FIRST THINGS, LAST THINGS by Eric Hoffer

FIRST THINGS, LAST THINGS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hoffer's iconoclasm continues along its exasperating, paradoxical way. 'First things' concerns chiefly the origin of cities, the true Elysian fields of creative play, art and scientific invention. There's an excursion to ancient Jericho, where the domestication of plants was first attempted ""by people living in an economy of plenty."" But the book moves on rapidly to ""last things"" -- the baneful contemporary idealization of Nature and the modern reversal whereby' dropouts stagnate in the urban core while the middle class runs to the suburbs. You wish that Hoffer had stayed with the paleolithic hunters: as he turns to the present malevolence his tone is shriller and Iris judgments more cacophonous. The present ""madhouse of change"" turns whole populations rote 'misfits' and this affliction, endemic to 'backward' nations now has invaded America as well. The young, says Hoffer, perpetrate violence -- not a symptom of 'dark disorders' in the body politic, but simply ""the perverse hijinx of unruly punks."" Hoffer's twenty-year concern with the pathology of mass movements receives a new refinement here. Incorporating the unruly punks, he argues that change itself 'causes juvenilization' and mass movements ""are in a sense the juvenile delinquency of societies going through the ordeal of change."" ""Change"" of course is a formidable enemy and Heifer tells us little on how to combat it; but, as ever, the most insidious enemies of the 'common man' are the intellectuals, now joined by the young, who may be leading the 'Occidental trajectory' back to despotism and darkness while the shade of Spengler hovers over all. True believers of the Hoffer gospel will be delighted at the newly discovered affinities between youth, criminality and psychotic behavior -- others will find him diffuse, cavalier and superficial.

Pub Date: June 9th, 1971
ISBN: 1933435275
Publisher: Harper & Row