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Current Sociology

http://csi.sagepub.com/ Crowd theory and the management of crowds: A controversial relationship


Christian Borch Current Sociology 2013 61: 584 originally published online 11 July 2013 DOI: 10.1177/0011392113486443 The online version of this article can be found at: http://csi.sagepub.com/content/61/5-6/584

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Crowd theory and the management of crowds: A controversial relationship


Christian Borch

Current Sociology 61(5-6) 584601 The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0011392113486443 csi.sagepub.com

Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Abstract Sociologists of policing and collective protest have made a plea for eradicating from police literature and training programmes which aim to provide guidelines for crowd management any references to classical crowd theory where crowds are depicted as irrational entities. Instead, these scholars suggest, rational conceptions of crowds should inform contemporary crowd management. This article questions this plea on two grounds. First, it demonstrates that there is no unidirectional connection between sociological crowd theory (whatever its content) and practical strategies for governing crowds. The tactical polyvalence of crowd theory is illustrated by showing how the irrational conception of crowds has given rise to very different strategies for the management of crowds (urban reform programmes in the Progressive Era and Hitlers mobilization strategies, respectively). Second, the article argues that, in spite of its current scholarly popularity, there is no guarantee that the call for a practical employment of the rational notion of crowds will necessarily be successful. This is demonstrated by stressing, on the one hand, that irrational notions of crowds continue to thrive, thereby rendering a turn towards rational approaches difficult, and, on the other hand, that the rational approaches in their ignorance of collective emotional arousal present an inadequate picture of crowds and consequently have limited scope as guidelines for crowd management strategies. Keywords Collective emotions, crowd control, crowd theory, London riots, policing, tactical polyvalence of discourse

Corresponding author: Christian Borch, Copenhagen Business School, Porcelnshaven 18A, Frederiksberg, 2000, Denmark. Email: cbo.lpf@cbs.dk

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Introduction
The UK riots in 2011, which had their centre in London but soon spread to other British cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, have stirred great debate in academic and political circles. What were the reasons behind the events and how might such massive violence and looting be prevented in the future? In a letter published in The Guardian on 11 August 2011, Professor John Brewer, then president of the British Sociological Association (BSA), and Howard Wollman, vice-chair of BSA, argued that sociology as a discipline has much to offer in terms of explaining the riots. Specifically, they asserted, the sociology of crowds offers a valuable starting point for understanding such events:
Crime is a motive [for a minority of the rioters], but crowd behaviour is a more complex process, and it is sociology as a discipline that best understands crowd behaviour. Crowds are irrational. Crowds dont have motives thats far too calculating and rational. Crowd behaviour is dynamic in unpredictable ways, and reason and motive disappear when crowds move unpredictably. (Brewer and Wollman, 2011)

This reference to crowd theory as a resource for explaining the UK riots has not been received positively by all sociologists. For example, Hugo Gorringe and Michael Rosie (2011) have objected that by evoking classical images of crowds as irrational, contagious entities beyond the reach of knowledge, Brewer and Wollman essentially recaptured a sociological tradition which has long been contested by sociologists. Since especially the 1960s sociologists have argued that, rather than being paradigmatic of irrationality, collective protest often has good reasons and is meaningful to the protesters themselves (say, as a legitimate response to perceived injustices). Yet, Gorringe and Rosie admit, despite being severely criticized by the post-1960s wave of more rationalist approaches, the classical imagery of irrational crowds persists, and not just in the Guardian comment by Brewer and Wollman. Indeed, as studies of policing have shown, the notion of irrational crowds has not least inspired police tactics for many years, thereby in effect lending (performative) reality to this notion. More troubling, perhaps, studies have demonstrated that police strategies that adopt this discourse might increase tensions and escalate violence rather than reduce it (e.g. Goringe and Rosie, 2011; Hoggett and Scott, 2010; Reicher et al., 2007). Consequently, scholars such as David Schweingruber have argued that this irrationalist conception of crowds (what Schweingruber terms mob sociology), which is still present in [US] police literature and training programs should be replaced by contemporary social science research and theory, i.e. more rationalist notions of crowds and collective behaviour (Schweingruber, 2000: 371). Indeed, for Schweingruber, the continued presence of mob sociology in the police literature is an embarrassment (2000: 385; see also Reicher et al., 2007; Schweingruber and Wohlstein, 2005). The aim of the present article is to challenge this call for basing practical crowd control strategies on a rationalist understanding of crowds. The point is not so much to defend an irrationalist account, nor is it to argue that rationalist conceptions are necessarily wrong. Rather, the central ambition is to demonstrate (1) that there is no unidirectional or causal connection between sociological crowd discourse (whatever its content) and practical strategies for governing crowds: the same discursive register might be

