Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults

Front Cover
University of California Press, 2004 - Business & Economics - 353 pages
Heaven's Gate, a secretive group of celibate monks awaiting pickup by a UFO, captured intense public attention in 1997 when its members committed collective suicide. As a way of understanding such perplexing events, many have seen those who join cults as needy, lost souls, unable to think for themselves. This book, a compelling look at the cult phenomenon written for a wide audience, dispels such simple formulations by explaining how normal, intelligent people can give up years of their lives--and sometimes their very lives--to groups and beliefs that appear bizarre and irrational. Looking closely at Heaven's Gate and at the Democratic Workers Party, a radical political group of the 1970s and 1980s, Janja Lalich gives us a rare insider's look at these two cults and advances a new theoretical framework that will reshape our understanding of those who join such groups.

Lalich's fascinating discussion includes her in-depth interviews with cult devotees as well as reflections gained from her own experience as a high-ranking member of the Democratic Workers Party. Incorporating classical sociological concepts such as charisma and commitment with more recent work on the social psychology of influence and control, she develops a new approach for understanding how charismatic cult leaders are able to dominate their devotees. She shows how members are led into a state of bounded choice, in which they make seemingly irrational decisions within a context that makes perfect sense to them and is, in fact, consistent with their highest aspirations.

In addition to illuminating the cult phenomenon in the United States and around the world, this important book also addresses our pressing need to know more about the mentality of those true believers who take extreme or violent measures in the name of a cause.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Introduction Cults and True Believers
1
Definitional Issues
3
Cults in the Headlines
8
The Bounded Choice Perspective
14
The Comparative Research Project
19
Heavens Gate
23
Gurus Seers and New Agers
25
Entering Heavens Gate
26
The Emergence of the New Communist Movement
121
A Typical Recruit
123
A Convergence of Forces for a New Party
124
The Founding of the Democratic Workers Party
126
The Development of Bounded Choice Part I
137
The Cadre Formation
149
RECRUITMENT AND BONDING
150
Decline and Fall
193

Formative Principles
31
Sociocultural Influences
32
Religious and Spiritual Influences
34
Technologies of Change
37
The Beginning The Two Arrive
42
The Development of Bounded Choice Part I
53
Evolution of the Charismatic Community
63
STARTING THE CLASS
71
Denouement
91
Going and Staying Underground
93
Leaving the Human Level
95
The Development of Bounded Choice Part 3
98
The Democratic Workers Party
111
Revolutionaries Rebels and Activists
113
Historical and Ideological Influences
114
Sociocultural Influences
118
The Glory Days
195
The Unraveling
202
The Failure of Bounded Choice
206
Theoretical Perspective
219
The True Believer The Fusion of Personal Freedom and SelfRenunciation
221
Structures of Freedom and Constraint
222
The Bounded Reality of the True Believer
233
Bounded Choice Cult Formation and the Development of the True Believer
247
The SelfSealing Social System
251
The Limited Choices of the True Believer
257
Bounded Choice as a Larger Social Phenomenon
261
Appendix
265
Notes
275
Bibliography
303
Index
317
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

Janja Lalich is Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, Chico. She is coauthor of "Crazy" Therapies: What Are They? Do They Work? (1996) and Captive Hearts, Captive Minds: Freedom and Recovery from Cults and Abusive Relationships (1994).

Bibliographic information