Eric Hoffer, the Longshoreman Philosopher.


Eric Hoffer (1898-1983) was an “American writer on social and political philosophy,” dubbed the Longshoreman Philosopher. In fact, even after his writings were published, Hoffer continued to work and retired as a longshoreman at the age of 65.

Hoffer was an interesting person and an independent thinker; even if I’m not in agreement with everything he wrote, his thoughts inspire discussion.

Hoffer always reminded me of a working man’s H. L. Mencken, or Mencken if Mencken were a longshoreman and not a newspaperman: “An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head.”

This article explores Hoffer’s enigmatic nature. Where did he really come from?

Eric Hoffer, Genius—And Enigma, by Tom Bethell (Hoover Institution)

… Hoffer’s place in American politics and intellectual thought is an enigmatic one. Much of his writing was in the form of aphorisms: short, pithy remarks that touched on eternal truths. But he was also capable of the sustained thought and expression that went into The True Believer and some of his other books and newspaper columns. Hoffer was interested in probing the depths of human behavior and discovering the motivations behind the twentieth century’s wars and revolutions. Wary of public praise, he resembled the prophets of the Old Testament, free to make people of high and low estate uncomfortable with his insights.