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employed for very different practical strategic purposes, thereby making manifest what Michel Foucault referred to as the tactical polyvalence of discourses, i.e. the shifts and reutilizations of identical ideas for contrary objectives (1990: 100); and (2) that in spite of its scholarly popularity, there is no guarantee that the practical employment of a particular notion of crowds will necessarily turn out to be successful. That may sound evident, but is nevertheless worth stressing in light of the current calls for rationalist approaches. The article seeks to make these points in two overall steps. In the first step (comprising the articles first two parts), I demonstrate how the notion of irrational crowds has given rise to profoundly different practical strategies for how to govern collectivities. Thus, in the first part, I discuss a nexus of scientific discourses on crowds and practical strategies of crowd control according to which the alleged ignorant nature of crowds precludes attempts to address them through arguments and deliberate conversation. Instead, it is asserted within this nexus, prophylactic strategies should be promoted which focus on the physical-spatial conditions that purportedly generate crowd behaviour. I discuss this nexus on the basis of what I see as one of its chief crystallizations, namely the problematization of urban masses in the USA during the Progressive Era. In the second part, I examine a nexus of crowd theory and practical strategies which draws on the same theoretico-discursive register, but derives very different conclusions from it. Here the underlying rationale is that, even if crowds are irrational, this does not rule out some form of influence on their behaviour. To be sure, it is argued within this nexus, crowds cannot be managed through rational deliberation; instead, they must be controlled through appeals to their alleged emotional receptiveness. This idea, which is utilized for purposes of crowd mobilization, is examined on the basis of Adolf Hitlers propaganda and spatial mass-mobilization strategies. As can be seen from this, the first overall step revolves around the scientifically sanctioned knowledge on allegedly irrational crowds that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and which was at one buttressed by and lent widespread support to one of classical crowd psychologys leading exponents, Gustave Le Bons famous claim that the age we are about to enter will in truth be the ERA OF CROWDS (2002: x). In spite of its immediate success, Le Bons and others image of the ignorant, irrational crowd was soon contested. Eventually, as indicated above, a new discursive regime came to replace this tradition of crowd psychology in the 1960s. This alternative position argued that, rather than being irrational, crowds should be seen as a result of rational or purposive individual action. The second overall step of the article (comprising the third and fourth parts) focuses on this more recent material that abandons the irrational conception of crowds. One might suspect that, insofar as the practical strategies retained a tight coupling to the state-of-the-art scientific knowledge, the rational notion of crowds was likely to induce a change in crowd control strategies, bending more towards rational-deliberative approaches. While some have argued that this is indeed what has happened (e.g. Durrheim and Foster, 1999), I propose when discussing the third nexus of crowd theory and practical strategies that this is not the whole story. First of all, as the third part of the article will demonstrate, contemporary crowd management strategies oscillate between seeing crowds as capable of rational deliberation and assuming that crowds are ignorant and

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therefore inaccessible through arguments and communication. I discuss this on the basis of guidelines adopted by the UK police prior to the London riots in 2011 as well as crowd control strategies scrutinized in work prepared for the European Parliament. Second, and no less important for present purposes, the London riots suggest that policing strategies that are based on a rational image of crowds can easily fail. Indeed, I argue in the fourth part, it is possible to outline at least three limitations in the call for rationalist crowd management. The article focuses on how sociological theorizing has been employed to control or manage crowds of (typically) co-present people since this is the central focus in contemporary discussions of policing. Yet it is worth emphasizing that there is a large sociological literature on mass society (from Jos Ortega y Gasset and Karl Mannheim to the Frankfurt School, to mention but a few) which has examined how traits usually ascribed to co-present crowds can also be identified on a dispersed mass scale a kind of diagnosis which itself has inspired all sorts of strategies for the proper management of the masses. This literature will not be discussed here (see for that purpose Borch, 2012).

Mobs and urban planning


When crowd psychology emerged in the European social sciences in the late 19th century it was above all as a concern with collective irrationality. Crowds were often described as veritable incarnations of ignorance that seemed to seize power in all societal domains, thereby destabilizing the existing social order (see Borch, 2009, 2012). This kind of problematization found its most famous expression in Gustave Le Bons 1895 book, The Crowd (Le Bon, 2002). According to Le Bon, crowds are violent and destructive; they are characterized by an impulsive, barbarian, feminine nature and by the incapacity to reason. Gabriel Tarde, another key crowd theorist, largely subscribed to this image and portrayed the crowd as a wild beast which is in a state of delirium (1968: 323). This apparent irrationality did not preclude scientific scrutiny. Indeed, early crowd psychology was at pains to show how the constitution of crowds might be explained. One of the most popular theoretical notions employed for this purpose was that of hypnotic suggestion: the reason why normally sensible people are captured by irrational, atavistic moods and acts is that they have become hypnotized by the crowd and more specifically by the leaders suggestions. In the words of Le Bon, the hypnotized crowd subject becomes the slave of all the unconscious activities of his spinal cord, which the hypnotiser directs at will, meaning that the crowd member is reduced to a mere automaton (Le Bon, 2002: 7, 8). By emphasizing suggestion crowd theorists such as Le Bon and Tarde demonstrated how, in a crowd, order can exist without knowledge, as Niklas Luhmann has put it about Tardes work (Luhmann, 1998: 98). This had implications for political crowd control strategies. Since it was not knowledge, but rather ignorance that presumably characterized crowds, Le Bon pinned his faith neither on education nor on enlightenment. One could not govern the crowd by means of knowledge, Le Bons analysis implied; rather, if one were to lead crowds, one should apply seductive measures and try to appeal affectively to the crowd through rhetorical techniques. Specifically, Le Bon argued, leaders

