Editor’s Note:—This article was submitted in December, 1932, in the Prize Essay Contest, 1933.
Comte, in his Positive Philosophy developed the theory that if history were intelligently studied, and the underlying conditions which existed at the times of important modifications in human affairs were disclosed, the actions of the human race whenever similar conditions exist in the future could be definitely predicted. He ascribed this to mass thinking, what we now call mass psychology, a very different sort of thinking from that of leading intelligent minds.
This mass thinking frequently proceeds along the lines which lead to mass action utterly at variance with the reasoned planning of the most cultivated intellects. As Nietzsche expressed it:
Insanity in individuals is something rare—but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule.
Harsh as this statement may be, it still contains an element of truth, indicating a danger which must always be guarded against.