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Smelser, N.J. (2004). Blind trust: Large groups and their leaders in times of crisis and terror by Vamik Volkan Charlottesville, VA: Pitchstone Publishing. 2004. 368 pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(6):1539-1543.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(6):1539-1543

Blind trust: Large groups and their leaders in times of crisis and terror by Vamik Volkan Charlottesville, VA: Pitchstone Publishing. 2004. 368 pp.

Review by:
Neil J. Smelser

This book stands in two traditions of scholarship that are informed by depth psychology, including psychoanalysis: the first is the psychology of groups and collective behavior, in the mode of Le Bon (1952), Freud (1921), Martin (1920) and, to a lesser extent, Ross (1908). The second tradition is psychohistory, as crafted by Erikson (1959, 1969) and carried forward by scholars such as Langer (1972) and Loewenberg (1996). Both of these traditions have fallen out of favor in the behavioral and social sciences in recent decades, but both may be showing signs of minor comebacks, because of the gradual recognition of the limitations of rationalistic analyses of group behavior that have dominated from the 1970s to the present and because of the evident salience of non-rational factors in group behavior in our current ‘age of terrorism’. Volkan's remarkable book on the social psychology of large groups under conditions of threat is part of this comeback, and is to be welcomed as such.

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