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Emergent Norm Theory

An old joke runs along the following lines. Herald: “The peasants are revolting, My Lord!” Lord: “I know, quite disgusting.” Representations of crowds since at least the Middle Ages have been characterized by this kind of “fear of the masses.” Crowds were seen as dangerous, unpredictable, chaotic, threatening, and inhuman, in that they lacked the capacity for reason and restraint. Familiar phrases such as “the baying crowd” and “the herd instinct” illustrate this infrahumanization. In the 19th century, industrialization and urbanization gave the masses more chances to congregate, and scholars such as Gustave Le Bon continued to emphasize the irrational and chaotic aspects of crowd behavior. In the 20th century, influenced by the prevailing intellectual climate of humanism and the writings of Karl Marx, scholars ...

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