Crowd and Collective Behavior

Christian Borch*, Bjørn Schiermer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


This chapter examines the main ideas of classical sociology of crowd and collective behavior, as well as its analytical potential in a present-day context. We show that while classical sociological ideas of crowd and collective behavior met with heavy critique during the 1960s and 1970s, the fin-de-siècle literature was more nuanced and ambiguous than is often claimed. For example, classical crowd theory presents crowds not only as negative entities, but also as positive manifestations of sociality. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the group of scholars usually associated with the tradition of classical crowd and collective behavior theory (Gustave Le Bon, Gabriel Tarde, Robert E. Park, etc.) should be expanded to include Emile Durkheim, whose work is otherwise often considered to stand in opposition to classical sociology of crowd and collective behavior. Finally, in our examination of the ways in which this redefined group of classical theorists of crowd and collective behavior can be productively mobilized for present-day sociological analysis, we focus on mediated and digital phenomena, such as how online blogs can generate a crowd-like following, and how fully automated trading algorithms on financial markets can engage in crowd and collective behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Classical Sociological Theory
EditorsSeth Abrutyn, Omar Lizardo
Number of pages27
Place of PublicationCham
Publication date2021
ISBN (Print)9783030782078, 9783030782047
ISBN (Electronic)9783030782054
Publication statusPublished - 2021
SeriesHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research


  • Collective behaviour
  • Crowds
  • Digital
  • Durkheim
  • Le Bon
  • Tarde

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