“Today (…) the average man (…) has lost the use of his hearing. Why should he listen if he has within himself all that is necessary? There is no reason now for listening, but rather for judging, pronouncing, deciding. There is no question concerning public life, in which he does not intervene, blind and deaf as he is, imposing is ‘opinions’.”
“The Revolt of the Masses” is an extraordinary book about our arriving ordeal and why it has come. Written in 1932, it is as prescient now (perhaps more so) than when it was written; for the arc of history is long, spanning multiple generations, and those who see the deconstruction of civilization from a perch far above and behind should be listened to as one by one the pillars they pointed to fall. In the book Jose Ortega y Gasset dissects in acerbic and often bitter fashion the problem with the modern times and what the arrival of our post-modern “mass men” are doing to governance, culture and finally the civilizations which created them. “Today we are witnessing the triumphs of a hyperdemocracy in which the mass acts directly, outside the law, imposing its aspirations and its desires by means of material pressure. (…) the mass believes that it has…
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Joel, I enjoy your thoughtful writing and comments.
You led me to Revolt of the Masses in your original post on the topic. I read it 3 times!
“…the mass believes that it has the right to impose and to give force of law to notions born in the cafe. “
About the same time, I happened upon an article in The Atlantic: “James Madison traveled to Philadelphia in 1787 with Athens on his mind. He had spent the year before the Constitutional Convention reading two trunkfuls of books on the history of failed democracies, sent to him from Paris by Thomas Jefferson.”
Quite the contrast to today’s mobs.
Its an extraordinarily insightful book. Even more relevant the more our own “masses” attempt to force into law notions born in a Starbucks…
I thought you might enjoy this . . .
“It is a little thinking and not enough, that makes men conclude hastily and denounce boldly. Those who in calm and pleasing solitariness, have been filled with cheerful and confident thoughts, whilst like Milton, they “beheld the bright countenance of Truth, in the quiet air of delightful studies;” are but rarely the foremost to embark, of their own accord, on the “troubled sea of noises and hoarse disputes.” When duty calls them thither, they obey. But though mixing in the warfare, they are in it but not of it, and they war for what they deem the right in the spirit of peace.”
The Right Moral Influence and Use of Liberal Studies
By Gulian Crommelin Verplanck