Jun 16, Szplug rated it really liked it This is a remarkable extended essay by Ortega, who cast his discerning eye upon Europe in in an effort to assess a continent that, it was claimed, was transitioning into a decline from its prior global preeminence. This promotion of democracy, capitalism, This is a remarkable extended essay by Ortega, who cast his discerning eye upon Europe in in an effort to assess a continent that, it was claimed, was transitioning into a decline from its prior global preeminence. This promotion of democracy, capitalism, and science had risen the historic level of Western European society to a domineering height; yet the resultant modernized civilization it created was a state of affairs taken for granted by the mass-man, the coarse majority who passed their days oblivious of their obligation to society even as they demanded of it every right, who reveled in low-culture and the selfish pursuit of pleasure whilst scorning any who attempted to stand out from the crowd through excellence in thought, duty, or deed. Ortega took pains to make clear that mass-man was not a construct of class or money, but crossed all spectrums of society; he existed wherever the base was favored over the noble, the easy over the difficult, sufficient unto himself in his cultural barbarity and lacking any desire since perceiving no need for betterment.
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He was educated at a Jesuit college and the University of Madrid, where he received his doctorate in philosophy in Ortega spent the next five years at German universities in Berlin and Leipzig and at the University of Marburg. Appointed professor of metaphysics at the University of Madrid in , he taught there until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil war in He was also active as a journalist and as a politician.
In he founded the Revista de occidente, a review of books that was instrumental in bringing Spain in touch with Western, and specifically German thought. Ortega led the republican intellectual opposition under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera , and he played a role in the overthrow of King Alfonso XIII in Such a commitment obliged him to leave Spain at the outbreak of the Civil War, and he spent years of exile in Argentina and Europe.
He settled in Portugal in and began to make visits to Spain. In he returned to Madrid and founded the Institute of Humanities, at which he lectured. A prolific writer, Ortega was the head of the most productive school of thinkers Spain had known for more than three centuries and helped place philosophy beyond the reach of a centuries-old reproach that it was somehow un-Spanish, and therefore dangerous.
What follows are excerpts from his influential work on social theory, The Revolt of the Masses, first published in The fact is the accession of the masses to complete social power.
As the masses, by definition, neither should nor can direct their own personal existence, and still less rule society in general, this fact means that actually Europe is suffering from the greatest general crisis that can afflict peoples, nations and civilization.
Strictly speaking, the mass, as a psychological fact, can be defined without waiting for individuals to appear in mass formation. In the presence of one individual we can decide whether he is "mass" or not. The mass is all that which sets no value on itself -- good or ill -- based on specific grounds, but which feels itself "just like everybody," and nevertheless is not concerned about it; is, in fact, quite happy to feel itself as one with everybody else.
I doubt whether there have been other periods of history in which the multitude has come to govern more directly than in our own. The characteristic of the hour is that 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.
As they say in the United States: "to be different is to be indecent. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated. It is illusory to imagine that the mass-man of to-day will be able to control, by himself, the process of civilization.
I say process, and not progress. The simple process of preserving our present civilization is supremely complex, and demands incalculably subtle powers. Ill-fitted to direct it is this average man who has learned to use much of the machinery of civilization, but who is characterized by root-ignorance of the very principles of that civilization.
The command over the public life exercised today by the intellectually vulgar is perhaps the factor of the present situation which is most novel, least assimilable to anything in the past. At least in European history up to the present, the vulgar had never believed itself to have "ideas" on things.
It had beliefs, traditions, experiences, proverbs, mental habits, but it never imagine itself in possession of theoretical opinions on what things are or ought to be.
To-day, on the other hand, the average man has the most mathematical "ideas" on all that happens or ought to happen in the universe. Hence he has lost the use of his hearing. Why should he listen if he has within him 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 his "opinions.
