Movement, Business, Racket

Eric Hoffer posits that movements, rooted in shared convictions, transition from impassioned origins to organized frameworks, and might ultimately deviate to self-serving rackets. This trajectory, prevalent across time, reveals the nuanced dynamics and potential pitfalls of collective actions.

Quote from The Temper of Our Time

Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.

—Eric Hoffer

Origin and Legacy

Movements often leave indelible marks on societies. The lifecycle concept, rooted in Eric Hoffer’s observations, offers a lens to view these trajectories. Hoffer’s insights into fanaticism and mass movements draw from historical and contemporary events, showcasing the repetitive nature of such societal shifts.

Initiation Phase

  • Origins: Movements often arise from dissatisfaction with the status quo. Shared experiences, combined with a collective desire for change, lead to the formation of movements.
  • Mobilization: Gathering supporters, creating awareness, and building momentum are critical steps.
  • External Influences: External factors, like media portrayal, technological tools, or geopolitical events, can shape a movement.

Business Phase

  • Transition: As movements gain momentum, they may establish organizations to further the cause. These entities provide structure and a more unified direction.
  • Monetization: Institutionalization often requires funding, leading to the exploration of revenue streams, which can sometimes shift the focus away from the original goals.
  • Leadership Dynamics: Effective leadership can amplify a movement’s message, while poor leadership can splinter or demotivate its base.

Racket Phase

  • Divergence: Over time, and especially with the influx of resources, a movement’s core objectives may get overshadowed by other interests.
  • Counter-movements: Movements can spur opposing groups.
  • Criticism: Any deviation from the original goals or perceived missteps can lead to both internal and external critiques.

Interconnectedness of Phases

The transition from one phase to another isn’t isolated but influenced by various factors. The urgency of the initiation phase, combined with effective leadership, can accelerate the transition to the business phase, while external criticisms and internal disagreements can hasten the move to the racket phase.

Distinctions and External Factors

Not all movements undergo each phase, and external factors play a pivotal role. For instance, governmental policies can either bolster or suppress a movement.

Real-world Impacts

Movements reshape societal norms, laws, and structures. Their effects can be seen in changed policies, new cultural norms, or shifts in public discourse.