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The Revolt Of The Masses

4.4 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: A Mentor Book/Published by The New American Library; 1st Printing April 1950 edition (1950)
  • ASIN: B0029O4AS8
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,104,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A superbly written book, "The Revolt of the Masses" can be considered of limited value if one views it from a strictly historical perspective. True, Ortega y Gasset, writing in 1932, offered a clear and devastating critique of the tenets of fascism in particular and totalitarianism in general. He is particularly effective when he takes apart fascism's mystical elevation of race, blood and soil, arguing that the popular appeal to these factors was shallow, explained nothing about the process of nation-building, and was used only as a political expedient for the emerging dictatorships of Europe.
But one could argue that however effective his argument, Ortega y Gasset, a Spaniard, was in perfect position to critique fascism and its foibles, being able to observe it from a closer perspective than others. After all, the war for men's hearts and minds was fought out in no small part on Spanish soil in the '30s.
Ortega y Gasset was also not alone in critiquing the rise of mass man, which is the book's major point. Joseph Wood Krutch, for example, in "The Modern Temper" (an excellent companion to this book) had pointed out that the emergence of mass society and the development of technology had stripped away Man's sustaining illusions, at great cost.
"The Revolt of the Masses" decries the leveling of society that the author observes, and the reader is at first made uncomfortable by the argument. I found myself mentally attacking Ortega y Gasset's elitism. I nearly concluded that the book was simply an apologia for an anti-democratic bias and for those who would protect political power from seizure by the common man.
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Format: Paperback
In this brief but sophisticated work, Jose Ortega y Gasset argues against the onslaught of the "mass-man" in social and political life. Who is this mass-man? The mass-man, Ortega argues, is a primitive man who makes use of all the products of modern civilization, but does not appreciate nor respect the superior intelligence and effort by the individuals who are responsible for their development. He takes it for granted that civilization is "just there" and has no appreciation for the intricate processes that are required in order to maintain it. The mass-man is content in his own mediocrity, and feels it unnecessary to strive toward excellence. This mass-man who once submitted to his superiors, now feels compelled to involve himself in everything and impose his will on everyone. This is often done through violence and is done without regard for rationality or reason. The mass-man is like a spoiled child who has taken over the household.

It seems that there have been a couple of different interpretations of this book by reviewers. Some have pointed to Ortega's elitism and contempt for mass-man as a sign of him being anti-democratic. And this certainly seems like a logical conclusion except for the fact that Ortega himself asserts that a liberal democracy is the ideal form of government! I was somewhat puzzled by this seemingly contradictory pronouncement myself. It seems to me that democracy inevitably leads to rule by the mass-man. After all, democracy literally means "rule by the people." Nevertheless, on page 76, Ortega writes:

"The political doctrine which has represented the loftiest endeavour towards common life is liberal democracy. It carries to the extreme the determination to have consideration for one's neighbor and is the prototype of 'indirect action.
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5 Comments 44 of 48 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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"The Revolt of the Masses" has been, I think, continuously in print since 1930 for the simple reason that it's a very important book. Its main observation is hardly possible to deny: the vast increase in wealth caused by the Industrial Revolution empowered whole massive segments of society which had formerly been nearly invisible. And they all wanted to go to the beach and stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. So, way back in 1930, Ortega y Gasset was already noticing that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find a place on the beach, or a room in a hotel, or a table in a restaurant. "Mass man" had arrived.

This book also contains a lot of commentary on the nature of mass man. For example: "the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will." In the 21st century, where "The Simpsons" are vastly popular, and it is suddenly fashionable to deny the very idea that a man should want to be a gentleman, the words ring true.

What is more interesting, perhaps, is to speculate on how the newly-arrived "mass man" went about the pursuit of political power. But that would be another book entirely.

This book, along with other fundamental books like "Human Action," should be a part of every thinking person's education. Of course, right now it's NOT, but I think we all have a pretty good idea why not.

Highest possible recommendation!
4 Comments 45 of 52 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
Ortega y Gasset had an uncanny understanding of the origins and dangers of modern mass movements. As some other reviewers have noted, this book was written in the early 30's in response to the fascist movements in Europe at the time. What is truly chilling is that, beyond predicting the unfortunate results of those fascist movements, the picture Ortega y Gasset paints of the "mass man" and how he is manipulated is still applicable to modern American marketing of both politicians and products. Like I said, one of the best books I've ever read.
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