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Crowds and Power
ISBN 0374518203 / 9780374518202 / 0-374-51820-3
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Elias Canetti's 1981 Nobel Prize was awarded mainly on the basis of this, his masterwork of philosophical anthropology about la condition humaine on an overpopulated planet.
Ranging from soccer crowds and political rallies to Bushmen and the pilgrimage to Mecca, Canetti exhaustively reviews the way crowds form, develop, and dissolve, using this taxonomy of mass movement as a key to the dynamics of social life. The style is abstract, erudite, and anecdotal, which makes Crowds and Power the sort of work that awes some readers with its profundity while irritating others with its elusiveness. Canetti loves to say something brilliant but counterintuitive, and then leave the reader to figure out both why he said it and whether it's really true. --Richard Farr [via]