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should make blunt, simple statements and repeat them over and over again; this would gradually mould the mind of the crowd (Le Bon, 2002: xiv, 72 ff.). The general image of crowds propagated by Le Bon and Tarde received widespread acclaim in industrialized and urbanized countries such as France and Germany in the late 19th century, but it was also soon adapted to the US American situation (Frezza, 2007). While the French discussions of crowds echoed a century with recurrent insurrections and political turmoil, the American debates took a slightly different form. To be sure, the country had its own revolutionary past and experienced recurrent uprisings throughout the 19th century. Still, the main concern in the USA was not with revolutionary crowds per se, but rather with what was seen as their seedbed, namely the explosive urbanization of American society which took off in the late 18th century. The problematization of urbanization focused especially on the metropolitan way of life which, it was noted with anxiety, had seemingly cut itself loose from the moral ties governing the communitarian village, giving rise to all sorts of collective urban unrest (Boyer, 1978). Gradually, however, the problematization of this urban life became intertwined with the European discourse of crowds. A series of prominent scholars took part in the discussions of crowds, including William James, Robert E Park, Edward A Ross and Boris Sidis (see Borch, 2012: Ch. 4). In the following, I focus on Ross, not only because he was probably the most widely read social scientist of his day (Leach, 1986: 102), but more importantly because he was the one who most powerfully incarnated the attempt, in the Progressive Era (18901920), to link the problematization of urbanization to that of crowds and to derive strategic recommendations on that basis. Ross approached the topic of mobs (a term he preferred over that of crowds) on a number of occasions (Ross, 1897, 1908). When describing their alleged negative characteristics, he demonstrated a profound indebtedness to the crowd semantics propagated by Le Bon and Tarde (e.g. Ross, 1897: 391). But Ross also went beyond Le Bon and Tarde, arguing, for example, that the city provided a particular context in which crowd dynamics were prone to flourish. Not dissimilar to Georg Simmels (1950) account of the metropolis, Ross stated that The city overwhelms the mind with a myriad of impressions which fray the nerves and weaken the power of concentration. City-bred populations are liable to be hysterical, and to be hysterical is to be suggestible (1908: 87), meaning that the behavior of city populations under excitement shows the familiar characteristics of the mob quite apart from any thronging (1897: 393). Importantly, moreover, by identifying the socio-spatial locale of these intensified crowd/mob dynamics, Ross acquired a practical-strategic starting point for what he called Prophylactics against Mob Mind (1908: Ch. 5). Specifically, Ross suggested that urban mob dynamics could be prevented through urban planning:
In the city some ways of living foster suggestibility, while others check it. It is bad for people to be crowded into barrack-like tenement-houses, for such massing inspires the cheese-mite consciousness, makes the self count for nothing. The best correctives for urban propinquity are broad streets, numerous parks, and the individual domicile with a little space about it; for these preserve the selfhood of the family group and of the individual. (Ross, 1908: 88)

In short, Ross believed that the contagious, de-individualizing forces typical of and emanating from crowds could be restrained by improving the living conditions of the urban

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poor. By moulding urban space, the conditions conducive to the metropolitan mob mind could be curtailed. The underlying assumption was that moral behaviour would ensue from stimulating physical surroundings, and that this would form a bulwark against mobs (for a more extensive discussion of this, see Borch, 2012: 125140). Two things are important about Rosss suggestions. First, as intimated above, Ross played a key role in utilizing ideas derived from sociological crowd theory (as associated especially with Le Bon and Tarde) to address US American concerns with urbanization. More generally his ideas for practical intervention united then state-of-the-art scientific discourse on crowds with larger ambitions in the Progressive Era to employ scientific rationality for the benefit of social progress, in particular through urban reform (Frezza, 2007: Ch. 2). The progressive belief in scientific rationality Ross embodied therefore anticipated the current calls for employing state-of-the-art scientific knowledge in practical strategies for the management of crowds although, of course, the irrationalist notion Ross subscribed to when accounting for crowds is at odds with the rationalist notions which have gained currency since the 1960s. Second, as will be evident below, the connection Ross established between academic discourse of a Le Bonian/Tardean fashion and practical strategies for how to govern crowds was only one of several possible.

Mobilizing the ignorant


The positive reception that fell to early crowd psychologys share was not limited to the sociological domain. For example, Sigmund Freuds nephew Edward L Bernays drew heavily on crowd psychology when developing the nascent field of public relations in the 1920s and 1930s (e.g. Bernays, 1923). But especially Le Bons account also attracted admirers among politicians. Reportedly, Theodore Roosevelt was deeply fascinated by Le Bons work, particularly the book on The Psychology of Peoples (Le Bon, 1974; Nye, 1975: 88). Benito Mussolini too was explicit on his indebtedness to Le Bon. In a 1927 interview he stated that, I have read all [Le Bons] works. And I dont know how many times I have re-read his Psychologie des Foules. It is an excellent work to which I frequently refer (quoted in Nye, 1975: 178). Similarly, Hitler drew greatly upon Le Bon, as has often been noted. Alfred Stein, for one, has argued that Le Bons influence on Hitler can hardly be underestimated (Stein, 1955: 366). McClelland goes even further, asserting that crowd theory prepared the way for Nazism; the Nazis exploited it as a technique of mass persuasion but more importantly, they fulfilled its doom-laden prophesies about the barbarous Era of Crowds simply by taking them literally (1989: 292). In the same vein, Borch-Jacobsen notes that it is not an exaggeration to say that The Crowd finds its political enactment in the Fascist mass (1988: 270, n. 37). That said, Hitlers objectives differed from those of Le Bon. Hitlers main interest was not diagnostic; he was not concerned with finding a striking formula to capture and criticize his era. He was much keener on utilizing the crowd as the means through which to govern the kind of mass society that would put him in power. While the connection between Hitler and Le Bon has often been observed, it is rarely analysed how, more specifically, this link materialized. For example, McClelland (1989: Ch. 9) provides a convincing historical account of how Hitler came on the track of crowd thinking, but he pays hardly any attention to the specific ways in which Hitler deployed

