Sociological studies on imitation and crowds usually point to the late nineteenth-century French jurist and sociologist Gabriel Tarde as their forerunner. This article argues that a lively debate on those issues already existed in Europe in the late seventeenth century. A review of works by Hobbes, Spinoza, Malebranche and Locke will show how they commented upon the dangerous influence of charismatic leaders over excitable mobs or the ordinary occurrence of someone's opinions or manners being subsequently imitated by others until they become a new fashion. These four authors developed distinct approaches to the study of imitation and crowds. I call them the 'authoritarian' (Hobbes), the 'rationalist' (Malebranche), the 'affective' (Spinoza) and the 'liberal' (Locke) frames. The authoritarian and the rationalist approaches easily lead to dismissive or hostile views, while the affective and the liberal ones may open the way to more sympathetic (or at least practical) assessments. This study aims to show that: a) early modern discussions on imitation and crowds made a significant contribution to the formation of the field of social sciences; and b) these classical authors may still prove valuable for understanding imitation and crowds in the twenty-first century, in regard to the digital environment as well.

Tarde’s ancestors. Imitation and crowds from Hobbes to Locke / Isacco Turina. - In: SOCIAL SCIENCE INFORMATION. - ISSN 0539-0184. - STAMPA. - 62:1(2023), pp. 31-49. [10.1177/05390184231164926]

Tarde’s ancestors. Imitation and crowds from Hobbes to Locke

Isacco Turina
2023

Abstract

Sociological studies on imitation and crowds usually point to the late nineteenth-century French jurist and sociologist Gabriel Tarde as their forerunner. This article argues that a lively debate on those issues already existed in Europe in the late seventeenth century. A review of works by Hobbes, Spinoza, Malebranche and Locke will show how they commented upon the dangerous influence of charismatic leaders over excitable mobs or the ordinary occurrence of someone's opinions or manners being subsequently imitated by others until they become a new fashion. These four authors developed distinct approaches to the study of imitation and crowds. I call them the 'authoritarian' (Hobbes), the 'rationalist' (Malebranche), the 'affective' (Spinoza) and the 'liberal' (Locke) frames. The authoritarian and the rationalist approaches easily lead to dismissive or hostile views, while the affective and the liberal ones may open the way to more sympathetic (or at least practical) assessments. This study aims to show that: a) early modern discussions on imitation and crowds made a significant contribution to the formation of the field of social sciences; and b) these classical authors may still prove valuable for understanding imitation and crowds in the twenty-first century, in regard to the digital environment as well.
2023
Tarde’s ancestors. Imitation and crowds from Hobbes to Locke / Isacco Turina. - In: SOCIAL SCIENCE INFORMATION. - ISSN 0539-0184. - STAMPA. - 62:1(2023), pp. 31-49. [10.1177/05390184231164926]
Isacco Turina
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/937413
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