Is it not a sign of immense progress that the masses should have "ideas," that is to say, should be cultured? By no means. The "ideas" of the average man are not genuine ideas, nor is their possession culture. Whoever wishes to have ideas must first prepare himself to desire truth and to accept the rules of the game imposed by it.
It is no use speaking of ideas when there is no acceptance of a higher authority to regulate them, a series of standards to which it is possible to appeal in a discussion.
These standards are the principles on which culture rests. I am not concerned with the form they take. What I affirm is that there is no culture where there are no standards to which our fellow-man can have recourse.
There is no culture where there are no principles of legality to which to appeal. There is no culture where there is no acceptance of certain final intellectual positions to which a dispute may be referred. There is no culture where economic relations are not subject to a regulating principle to protect interests involved. There is no culture where aesthetic controversy does not recognize the necessity of justifying the work of art. When all these things are lacking there is no culture; there is in the strictest sense of the word, barbarism.
And let us not deceive ourselves, this is what is beginning to appear in Europe under the progressive rebellion of the masses. The traveler knows that in the territory there are no ruling principles to which it is possible to appeal.
Properly speaking, there are no barbarian standards. Barbarism is the absence of standards to which appeal can be made. Under Fascism there appears for the first time in Europe a type of man who does not want to give reasons or to be right, but simply shows himself resolved to impose his opinions.
This is the new thing: the right not to be reasonable, the "reason of unreason. In their political conduct the structure of the new mentality is revealed in the rawest, most convincing manner.
The average man finds himself with "ideas" in his head, but he lacks the faculty of ideation. He has no conception even of the rare atmosphere in which ideals live. He wishes to have opinions, but is unwilling to accept the conditions and presuppositions that underlie all opinion.
Hence his ideas are in effect nothing more than appetites in words. To have an idea means believing one is in possession of the reasons for having it, and consequently means believing that there is such a thing as reason, a world of intelligible truths.
To have ideas, to form opinions, is identical with appealing to such an authority, submitting oneself to it, accepting its code and its decisions, and therefore believing that the highest form of intercommunication is the dialogue in which the reasons for our ideas are discussed.
But the mass-man would feel himself lost if he accepted discussion, and instinctively repudiates the obligation of accepting that supreme authority lying outside himself. Hence the "new thing" in Europe is "to have done with discussions," and detestation is expressed for all forms of intercommunication, which imply acceptance of objective standards, ranging from conversation to Parliament, and taking in science.
This means that there is a renunciation of the common life of barbarism. All the normal processes are suppressed in order to arrive directly at the imposition of what is desired. The hermeticism of the soul which, as we have seen before, urges the mass to intervene in the whole of public life.
The Revolt of the Masses
Summary[ edit ] In this work, Ortega traces the genesis of the "mass-man" and analyzes his constitution, en route to describing the rise to power and action of the masses in society. Ortega is throughout quite critical of both the masses and the mass-men of which they are made up, contrasting "noble life and common life" and excoriating the barbarism and primitivism he sees in the mass-man. He does not, however, refer to specific social classes, as has been so commonly misunderstood in the English-speaking world. Satisfied , the specialist who believes he has it all and extends the command he has of his subject to others, contemptuous of his ignorance in all of them. This had to be done because that individual "does not represent a new civilisation struggling with a previous one, but a mere negation Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated. Here we have the formidable fact of our times, described without any concealment of the brutality of its features.
Gasset: The Revolt of the Masses (analysis)
According to Ortega y Gasset, Man-mass through some of its characteristics as in the first place, forgetting or rather the concealment of the past. It is also bogged down in this final. Thus, the lives of men of the past, though full of dangers, was synonymous with excess, the less opportunity to excel. The mass-man is a dispossessed being. He has no past and because he has lost, he has no future. The mass-man is a being doubly deprived because no one knows more about it. Linguists who, after the pilots are the least cowardly men do not seem particularly moved by the fact that we have the same language spoken in countries as diverse as Carthage and Gaul, and Dalmatia Tingis, Hispalis and Romania.