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the image of the ignorant crowd for his own purposes. In the following, I wish to delve into precisely this aspect. The aim is not to offer a new interpretation of Hitler Germany, but rather to show how Hitlers politics revolved around the problem of crowd ignorance. That is, I wish to show how Hitler adopted the psychology of ignorant crowds and what strategies he envisioned so as to mobilize political support in light of this apparent ignorance. I focus mainly but not exclusively on Mein Kampf and how it charted new directions for forming and manipulating the masses for totalitarian political purposes. One of the central parts of Mein Kampf is Hitlers reflections on propaganda. In the book, Hitler notes how during the First World War he had come to realize the significance of political propaganda. To emerge as the triumphant in political struggles one had to carefully consider what messages one disseminated and how. When outlining specific suggestions for the most effective use of propaganda, Hitlers ideas came surprisingly close to some of Le Bons basic observations. For example, Hitler conceded that propaganda must be addressed always and exclusively to the masses, and not to the scientifically trained intelligentsia (1992: 163). That is to say, political propaganda efforts should target precisely those ignorant masses that could not be mobilized through rational arguments. In a word, politics should revolve around and try to marshal the ignorant. Due to the masses alleged incapacity to reason, however, the propaganda could not assume just any form. The ignorance of the masses demanded targeted techniques. In line with Le Bons recommendations, Hitler therefore argued that:
It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided, like scientific instruction, for instance. The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. (1992: 165, see also 168)

The underlying separation between the ignorant mass and the rational intelligentsia/elite had the further practical consequence that propaganda should focus on emotions rather than on complex arguments. This was further emphasized by the gendering of the mass Hitler put forward, and which once again echoed Le Bons position. Thus, argued Hitler, The people in their overwhelming majority are so feminine by nature and attitude that sober reasoning determines their thoughts and actions far less than emotion and feeling (1992: 167). Against this background, he put great faith in films and posters which, he believed, were able to attract the attention of the crowd by form and colour, rather than by displaying arguments (1992: 164, see also 427). The significance of propaganda and oral or visual manipulation constituted only one part of Hitlers political strategy. The material orchestration of crowds was attributed an equally critical role. Whereas the general propaganda techniques were aimed at the broad masses that did not need to be physically co-present, the objective of the material organization was to establish the spatial conditions for a distinctive crowd feeling. In practice, Hitler posited, this could be realized through mass meetings. The reason for the need for mass meetings where people were physically co-present was predicated on what Hitler conceived as the two major weaknesses of much ordinary propaganda. First, written propaganda faced the obvious limitation that people might not read it. Here the spoken

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word possessed great comparative advantages in terms of seizing peoples attention, he believed. Second, while propaganda should revolve around emotions, the political aims one strived to achieve might face a limit when confronted with counter-directed emotions. To overcome this barrier of instinctive aversion, of emotional hatred, of prejudiced rejection, is a thousand times harder than to correct a faulty or erroneous scientific opinion (1992: 428). That is, if sentiments are against you from the start, it is very difficult to change this affective opposition through propaganda. According to Hitler, the mass meeting would enhance the probability that ones affective propaganda would be accepted unanimously. When an individual:
steps for the first time into a mass meeting and has thousands and thousands of people of the same opinions around him, when, as a seeker, he is swept away by three or four thousand others into the mighty effect of suggestive intoxication and enthusiasm, when the visible success and agreement of thousands confirm to him the rightness of the new doctrine and for the first time arouse doubt in the truth of his previous conviction then he himself has succumbed to the magic influence of what we might designate as mass suggestion. (1992: 435)

Hitler asserted that this mass suggestion itself rested on what one might call with Peter Sloterdijk specific atmospheric conditions (Sloterdijk, 2004). For example, Hitler argued, the intended mass effects were more likely to be achieved if the mass meeting were held at night rather than during the day, since at night people experience a natural weakening of their force of resistance (1992: 432). Hitler noted that a similar purpose was served by the artificially made and yet mysterious twilight in Catholic churches, the burning lamps, incense, censers, etc. (1992: 432). The entire material dimension was not just theory for Hitler, but something which attracted immense practical attention. Albert Speer, one of Hitlers main architects, assumed a central role in designing the physical structures which could produce the desired mass effects. For example, in 1934 Speer was asked to design the so-called Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg where the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party) held an annual rally. Speer drew deliberately on atmospheric elements in this assignment that revolved around his famous cathedral of light, which consisted of the beams emanating from 130 anti-aircraft searchlights that were placed around the field, and which would have its fullest atmospheric effect at night. In his memoirs Speer recalled that this design created the feeling of a vast room (1995: 101). More precisely, perhaps, the vast room was one that was, as Gernot Bhme (2006: 169) has remarked in his analysis of Nazi architecture, horizontally delimited, but vertically virtually boundless, thereby resembling Gothic domes or the Catholic churches Hitler referred to. In order to disseminate the desired mass feeling to more people than those attending the mass meetings, Hitler asked Leni Riefenstahl to produce films of the rallies (see Speer, 1995: 104; Tegel, 2006). In this way he attempted to combine the crowd effect with the kind of visual mass propaganda he believed to be most efficient. Even more spectacular were Speers plans for an entirely redesigned rally site in Nuremberg. According to the plans, which Hitler approved in 1935, and in which the Zeppelin Field took a central position, an immense field, the so-called Marchfield, was planned which was intended for minor army manoeuvres and which measured 3400 by 2300 feet (or 1000 by 700 metres). From the Marchfield a 264-feet wide avenue would

