Eric Hoffer: The Ordeal of Change


The Ordeal of Change in 100 Words

Where opportunities abound change releases energies, breeding confidence in self-reliant men. Without opportunities and self-reliance people turn to faith, pride, unity, Hoffer argues.

Hoffer attributes the ferment of the West since the Renaissance to the intellectual’s hunger for recognition. Intellectuals, given authority, plan, guide and manage; to them it seems absurd that autonomous individuals would be addicted to work, yet work provides the easiest path to self-esteem.

Paradoxically, rapid modernization requires imitation, not indivualism.

Man is playful; crises induce him to turn his toys to serious use. Man is born unfinished; finishing himself he refashions his world.

Key Quotations

Where there is the necessary skill to move mountains there is no need for the faith that moves mountains. (p. 4)

Where things have not changed at all, there is the least likelihood of revolution. (p. 6)

One cannot help thinking that were the Moslem missionary to combine his religious preaching with technical know-how – Islamization with industrialization – the spread of Islam might again become phenomenal. (p. 19)

 Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)