Eric Hoffer Quotations

Eric Hoffer

Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.

A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business.

[America is] still the best country for the common man -- white or black ... if he can't make it here he won't make it anywhere else.

A preoccupation with the future not only prevents us from seeing the present as it is, but often prompts us to rearrange the past.

A ruling intelligentsia, whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed, and wasted at will.

Every new adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem.

Freedom aggravates as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual. And as freedom encourages a multiplicity of attempts, it unavoidably multiplies failure and frustration...Unless a man has talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden...We join mass movements to escape individual responsibility...

How frighteningly few are the persons whose death would spoil our appetite and make the world seem empty.

How much easier is self-sacrifice than self-realization!

I doubt if the oppressed ever fight for freedom. They fight for pride and for power -- power to oppress others. The oppressed want above all to imitate their oppressors; they want to retaliate.

It is a perplexing and unpleasant truth that when men have "something worth fighting for," they do not feel like fighting.

It is a talent of the weak to persuade themselves that they suffer for something when they suffer from something; that they are showing the way when they are running away; that they see the light when they feel the heat; that they are chosen when they are shunned.

It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one's neighbor.

It is part of the formidableness of a genuine mass movement that the self-sacrifice it promotes includes also a sacrifice of some of the moral sense which cramps and restrains our nature.

Many of the insights of the saint stem from his experience as a sinner.

Men of thought seldom work well together, whereas between men of action there is usually an easy camaraderie.

Men weary as much of not doing the things they want to do as of doing the things they do not want to do.

Nonconformists travel as a rule in bunches. You rarely find a nonconformist who goes it alone. And woe to him inside a nonconformist clique who does not conform with nonconformity.

Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America.

Our credulity is greatest concerning the things we know least about. And since we know least about ourselves, we are ready to believe all that is said about us. Hence the mysterious power of both flattery and calumny.

Our sense of power is more vivid when we break a man's spirit than when we win his heart. For we can win a man's heart one day and lose it the next. But when we break a proud spirit we achieve something that is final and absolute.

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.

People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.

People with a sense of fulfillment think the world is good, while the frustrated blame the world for their failure.

Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many.

Retribution often means that we eventually do to ourselves what we have done unto others.

Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.

The act of self-denial seems to confer on us the right to be harsh and merciless toward others.

The basic test of freedom is perhaps less in what we are free to do than in what we are free not to do.

The discontent generated in backward countries by their contact with Western civilization is not primarily resentment against exploitation by domineering foreigners. It is rather the result of a crumbling or weakening of tribal solidarity and communal life.

The greatest weariness comes from work not done.

The ideal of self-advancement which the civilizing West offers to the backward populations brings with it the plague of individual frustration. All the advantages brought by the West are ineffectual substitutes for the sheltering and soothing anonymity of a communal existence. Even when the Westernized native attains personal success -- becomes rich, or masters a respected profession -- he is not happy.

The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.

The most gifted members of the human species are at their creative best when they cannot have their way, and must compensate for what they miss by realizing and cultivating their capacities and talents.

The most sensitive among us cannot be as observant of themselves as the least sensitive are observant of others.

The only index by which to judge a government or a way of life is by the quality of the people it acts upon. No matter how noble the objectives of a government, if it blurs decency and kindness, cheapens human life, and breeds ill will and suspicion- it is an evil government.

[T]here are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.

There can be no real freedom without the freedom to fail.

There is always a chance that he who sets himself up as his brother's keeper will end up by being his jail-keeper.

There is hardly an enormity committed in the twentieth century that was not foreshadowed and even advocated by some noble "man of words" in the nineteenth.

The savior who wants to turn men into angels is as much a hater of human nature as the totalitarian despot who wants to turn them into puppets.

The scribe, unlike the potter, weaver, carpenter, etc., did not produce anything tangible and of unquestioned usefulness...His lack of an unequivocal sense of usefulness set his face against practicalness and usefulness as tests if worth.

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.

The trouble is not chiefly that our universities are unfit for students but that many present-day students are unfit for universities.

They who lack talent expect things to happen without effort. They ascribe failure to a lack of inspiration or ability, or to misfortune, rather than to insufficient application. At the core of every true talent there is an awareness of the difficulties inherent in any achievement, and the confidence that by persistence and patience something worthwhile will be realized. Thus talent is a species of vigor.

To spell out the obvious is often to call it in question.

We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. But it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.

We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.

We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.

When people are free to do what they please, they usually imitate each other.