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Contextualizing the crowd in contemporary social science

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:51 authored by John DruryJohn Drury, Clifford Stott
This paper situates contemporary social scientific studies of crowd events and crowd behaviour in their historical and ideological context. The original 'crowd science' developed from definitions of 'social problems' that emerged in the late nineteenth century in particular the concerns among the French establishment about the threat of the 'mass' to 'civilization'. This, and the surrounding intellectual context, encouraged the development of theoretical models of the crowd characterized by forms of reductionism and irrationalism. Early accounts of 'mass panic' similarly suggested that collective behaviour was irrational because it was governed by primitive bio-psychological processes. After describing these early approaches to the crowd, the paper outlines how changes in late twentieth society, whereby those writing about the crowd were no longer necessarily 'outside' crowd events, have coincided with the development of accounts of the crowd which draw upon contemporary social scientific concepts (such as social norms, social identities, and cognition) and which assume that crowds are not alien to meaningful social and political participation, but integral to it.


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  • Published


Contemporary Social Science





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  • Psychology Publications

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