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enable the army to process in 165-feet wide ranks. In addition to this, an enormous stadium was projected which would hold some 400,000 spectators (for details, see Speer, 1995: 112114). Although the plans were never fully implemented, they give an idea of how architecture was seen as a means to gather the ignorant crowds and prepare them for the leaders propaganda. Indeed, Speer stated, the demagogic element in Hitlers speeches found support in and was emphasized by Speers scenic arrangements (1995: 106). To be sure, the emphasis on the material side of mass meetings was not an invention of the Nazi regime. As Sloterdijk has shown, the architectural staging of the crowd and its affective collectivity also played a crucial role in post-1789 France when a grand Fte de la Fdration, counting around 400,000 people, was organized at the Champs de Mars in Paris in 1790 to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the French Revolution (Sloterdijk, 2008). According to Sloterdijk:
The preparation and implementation of the Fte de la Fdration of 1790 and subsequent events make it evident that the crowd, the nation or the people as a collective subject can only exist to the extent that the physical assembling of these quantities is the object of artful orchestration from mobilization through participation to directed effects in the stadium and the enthralling of crowd attention by fascinogenic spectacles right through to the civil guard breaking up the crowd on its way home. (2008: 54, italics in original)

There are two central points to be made here. First, Sloterdijk demonstrates, the Fte de la Fdration instigated a political order of ignorance, in the sense that the collectivity gathered at the Champs de Mars was united not through knowledge, but rather on the basis of affective measures such as the use of noise (Sloterdijk, 2008: 55). Second, Speer was familiar with the events at the Champs de Mars, and the name of the Marchfield alluded, among other things, to the Champs de Mars. This suggests that Sloterdijk is right in assuming that the Fte de la Fdration marked the birth of modern mass-culture as event orchestration, later to be imitated for various other political objectives, including totalitarian ones (Sloterdijk, 2008: 54; Speer, 1995: 106). I have tried to show that and how Hitlers heralding of the notion of ignorant crowds gave rise to a series of strategies that conceived of the collective irrationality as a productive condition of, rather than a devastating problem for, politics. Interestingly, the Hitler case is less exceptional than it might appear at first sight. True, Hitler embodied a particular approach to the problematization of crowds and collective ignorance. But many others, from both totalitarian and democratic camps, have pursued similar if less radical mobilization strategies over the course of time. Furthermore, Hitlers ideas grew out of an existing discourse, which has led John Carey to argue that The tragedy of Mein Kampf is that it was not, in many respects, a deviant work but one firmly rooted in European intellectual orthodoxy (Carey, 1992: 208).

Oscillating between communication and containment


The orthodoxy that both Ross and Hitler relied on was the vernacular of early crowd psychology, in particular its notion that crowds are ignorant and irrational. In spite of immediate academic acclaim at the turn of the 19th century, this image of crowds was

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increasingly contested by historians, psychologists and sociologists in the early 20th century. Much of the critique of crowd psychology revolved around its key explanatory concept of hypnotic suggestion which was deemed more and more problematic (Borch, 2006, 2012). In the present context, I am interested not so much in the specific critiques that were articulated but rather in the kind of theorizing that came to replace the suggestion-based crowd psychology. Although several alternatives to this tradition might be identified, the most unified body of substitute thinking transpired in the 1950s and 1960s when a series of more rational approaches to collective behaviour gained footing. The central claim propagated in this literature was that, rather than being emblematic of ignorance, crowds in fact emerge as a rational means through which specific goals can be achieved such as the rectification of perceived injustices. This view, which can be associated with scholars such as Clark McPhail (1991), Neil J Smelser (1962) and Charles Tilly (1978), found its most far-reaching expression in Richard Berks game-theoretical approach to crowd behaviour. According to Berk, crowd participants (1) exercise a substantial degree of rational decision-making and (2) are not defined a priori as less rational than in other contexts (Berk, 1974: 356). So, to repeat, in contrast to the classical image of collective irrationality, this alternative position in effect held that, due to their foundation in rational, purposive individual action, crowds are anything but ignorant entities. This rational alternative to classical crowd psychology remains the prevailing perspective in contemporary theorizing on crowds (e.g. McPhail, 2006; Waddington, 2008). According to Kevin Durrheim and Don Foster (1999), this new approach has not just been confined to theoretical circles; it has also laid the foundation for new types of crowd management. Durrheim and Foster show this on the basis of a series of new measures that were introduced as part of the transition from Apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s, which linked new modes of governing crowds with an ethics of peace (for a discussion of this emphasis on peace and its relation to reconciliation, see Smith, 2011). What happened here, the authors contend, was that rather than viewing crowds as eruptions of ignorance, irrationality and barbarism, crowd control strategies were reconfigured and adapted to the image of purposive assemblies. For example, crowds were now depicted as entities capable of self-government and as consisting of a differentiated body of crowd members, where some could speak on behalf of the others. Consequently, crowd management strategies ensued that advocated negotiations with crowds, just as democratic strategies of self-policing, not repression were effected (1999: 68). This change in crowd management strategies from former repression to subsequent liberal democratic forms was made possible, Durrheim and Foster posit, by the new rational images of crowds that sociologists and social psychologists have propagated since the 1950s and 1960s. A similar change can be identified in British crowd control strategies where, from the 1960s and 1970s on, the police gradually began to see crowd eruptions more as rational responses to particular socioeconomic problems than manifestations of collective irrationality, and where new means of dealing with crowds such as dialogue, under-enforcement and negotiation have become more common (Gorringe and Rosie, 2011: 3; 2008). One recent materialization of this new approach appeared in 2010 when the British National Policing Improvement Agency published a Manual of Guidance on Keeping the Peace on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). This report, which

