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The Revolt of the Masses Revised ed. Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393310955
ISBN-10: 0393310957
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Language Notes

Text: English, Spanish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

Social upheaval in early twentieth-century Europe is the historical setting for this seminal study by the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset of the 'mass man'-the phenomenon of mass culture that more than any other factor stamps the character of modern life.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Revised ed. edition (February 17, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393310957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393310955
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tyler Smith on March 26, 2001
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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In our egalitarian age, we often scoff at any arguments that contain words like 'superior,' 'inferior,' or extol the value of hierarchy. So, many will instinctively cringe at the elitism - and it is elitism - that Ortega y Gasset exhibits in Revolt of the Masses, which essentially warns that societies who don't realize how much their existence is predicated on hierarchy of superiors to inferiors will become directionless and cease to exhibit excellence. But I hope those readers stick around, because there is more here than our egalitarian gut reactions can capture.

Ortega starts off by defining what he means by 'mass man' and how he is different from the exceptional men. Mass men are those who are content where they are, have opinions but seldom really think and reflect, have no conception of themselves as creatures bounded in a a place, a time, and various social roles, and, in a sense, are simply directionless. Compare these to the exceptional people, those who live life with a sense of purpose (that has little or nothing to do with hedonistic egoism), strive for greatness, and have the thoughtfulness to 'make things happen.'

Written in 1932, Ortega is concerned that several European countries are falling for doctrines like fascism and socialism that put most of their emphasis on 'mass man' rather than appreciating that civilization owes its existence, upkeep, and progress to the exceptional. Ortega is not advocating hereditary rule (has exceptionality is something deserved and earned, not inherited). But Ortega's concern - preficuring Schumpeter's
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