What relationship is there between the crowd and the nation? This article investigates these two concepts during the epoch (last quarter of the XIXth century) which saw collective psychology flourish. According to collective psychology, the crowd is a single subject which does not coincide with the sum of the members making it up: the crowd, that is, has a face. The nation possesses the same feature, especially in the version of national character: each nation is a collective subject and each nation has its own personality. What is even more significant is that in both cases, the concepts of race, heredity and imitation play a very important role: the crowd expresses the soul of the race, and the nation is closely interlocked with the race. The crowd and the nation show in action a hereditary mechanism of a type, which is not individual, but collective, thanks to which their features are maintained through time. Finally, the crowd and the nation show the fundamental role which imitation plays within them: in the crowd, resembling others is pathological (autonomy and originality of individual judgement are lost), while sharing some features with other citizens within the nation serves to cement unity. Crowd, nation, race, heredity ceaselessly pursue each other giving rise to versions which may or may not be deterministic, naturalist, racialist, depending on the various authors.


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pp. 75-97
Launched on MUSE
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