Exit Viewer

Popular Delusions: How Social Conformity Molds Society and Politics By Stephen Colem ...

image Next
Popular Delusions:


A preface is supposed to tell the reader why a book was written and what it is about. The “why” in this case is not so easy to answer, however. Cognitive psychologists say that many of a person’s decisions are made in the nonconscious part of the brain. Only later when the message gets to the conscious mind does an explanation get attached, an explanation that is made up to sound rational even if it bears little connection to the truth. This book has been a project over most of my adult life, since graduate school in political science, but the true “why” probably goes back to a childhood after World War II. As with many other kids growing up then, the war was a preoccupation—something I often heard about. I knew who the heroes and villains were and read a few books about the war, most unforgettably Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis. Later, after college, as a graduate student in Germany I began thinking more intently about the war, the Holocaust, and why it all happened—questions that have stayed with me ever since. What was it about Germany? Or, what is it about people?

This book takes on these questions and more, but to answer them, at least partly, one must have a theoretical basis for understanding such events; in this case, I believe, it is the effect of social conformity on society and politics.