, freedom is the passion of a small minority. Equality & Equal Opportunity ;Freedom & Liberty
Wordiness is a sickness of American writing. Too many words dilute and blur ideas. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
A great man's greatest good luck is to die at the right time. Time
A grievance is most poignant when almost redressed.
A heresy can spring only from a system that is in full vigor.
A man by himself is in bad company.
Action is at bottom a swinging and flailing of the arms to regain one's balance and keep afloat.
An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.
Animals often strike us as passionate machines.
Call not that man wretched, who whatever ills he suffers, has a child to love. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
Children are the keys of paradise. Families, Children & Parenting
Compassion alone stands apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil proceeding within us.
Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul: where there is compassion even the most poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless.
Craving, not having, is the mother of a reckless giving of oneself.
Creativity is the ability to introduce order into the randomness of nature. Nature
Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy - the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation. Hope
Dissipation is a form of self-sacrifice.
Every intense desire is perhaps a desire to be different from what we are.
Every new adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem.
Facts are counterrevolutionary.
Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for lost faith in ourselves. Religion & God
Far more crucial than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know.
I hang onto my prejudices, they are the testicles of my mind.
In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
It is a sign of creeping inner death when we can no longer praise the living. Death
It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one's neighbor. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
It is futile to judge a kind deed by its motives. Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.
It is not actual suffering but the taste of better things which excites people to revolt.
It is not so much the example of others we imitate as the reflection of ourselves in their eyes and the echo of ourselves in their words.
It is often the failure who is the pioneer in new lands, new undertakings, and new forms of expression. Failure
It is remarkable by how much a pinch of malice enhances the penetrating power of an idea or an opinion. Our ears, it seems, are wonderfully attuned to sneers and evil reports about our fellow men. Power
It is the around-the-corner brand of hope that prompts people to action, while the distant hope acts as an opiate. Hope
It is the awareness of unfulfilled desires which gives a nation the feeling that it has a mission and a destiny.
It is the child in man that is the source of his uniqueness and creativeness, and the playground is the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his capacities and talents.
It is the malady of our age that the young are so busy teaching us that they have no time left to learn. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Time
It sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.
It still holds true that man is most uniquely human when he turns obstacles into opportunities.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the degree to which we are influenced by those we influence.
Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.
Man is the only creature that strives to surpass himself, and yearns for the impossible.
Man was nature's mistake she neglected to finish him and she has never ceased paying for her mistake. Nature
Many of the insights of the saint stem from their experience as sinners.
Men weary as much of not doing the things they want to do as of doing the things they do not want to do.
Nationalist pride, like other variants of pride, can be a substitute for self-respect.
One of the marks of a truly vigorous society is the ability to dispense with passion as a midwife of action - the ability to pass directly from thought to action. Society
Our frustration is greater when we have much and want more than when we have nothing and want some. We are less dissatisfied when we lack many things than when we seem to lack but one thing.
Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us, but our emptiness. The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there.
Our passionate preoccupation with the sky, the stars, and a God somewhere in outer space is a homing impulse. We are drawn back to where we came from. Religion & God
Our sense of power is more vivid when we break a man's spirit than when we win his heart. Power
Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Life
People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.
Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.
Rudeness is a weak imitation of strength.
Self-esteem and self-contempt have specific odors; they can be smelled.
Social improvement is attained more readily by a concern with the quality of results than with the purity of motives.
Someone who thinks the world is always cheating him is right. He is missing that wonderful feeling of trust in someone or something. Trust
Sometimes we feel the loss of a prejudice as a loss of vigor.
Take away hatred from some people, and you have men without faith. Religion & God
The beginning of thought is in disagreement - not only with others but also with ourselves.
The best part of the art of living is to know how to grow old gracefully. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
The fear of becoming a 'has-been' keeps some people from becoming anything.
The greatest weariness comes from work not done. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.
The individual who has to justify his existence by his own efforts is in eternal bondage to himself.
The leader has to be practical and a realist, yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist.
The misery of a child is interesting to a mother, the misery of a young man is interesting to a young woman, the misery of an old man is interesting to nobody.
The only way to predict the future is to have power to shape the future. Future ;Power
The pleasure we derive from doing favors is partly in the feeling it gives us that we are not altogether worthless. It is a pleasant surprise to ourselves.
The real Antichrist is he who turns the wine of an original idea into the water of mediocrity.
The savior who wants to turn men into angels is as much a hater of human nature as the totalitarian despot who wants to turn them into puppets. Nature
The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness. Happiness & Unhappiness
The weakness of a soul is proportionate to the number of truths that must be kept from it.
The world leans on us. When we sag, the whole world seems to droop.
There are no chaste minds. Minds copulate wherever they meet.
There is in most passions a shrinking away from ourselves. The passionate pursuer has all the earmarks of a fugitive.
There is no loneliness greater than the loneliness of a failure. The failure is a stranger in his own house. Failure
There is probably an element of malice in our readiness to overestimate people - we are, as it were, laying up for ourselves the pleasure of later cutting them down to size.
There is sublime thieving in all giving. Someone gives us all he has and we are his.
There would be no society if living together depended upon understanding each other. Society
Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesy and make their prophecies come true, but they can also lie and make their lies come true. Power
Those who see their lives as spoiled and wasted crave equality and fraternity more than they do freedom. If they clamor for freedom, it is but freedom to establish equality and uniformity. The passion for equality is partly a passion for anonymity: to be one thread of the many which make up a tunic; one thread not distinguishable from the others. No one can then point us out, measure us against others and expose our inferiority. They who clamor loudest for freedom are often the ones least likely to be happy in a free society. The frustrated, oppressed by their shortcomings, blame their failure on existing restraints. Actually, their innermost desire is for an end to the "free for all." They want to eliminate free competition and the ruthless testing to which the individual is continually subjected in a free society.
To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.
To spell out the obvious is often to call it in question.
To the old, the new is usually bad news.
Unpredictability, too, can become monotonous.
We all have private ails. The troublemakers are they who need public cures for their private ails.
We are least open to precise knowledge concerning the things we are most vehement about. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
We are more prone to generalize the bad than the good. We assume that the bad is more potent and contagious.
We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. But it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.
We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.
We do not really feel grateful toward those who make our dreams come true; they ruin our dreams.
We feel free when we escape - even if it be but from the frying pan to the fire.
We have perhaps a natural fear of ends. We would rather be always on the way than arrive. Given the means, we hang on to them and often forget the ends.
We have rudiments of reverence for the human body, but we consider as nothing the rape of the human mind.
We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.
We used to think that revolutions are the cause of change. Actually it is the other way around: change prepares the ground for revolution.
What greater reassurance can the weak have than that they are like anyone else?
When cowardice is made respectable, its followers are without number both from among the weak and the strong; it easily becomes a fashion.
When people are bored it is primarily with themselves.
When we believe ourselves in possession of the only truth, we are likely to be indifferent to common everyday truths. Truth
Whenever you trace the origin of a skill or practices which played a crucial role in the ascent of man, we usually reach the realm of play.
Where everything is possible miracles become commonplaces, but the familiar ceases to be self-evident.
Where there is the necessary technical skill to move mountains, there is no need for the faith that moves mountains. Religion & God
Wise living consists perhaps less in acquiring good habits than in acquiring as few habits as possible.
With some people solitariness is an escape not from others but from themselves. For they see in the eyes of others only a reflection of themselves.
You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.
You can never get enough of what you don't need to make you happy.
Youth itself is a talent, a perishable talent.