Social mania

Social mania

Social manias are mass movements which periodically sweep through society, sometimes on a world wide basis. They are characterized by an outpouring of enthusiasm, mass involvement and millennialist goals. Social manias are contagious social epidemics. As social phenomena the must be differentiated from mania in individuals, the general state of frenzy, which is a defined psychiatric disease.

Social manias come in different sizes and strengths. Some social manias fail to 'catch fire', while others persist for hundreds of years (although sometimes in severely attenuated form). Common to all is a vision of salvation, a new way of life, which if realized would radically change everyday life, ushering in a new world of freedom and justice.


In recent history, social manias have included Nazism and Communism, including such related phenomena as the Cultural Revolution, McCarthyism; Abolitionism;the Hippies, the Taiping Rebellion; the French Revolution and the current wave of religious fundamentalism, including Islamism, Christian Fundamentalism and Hindu fundamentalism.

The Taiping Rebellion is an excellent illustration, as it was both widespread and destructive and has no modern adherents to whom its use as an example would be a distraction. The Ghost dance which was briefly embraced by Native Americans of the Great Plains in 1890 is another excellent example which may be viewed in some historical perspective, as may The Crusades.

Further reading

* Jessica Stern, "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill", Harpercollins, August, 2003, hardcover, 400 pages, ISBN 0-06-050532-X


* Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "Social mania" and related articles, April 2, 2004

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