• ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Please provide direct quotes from the authors wherever possible.

    Revolt of the Masses, by José Ortega y Gasset, was published in 1930.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Revolt_of_the_Masses

    Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, by Christopher Lasch, a response to Ortega's work and to developments in global culture and politics since 1930, was published in 1994.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Lasch#The_Revolt_of_the_Elites:_And_the_Betrayal_of_Democracy

    Passages from Ortega's work:

    "The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated."

    "The division of society into masses and select minorities is, then, not a division into social classes, but into classes of men, and cannot coincide with the hierarchic separation of "upper" and "lower" classes...within both these social classes, there are to be found mass and genuine minority."

    "Contrary to what is usually thought, it is the man of excellence, and not the common man who lives in essential servitude. Life has no savour for him unless he makes it consist in service to something transcendental."

    Ortega's beef with the masses is..."due to their having decided to rule society without the capacity for doing so."

    "I refer to the greatest danger now threatening European civilisation...it is the State as we know it today."


    Passages from Lasch's work:

    "It was, above all...the "deadly hatred of all that is not itself" (Ortega, 1930) that characterized the mass mind, as Ortega described it. Incapable of wonder or respect, the mass man was the "spoiled child of history." All these habits of mind, I submit, are now more characteristic of the upper levels of society than of the lower or middle levels."

    "Upper-middle-class liberals...have mounted a crusade to sanitize American society."

    "Social mobility does not undermine the influence of elites; if anything, it helps to solidify their influence by supporting the illusion that it rests solely on merit. It merely strengthens the likelihood that elites will exercise power irresponsibly, precisely because they recognize so few obligations to their predecessors or to the communities they profess to lead."

    "...the market in which the new elites operate is now international in scope. Their fortunes are tied to enterprises that operate across national boundaries...Their loyalties - if the term is not anachronistic in this context - are international rather than regional, national, or local."

    "The talented retain many of the vices of the aristocracy without its virtues. Their snobbery lacks any acknowledgement of reciprocal obligations between the favored few and the multitude."

    "Many of them have ceased to think of themselves as Americans in any important sense...their ties to an international culture of work and leisure...make many of them deeply indifferent to the prospect of American national decline."
  • javi2541997
    1.5k


    It is not only about masses or elites. Ortega made an important study on the señorito insatisfecho: This Spanish slang can be translated to unsatisfactory bourgeois. The one who did not see the state as a political or culture entity but as their pure own interests.
    According to Ortega this would be one of the most threats of European, USA, or Western states. The fact these entities would give up on their values could let the "markets" or "banks" only governing themselves. Forgetting the culture and values which were the cause of the born of Western civilisation could let these states in a context of being governed by a nonsense.
    Sadly, it looks like this situation is what has been established. Keep in mind that politics are based on market/monetary rules doesn't caring for cultural or historical aspects. The European Union, for example, doesn't seem to pursue cultural benefits but only eurosystem one.
  • Clarky
    9.1k


    I have been a fan of Christopher Lasch since back in the 1990s, just after he died, although I have not read his books in a long time. He was humane and pragmatic in his understanding of society. Non-ideological. Lower case "c" conservative of the front porch swing variety. Normally, I would be resistant to his psychoanalytic approach to history and sociology, but it worked for me. It made me think about how changes in society, in the family in particular, also changed how we think - actually changed the structure of our minds.

    I guess it's time for me to pull out my old copies of his books to see how they have held up over all these years.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    I've only read Revolt and Culture of Narcissm but feel an urge to get a deeper understanding of his insights. Looking at the long game here as I don't always have a ton of time to read.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Thanks for posting. I haven't quite gotten to heart of his beef with the "masses" so I appreciate your insight. He dislikes that they want to rule without the capacity to rule, but I've yet to pinpoint the real-world outcome of that incapacity in Revolt. Still wading through it.
  • Clarky
    9.1k
    I've only read Revolt and Culture of Narcissm but feel an urge to get a deeper understanding of his insights. Looking at the long game here as I don't always have a ton of time to read.ZzzoneiroCosm

    I've read those and several others. I remember "Haven in a Heartless World," as being pretty good. As I said, I need to go back and reread.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    I haven't quite gotten to heart of his beef with the "masses"...He dislikes that they want to rule without the capacity to rule, but I've yet to pinpoint the real-world outcome of that incapacity in Revolt.ZzzoneiroCosm


    I seem to have found it: "...the radical demoralization of humanity."

    ...as we have noted: the rebellion of the masses is one and the same thing as the fabulous increase that human existence has experienced in our times. But the reverse side of the same phenomena is fearsome; it is none other than the radical demoralization of humanity. — Ortega - Revolt, p 125 (bolds mine)



    "...the displacement of power...brings with it a displacement of the spirit."