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was presented as an essential reference for all officers involved in public order policing (and hence also during the 2011 riots), started out by noting that The world of protest has changed and public order practice and training must change with it (ACPO, 2010: 7). This was another way of saying that the perception of crowds had changed and that the strategies for managing crowds had to change accordingly. The ACPO report was explicit in its reliance on crowd theory of a more rational bent than the Le Bon tradition. Thus, it referred to especially a paper by Reicher et al. (2007) as the theoretical platform on which its practical guidelines were developed (ACPO, 2010: 87). Among other things, the paper by Reicher et al. had argued for a shift away from basing policing on the notion of irrational crowds to advocating a much more rational approach, focusing on issues such as the formation of social identity, establishing communication with crowd members, etc. This approach was adopted in the ACPO report. For example, it was argued that Planning for public order and public safety events should never start from the premise that crowds are inherently irrational or dangerous (ACPO, 2010: 87). It was further acknowledged that, by discarding the conception of irrational crowds, negative spirals of escalating violence might be prevented. Indeed, By adopting policing tactics that take account of modern theory on crowd dynamics, the police may be able to create a crowd environment which is conducive to positive individual and group behaviour (ACPO, 2010: 87). Further, and also resonant with the position advanced by Reicher et al., which emphasized the centrality of [both visual and oral] communication with crowd members (Reicher et al., 2007: 410), the ACPO report argued that The key to policing a crowd depends on which voices within the crowd are given prominence (ACPO, 2010: 87). This point inspired a comprehensive communications strategy which, similar to what Durrheim and Foster (1999) have demonstrated for South Africa, was based on the idea that some form of negotiation or (deliberative) communication with the crowd is actually possible. The ACPO report might lend the impression that contemporary crowd control has finally abandoned the notion of irrational crowds and that a new nexus of crowd discourse and practical strategies for how to govern crowds has become dominant one in which the practical guidelines are based on current-day crowd theory rather than classical perspectives. Yet things turn out to be more complex. Indeed, as Gorringe and Rosie point out on the basis of interviews with senior public order commanders, the 2011 UK riots dealt a blow to some of the key assumptions guiding the ACPO manual. Most importantly, perhaps, the idea that it is possible to establish some form of communication with the crowd and to use this as a means of guiding it in a positive direction proved unsuccessful (Gorringe and Rosie, 2011: 5; see also Monaghan and Walby, 2012: 665). While Gorringe and Rosie are in no way in favour of basing strategies of crowd management on a return to classical crowd discourse, their analysis does indicate that, even if a more rational conception of crowds seems to have been adopted in policing manuals, competing ideas still flourish which exhibit a more ambiguous relation to the notion of rational crowds. Indeed, as I show below, the practical adaptation of a rational approach to crowds exists alongside other developments that tend to maintain, if only implicitly, a notion of the ignorant crowd. This becomes apparent in reports such as Crowd Control Technologies: An Appraisal of Technologies for Political Control, written in 2000 by the British Omega Research Foundation, and prepared for the Science and Technology

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Options Assessment (STOA) Panel, which is an official organ of the European Parliament that provides expert advice to the Parliament on a variety of policy issues. Compared to the strategic recommendations that were identified in the work of Ross and Hitler or in the ACPO report, the Crowd Control Technologies report does not show any obvious links to academic discourses on crowds. There is no definition of crowds in the report, nor does it contain any explicit reflections on the social dynamics in or behind crowds. Instead, it is more or less taken for granted what crowd control entails (there are references to public order offences, riots, etc.), and on that basis a wide array of specific technologies are assessed. The discussion of these technologies makes clear that, while the report is apparently detached from contemporary sociological crowd discourse, other semantic registers are evoked. Most significantly, and in clear contrast to the peace discourse being flagged in the title of the ACPO report, the problem of crowds is associated with a vocabulary of warfare, and crowd control technologies are consistently conceived of as weapons. According to one of the reports overviews, which gives an indication of the variety of existing technologies:
The current market in crowd control weapons covers everything from basic truncheons; sidehandle batons; riot shields; kinetic impact weapons such as rubber and PVC plastic baton rounds; single and multi-shot riot guns; water cannon which have been enhanced to fire slugs or bullets of water, marker dye and a range of chemical irritants for punishing demonstrators; stun grenades; a wide variety of chemical irritant grenades; tear gas projectiles; aerosols; and bulk sprayers ; a range of electro-shock weapons including 50,000 volt riot shields and hand held shock batons varying from 50,000 to 400,000 volts. (STOA, 2000: xix)

