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Collective Behavior from the 17th to the 20th Century: Change of Phenomena, Change of Perception, or No Change at All? Some Preliminary Reflections

Chapter
Part of the Springer Series in Social Psychology book series (SSSOC)

Abstract

Under collective behavior I understand the behavior of the lower strata of society, the masses or common people. Information about such behavior is only available to the historian through written sources. These sources, however, reflect exclusively the view of the upper strata of society, the ruling class. The “interior” of the event, of the behavior, its subjective sense and logic, can only be explained by means of difficult decoding procedures. These procedures are made difficult by the misunderstanding and fear that permeate the written sources regarding the behavior of the masses and mobs and which have characterized the relationship between the rulers and the ruled throughout history. By the view of the upper classes is meant not just aristocratic or Burgher-observers of the lower classes’ behavior, but also and often primarily the strongly biased perceptions of police and government as well as those of the emerging social sciences, such as economics, political science, and so forth. That the latter, regardless of whether their attitude toward the ruling class was positive or negative, substantially influenced the perception of said behavior by police and government, hardly requires emphasis. On the other hand, of course, the official point of view, that of the ruling class, also influenced theorems of the early social sciences. Both contributed decisively to the formation of an interpretation pattern which later, in the 19th century, was also taken over by the emerging science of history.

Keywords

Political Economy High Wage Collective Behavior Lower Class Union Leader 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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