    Ortega's concerns are apparently spiritual (in the sense of the "human spirit").
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    It comes to the same thing then to say: At a given period, such a man, such a people, or such a homogeneous group of peoples, are in command, as to say: At this given period there predominates in the world such a system of opinions - ideas, preferences, aspirations, purposes. — Ortega - Revolt, p 128


    "...mass peoples determined on rebelling against the great creative peoples..."

    p. 134
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Now, the mass-peoples have decided to consider as bankrupt that system of standards which European civilisation implies, but as they are incapable of creating others, they do not know what to do, and to pass the time they kick up their heels and stand on their heads. — Ortega - Revolt, p 134

    Re Ortega's notion of standing on one's head:

    The world at the present day is behaving in a way which is a very model of childishness...the master has left the class, the mob of youngsters breaks loose, kicks up its heels, and goes wild...[as it has] no task with a meaning, a continuity, a purpose, it follows that it can only do one thing - stand on its head. — Ortega - Revolt, p 133
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Here Ortega's and Lasch's complaints appear to dovetail to their chief grievance: the renunciation of a moral code.

    Europe has been left without a moral code...there is precisely the aspiration to live without conforming to any moral code...The accusation would leave him cold, or rather, would flatter him. Immoralism has become a commonplace, and anybody and everbody boasts of practicing it. — Ortega - Revolt, p. 187


    The talented retain many of the vices of the aristocracy without its virtues. Their snobbery lacks any acknowledgement of reciprocal obligations between the favored few and the multitude. — Lasch - Revolt, p. (not sure)
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Getting the distinct feeling that Ortega's book has been abused vulgarly by anti-collectivists who have never cracked it. :razz:

    No surprise.
  • javi2541997
    1.5k


    Getting the distinct feeling that Ortega's book has been abused vulgarlyZzzoneiroCosm

    I am agree. Ortega’s essay about masses (I guess one of the most important works for the Western civilization in the beginning of XX century) tend to be misunderstood by an incredible number of people. I even heard of some saying: Ortega is just defending the elites. Sorry if I a mad man but I bet my hands that is literally the opposite: how the masses can react against the angry bourgeois (señorito insatisfecho)
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Ortega is just defending the elites.javi2541997

    This is the context in which I typically hear the book invoked.
  • javra
    1.7k


    and

    Ortega is just defending the elites. — javi2541997

    This is the context in which I typically hear the book invoked.
    ZzzoneiroCosm

    Haven’t read Ortega, but the issue that I find is this: Is “immoralism” to be displaced by the whims of some authority that stands removed from the masses it commands - i.e. by autocratic authoritarianism, even if only oligarchic - or, else, by the principles which support earnest systems of democracy … principles such as what nowadays have often become deemed the bullshit of “liberty, equality, fraternity” and the like?

    The fist defends rulership by some elite, the second rulership by the masses people themselves. And the two systems of rulership cannot coexist in any harmonious manner.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    An argument against wage-slavery: it's worse than regular slavery.

    Wage labor [proslavery apologists argued] was far more cruel than slavery since employers acknowledged no responsibility to feed and clothe hired laborers, whereas slaveowners could not escape their paternal obligations (if only because they needed to maintain the value of their investment in human property). — Lasch - Revolt, p. 66
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    The fate of Horatio Alger when dragged into the light:

    By the end of the nineteenth century the "dignity of labor" had become an empty phrase, uttered without conviction on ritual occasions. The "laboring classes" no longer referred to the vast majority of self-reliant, self-respecting citizens; the term now referred to a permanent class of hirelings, escape from which appeared to be the only compelling definition of opportunity. — Lasch - Revolt, p. 72
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    An allusion to Baudrillard?

    The old dispute between left and right has exhausted its capacity to clarify issues and to provide a reliable map of reality. In some quarters the very idea of reality has come into question, perhaps because the talking classes inhabit an artificial world in which simulations of reality replace the thing itself. — Lasch - Revolt, p. 80

    The "talking classes." That's a good one.


    In fact, it is no longer really the real...it is hyperreal...By crossing into a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor that of truth, the era of simulation is inaugurated by a liquidation of all referentials...It is no longer a question of imitation or duplication, nor even parady. It is a question of substituting signs of the real for the real, that is to say of an operation of deterring every real process via its operational double...Never again will the real have a chance to produce itself...pretending or dissimulating leaves the principle of reality intact, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the "true" and the "false," the "real" and the "imaginary." — Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (1981), p. 2-3
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k
    Are democracy and egalitarianism incompatible with excellence?

    The idea that democracy is incompatible with excellence, that high standards are inherently elitist (or, as we would say today, sexist, racist, and so on) has always been the best argument against it...The lastest variation on this familiar theme, its reductio ad absurdum, is that a respect for cultural diversity forbids us to impose the standards of privileged groups on the victims of oppression. — Lasch - Revolt, p. 84-5
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