One might be struck by the inventiveness exhibited by these and similar technologies (the report notes that South Africa has explored the use of MDMA (Ecstasy) as a crowd control incapacitant, STOA, 2000: xxi). More importantly, these technologies depict the crowd as an experimental site, a minor laboratory for all sorts of stimuliresponse schemata. Here the ambiguous legacy of the rationalist sociological approach to crowds becomes visible. Whereas for Le Bon, the crowd constituted a subject endowed with its own mind (e.g. 2002: 23) an image which was retained in Ross and Hitler, although with very different accents and implications (prophylactics vs mobilization) the rationalist-individualist notion of the crowd denies the existence of a collective subject.1 In line with this, the above catalogue of crowd control technologies does not target a collective subjectivity. Nor, however, do these technologies imply a conception of the unruly crowd as a collectivity of rational subjects as portrayed by the rationalistic view. Rather, the notion underpinning these technologies is that of the crowd as an object. This adds to the ignorance attributed to crowds. While the crowd signified an ignorant entity in Le Bons universe, but one which could be addressed through affective techniques (as detailed by Hitler), it is reduced in the promotion of these contemporary crowd control technologies to an entity which the authorities should only address with batons, chemicals, etc. That is, in the STOA report no deliberative communication with crowds is advocated, nor are any underlying factors targeted that are believed to cause crowd behaviour. Crowds are simply conceived as enemy entities to be fought and contained. I have drawn attention to the Crowd Control Technologies report mainly to emphasize that while negotiation and communication may be valued as key crowd management

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strategies by scholars subscribing to a rationalist understanding of crowds, they are by no means the only approaches to crowd management in the contemporary landscape where images of irrational crowds can still be identified, with corresponding strategic implications. It is therefore warranted to speak of a certain oscillation in contemporary crowd management guidelines between adhering to rational and irrational images of crowds. This is, of course, not in itself an argument against the endorsement of a rationalist understanding of crowds in practical strategies, but the identified oscillation does suggest that the current state-of-the-art (rationalist) crowd theorizing is not easily translated into practical strategies, as irrational images continue to flourish. But what is perhaps more important, as I discuss below, the present calls for eradicating such irrational notions in policing strategies may well encounter other obstacles than the persistent revivals of precisely these notions.

Limitations to strategies informed by rationalist crowd theory


As mentioned above, Gorringe and Rosies analysis of the 2011 London riots makes clear that in this particular event, managing the crowds on the basis of negotiation and communication turned out to be infeasible. Instead, it appeared (and resonant with a strategy of containment of irrational crowds), what worked when confronted with massive disorder was the deployment of very large numbers of officers on the street (Gorringe and Rosie, 2011: 5). This observation is related to three intertwined points, all of which question the present calls for basing the government of crowds on state-of-theart rationalist crowd theory. First, as previous studies have demonstrated, there is no causal link between the guidelines presented in police literature and training programmes, on the one hand, and actual police behaviour, on the other. This is not to deny any relation between the two, but simply to emphasize that other factors may be no less important than what is stated in various manuals. Gorringe and Rosie (2008) make this point in a study of the policing of protest related to the 2005 G8 summit in Scotland. When interviewed about the policing of these G8 protests, police respondents noted that their interventions were based as much on previous experience as on theoretically informed guidelines. As Gorringe and Rosie stress, the fact that the police in principle adhered to strategies of communication and negotiation did not ensure their observance in practice (2008: 696). What this suggests in more general terms is that the importance of the contents of police training materials should not be overstated. In fact, if experience is really the key issue for the police, then it may not matter that much if irrationalist or rationalist conceptions are dominant in police manuals. Second, and once again returning to the London riots, Gorringe and Rosie (2011) differentiate between different types of rioting crowds. More specifically, they suggest that negotiation and communication strategies may only be successful when applied vis--vis crowds that articulate clear political demands, whereas crowds of looters may not be governable through such rationalist-based strategies. As Gorringe and Rosie put it, Facilitation is irrelevant where individual and crowd objectives are theft and arson rather than political demands, so do we need to tear up the rule book (again)? (2011: 5).

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This suggests that the rationalist approach may only be successful when applied to specific kinds of crowds. The problem with Gorringe and Rosies differentiation is that it can be difficult to assess the objectives of crowds. Theft and arson can easily be presented (or retrospectively reconstructed) as expressions of political action. Still, the distinction they introduce is important in that it addresses an inability within the rationalist approach to deal with aspects of crowd behaviour that are not recognized as rational. Thus, third, the rational approaches typically ignore the possible influence of what Le Bon and other classical crowd theorists had a keen eye to, namely internal crowd dynamics such as emotional arousal. As a response to this ignorance, John Lofland, himself associated with the rationalist framework, back in the early 1980s argued for taking seriously the emotional aspects of crowd behaviour. According to Lofland, We encounter, that is, among contemporary collective behaviorists the anomaly that what seems to be a quite conspicuous feature of the topic aroused emotions is at the same time one that is most suppressed from explicit consideration (1982: 377). In order to remedy this weakness, Lofland suggested a taxonomy of collective joy, and proposed that we bring joy back into the study of collective behavior and elevate it once again to a prominent place (1982: 355356). Of course, joy is not the only collective emotion. Anger may be another one, which in a collective setting may lead to violence. Randall Collins too has criticized rationalist-individualist explanations of violence, arguing for the need to consider the entire situation in which violence occurs (Collins, 2013). That point is somewhat similar to what is being argued here: in order to understand (and manage) collective violence it is insufficient to see violence as an outcome of rational behaviour; it is likely to be generated rather (or just as much) by the emotional arousal which the crowd dynamic itself produces (see also Collins, 2013: 143). For present purposes the central issue is not whether crowd theorists should once again address emotional states of crowd behaviour, although Loflands point is still valid, in my view. Rather, the key point is that as long as they do not, calls for basing crowd management strategies on rationalist approaches fall short in the sense that they leave unaddressed the possibility that collective action may emerge which is triggered by internal crowd dynamics, rather than, say, by perceived injustices. Consequently, the rationalist approaches offer only a limited guideline for how to manage crowds: it offers no models for how to manage self-reinforcing emotional crowd dynamics that cannot be reduced to rational action.

