This books is fascinating reading for anyone interested in probing the instinctive side of man, with its derivatives, such as his morals, his altruism, and his aspirations.
This famous and often referenced book contains a series of essays written by a sociologist at the time of World War I. It was the first study of the psychology of animals and spawned the use and popularization of the phrase "herd instinct" with regard to certain aspects of human behavior. The author asserts that gregariousness is an instinct and examines both the offensive and defensive aspects, showing conscience as an indirect result of this instinct. In his general conclusions, the author states that in order to have stability and full functional effectiveness, a society must be capable of a continually progressive absorption of its individual members into the general body.
From the back cover blurb:
This famous and often referred to book is a series of essays written at the time of World War I by a sociologist. It is the origin of the popularization of the phrase "herd instinct" in the course of human behavior in the actual affairs of life. It was the first study of the psychology of animals. He asserts that gregariousness is an instinct. The functions of the gregarious habit in a species, both offensive and defensive, are examined. The gregarious mental character is evident in man's behavior in crowds and other circumstances of actual association, as well as in isolation as an individual. Thus, the author shows that conscience is an indirect result of the gregarious instinct. That leads to the observation that anything which dissociates a suggestion from the herd will tend to ensure such a suggestion being rejected.
Review by Henry Berry, Turnarounds and Workouts, January 15, 2008:
Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War examines how
individuals become involved in social groups and how this affects their
involvement in a nation, the ultimate social group. According to
Trotter, human beings are, by nature, “gregarious,” and their
Although a nation is the ultimate group, it becomes the
primary social group only in the case of war. To Trotter, war and peace
are not mutually exclusive social states. They form a continuum of
historical social states that comprise the entirety of all possible
Trotter’s book is recognized as a classic in the field
of sociology, a relatively new science in the latter 1800s and early
1900s. Trotter and others sought to understand the group dynamics of
democratic societies, which were replacing the class structure of
aristocratic, hierarchal societies.Trotter also sought to counter the
misleading effects of psychology, especially the influence of Freudian
psychology, which saw individuals as influenced mostly by inner,
largely subconscious feelings and experiences.
Trotter argues that psychology is not an independent field. Says the author, “The two fields – the social and the individual – are absolutely continuous; all human psychology, it is contended, must be the psychology of associated man, since man as a solitary animal is unknown to us....” Even a hermit is born in society; and society has an interest in hermits for what they may reflect about conditions of society.
This reprint is the second edition of Trotter’s classic
work. The second edition includes the author’s 45-page “Postscript of
1919,” assaying the conditions of peace after World War I had ended.
“With the cessation of war this great stream of moral power [in
defending the nation] began rapidly to dry up at its source,” observes
Trotter. He proffers that the
While basically a work of sociology, Trotter’s book can
be a picture of individual and group behavior for leaders in any
organization where motivation, unity, and progress are important. This
includes business leaders, especially leaders of larger companies with
multiple business sites and different employee segments. Business
leaders will immediately grasp the truth and relevance of the author’s
view of society and glean from it essential lessons and leadership
principles, practices, and goals.
Wilfred Trotter, 1872-1939, was a surgeon with a distinguished medical career and a sociologist. He was a surgeon at the University College Hospital in London from 1906, and held the office of honorary surgeon to King George V from 1928 to 1932.