Title: The Madness of Crowds
Author: Douglas Murray
Category: Nonfiction, Politics
10-word summary: Identity politics is making us all mad; resist the madness!
About The Madness of Crowds
The Madness of Crowds is a book that focuses on the current trend of identity politics. The current “woke” social justice movements of the far left focus on the identities of people, mainly those that belong in minority groups that were discriminated in the past such as women, gay people, people of different races (especially Black people) and transsexual people. While the current movement started with the reasonable, noble goal of achieving equality among all, what is currently happening is problematic for society.
In the current political climate, it seems that everybody needs to accept a set of beliefs – regardless of whether they are known by all, scientifically sound, logical, useful or not. The goals may be noble, but the implementation is somewhat misguided and often scary. Many people no longer feel comfortable enough to share what they believe and to ask good questions for fear of being labeled as hateful people or being canceled. Even more concerningly, this also seems to spill over in academia with scientists and teachers adopting the current norms and beliefs without question.
In the book The Madness of Crowds, Douglas Murray bravely brings some of this issues to light. He asks good questions, points out the inconsistency and confusion of current beliefs and even shows how much harm people can inflict all in the name of apparently noble goals such as equality and dignity for all people. I am glad I got to read this book simply because Murray could share the questions and thoughts that I have often pondered on, but that I was maybe too afraid to share in public.
Do not be confused though. This book is not a misogynist, racial or homophone book. It’s not a book that argues there are no problems in the world or that some people do not deserve respect and equality. And I am not saying these things either by discussing this book. I don’t even think I agree with or believe everything that was shared in this book.
This is a book that aims to criticize certain sociopolitical trends, the beliefs that form the foundation of these movements and the methods that are often adopted in the name of justice and equality. And, more importantly, it is a book that warns us of the terrible things that can happen in a society where a small group decides what is “true” and acceptable and that everybody else needs to blindly accept.
What I like about The Madness of Crowds
1. It points out the inconsistencies and illogic in current identity politics
The new religion of identity politics has certain beliefs or norms that wants to impose on everyone – without much questioning. I find this strange and dangerous and this is why I am glad that Murray bravely talks about some of the problems with this current trend.
In the religion of identity politics of our times, there are ideas or norms that do not make sense, that are unfounded or that we should be skeptical about. Some of these are related to women, to the idea of the patriarchy, to racial discrimination, to gay and transexual people. The book presents some of these quite well and it is bound to make you reflect on the many problems of the identity politics philosophy.
2. Murray bravely shares his thoughts and asks good questions related to the current dogma
Firstly, Murray deserves to be praised simply for the fact that he was brave enough to openly criticize the current dogma. Secondly, I would like to praise him for raising some very good points and asking well-thought-out questions.
He criticized the current dogma in a rational, honest way and that was very refreshing, to be honest. He voiced some of my own skepticism and questions that I probably never expressed in public before. He often added more depth to his arguments by looking at the history of current movements and showing how much they have changed or even moved away from the initial goals.
While I may not know enough about the history of current social movements and I may not fully agree with everything in the book, I do believe we should ask good questions and not simply accept the dogma of our times.
3. The book offers an alternative or even a counter perspective to current trend of identity politics
I know that many people are critical of or scared of the far left and the dogma they seek to impose on us all. This book will be a breath of fresh air for all those who think that the far left is going too far and are concerned about this.
But since the book raises some good points, I like to believe that anybody across the political spectrum can benefit from and gain some insight by reading this book. In my opinion, the goal would be for our society to find some common ground in terms of the goals we want to pursue and the best methods to do that. But this means we need to be willing to move away from dogma (any kind of dogma), to ask questions and to engage in meaningful conversations about the future of our society. This book could be one of the sources that can serve as a useful starting point.
What I don’t like about The Madness of Crowds
1. The book relies too much on individual stories
I know that stories are great for illustrating a point and Murray does this with many relevant stories. But the problem is that you can tell any story and prove any point if you only rely on anecdotes. This does not prove anything though.
The stories in the book are all interesting and sometimes scary. This also shows that Murray must have spent time keeping up to date with current events or doing research to find relevant stories for this book. But these stories do not tell much beyond the events they describe. They do not tell us how common certain events are or how widespread they are. They do not tell us how often the opposite things happen or how often people are more clear-headed and more balanced.
Stories are useful to make a point, but they never tell the full story.
2. I wish the book were more in-depth and would focus more on the current dogma and the factors that make this possible
I think that the book is quite insightful and informative. But at times it feels a bit superficial. I wish Murray would have spent a bit more time analyzing the current dogma, the factors that make it possible, better alternatives and so on. I also think that sometimes he is a bit too dismissive of certain problems that he may be downplaying or brushing under the rug.
3. The message of the book could have been a bit more clear and focused
I think that the point about the stories is related to this too. Sometimes Murray moves from one story to the other and he does not make his point clear enough. I would have preferred to read fewer stories, but a more clear and more concise message.
Quotes from The Madness of Crowds
“If we have decided what the answers cannot be -or what answers we could not cope with – then there seems little point, beyond a fondness for truth, in asking questions.”
“We have begun trying to reorder our societies not in line with facts we know from science but based on political falsehoods pushed by activists in the social sciences.”
“On each of the maddening issues of our time – sex, sexuality, race and trans – the Valley knows what is right and is only encouraging everyone else to catch up.”
“In an era without purpose, and in a universe without clear meaning, this call to politicize everything and then fight for it has an undoubted attraction. It fills life with meaning, of a kind.”
Should You Read The Madness of Crowds?
Probably. If you are interested in the state of the world, if you are scared and concerned about current trends, this book can be useful to you.
The Madness of Crowds is a brave and informative book. I think I expected more from it, to be honest. All in all, I am glad I have read it and I think more people should read and discuss it.