Conclusion
This article has questioned the call for replacing, in strategies for the management of crowds, irrationalist conceptions of crowds with rationalist crowd theorizing. My argument has had two dimensions. First, I have demonstrated the tactical polyvalence of sociological crowd theory by showing how the same theoretical register (the theory of irrational crowds) has given rise to highly different practical strategies for the management of crowds, namely urban reform programmes and totalitarian mobilization programmes, respectively. Of course, other examples could have been analysed, adding further to the tactical polyvalence. The central conclusion to be drawn from this is that,

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since the irrational conception of crowds has triggered different strategic responses, it is quite likely that the rationalist approach may also lead to different perhaps conflicting strategies for crowd management. In other words, the tactical polyvalence may well apply to the rationalist approach too. Second, I have argued that the rationalist framework fails to offer a fully convincing model for crowd management on both internal and external grounds, so to speak. Not only do analyses of the 2011 London riots suggest that rationalist strategies of negotiation and communication with crowds failed in practice; conceptions of irrational, ignorant crowds still thrive, which suggests that obstacles to the replacement of irrational with rational notions continue to exist. Finally, and more importantly, I have argued that the rational approach fails to adequately address how internal crowd dynamics may lead to emotional arousal, and that this ignorance may produce an important blindness in strategies for the proper management of crowds. The overall conclusion of this is not that the rationalist approach should be abandoned in crowd management strategies. However, it may not be as univocally applicable as some of its proponents would have it. Acknowledgements
I am grateful to the anonymous referees and the Editor for valuable comments and suggestions.

Funding
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Note
1. As one reviewer rightly pointed out, the neat distinction I draw here between Le Bon and rational-individualist approaches does not rule out alternative ways of conceiving of collective subjects. For example, a Marxist take may well stress the possibility of some kind of rational collective subjectivity, based on belonging to a particular class. Compared to class, however, the notion of crowds traditionally refers to a pre-class entity, i.e. a group of people not yet sharing a class consciousness (see Borch, 2012: 8990).

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Author biography
Christian Borch is Associate Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His research focuses on crowd theory, economic sociology, architecture and political sociology. Recent books include Niklas Luhmann (Key Sociologists) (Routledge, 2011) and The Politics of Crowds: An Alternative History of Sociology (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Rsum Les sociologues du maintien de lordre et des manifestations publiques ont longtemps plaid en faveur du retrait de toutes rfrences aux thories classiques de la foule fondes sur lirrationalit des foules dans les documents et les programmes de formation de la police. Ces spcialiste suggrent quune conception rationnelle des foules devraient guider la gestion contemporaine de foules. Cet article remet en question deux aspects cette affirmation. En premier lieu, il dmontre quil ny a pas de relation unidirectionnelle entre la thorie sociologique de la foule (quelque soit son contenu) et les stratgies mises en oeuvre dans la gestion de foules. La variabilit tactique de la thorie de la foule est mise en vidence par les stratgies trs diffrentes toutes inspires dune conception base sur lirrationalit des foules employes dans la gestion de foules (programmes de rforme urbaine de lre progressiste aux tats-unis et stratgies de mobilisation de Hitler, respectivement). En second lieu, larticle soutient que, en dpit de sa popularit actuelle auprs des spcialistes, il ny a aucune garantie que la mise en oeuvre de la rationalit des foules rencontre le succs espr. Cela est dmontr en soulignant que la notion dirrationalit des foules continue prosprer, rendant difficile ladoption des approches rationnelles alors mme que les approches rationnelles, dans leur ignorance de lexcitation motionnelle collective, proposent une reprsentation insuffisante des foules et quelles ont donc une porte limite comme ligne de conduite dans les stratgies de gestion de foules. Mot-cls contrle de la foule, meutes de Londres poly valence tactique du discours police, motions collectives, thorie de la foule valence tactique du discours police Resumen Los socilogos de la vigilancia y la protesta colectiva han abogado por eliminar de la literatura policial y los programas de entrenamiento (que intentan proveer instrucciones

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para el control de multitudes) cualquier referencia a la teora clsica de la multitud, en la que las multitudes son descriptas como entidades irracionales. En cambio, sugieren estos investigadores, concepciones racionales de las multitudes deberan informar el control contemporneo de las multitudes. Este artculo cuestiona esta peticin por dos razones. Primero, demuestra que no existe una conexin unilateral entre una teora sociolgica de la multitud (sea cual sea su contenido) y las estrategias prcticas para gobernar multitudes. La polivalencia tctica de la teora de la multitud queda patente al mostrar cmo la concepcin irracional de las multitudes ha dado paso a estrategias muy diferentes para el control de multitudes (los programas de reforma urbana en la Era Progresista y las estrategias de movilizacin de Hitler, respectivamente). Segundo, el artculo argumenta que, a pesar de su popularidad actual entre investigadores, no hay garanta de que la advocacin por un empleo prctico de la nocin racional de las multitudes vaya a resultar exitosa. Esto se demuestra subrayando, en parte, que las nociones irracionales de las multitudes continan prosperando, dificultando as un giro hacia los enfoques racionales; y, en parte, que los enfoques racionales, en su ignorancia de la agitacin emocional colectiva, presentan un retrato inadecuado de las multitudes, y, en consecuencia, tienen un alcance limitado como directrices para estrategias de control de multitudes. Palabras clave Control de la multitud, disturbios de Londres, emociones colectivas, polica, polivalencia tctica del discurso, teora de la multitud

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