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The Revolt of The Masses


The Revolt of The Masses is a book written by Jose Ortega y Gasset's in 1930. Through this book, Jose explores the coming of the "mass-man" and gives an analysis of the mass-man constitution on his way to describe how the masses ascended to power and action in the society. However, he does this solemnly as he is critical of both the mass-men and the masses. Ortega achieves his criticism through contrasting "common life and noble life" and attacks the mass-men for the primitivism and barbarism they display. The book "The Revolt of the Masses" has received criticism from many European countries that claimed it mentioned different social backgrounds, which is not the case.

Arguably, Ortega targeted the bourgeois in his work, whom he refers to as the educated man or the specialist with a belief of owning everything thus passing the command he has on his subjects to others. The bourgeois extends the command to others, while being disdainful of his ignorance. Ortega explains further the content of the book through the summary he provides in which he asserts that the book's main attempt was to try and sketch a European of a certain type, through the analysis of his behaviour regarding the society they were born into. Ortega justifies his book as he attests that the European in question does not represent the novel civilization while still struggling with the previous one.

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This paper explores the meaning of the "mass-man", as depicted by Josse Ortega y Gasset's in his book, "The Revolt of the Masses". The paper use different themes in this discussion. The themes include the free nature of the noble man in comparison to how the mass-man is not free, objectivism versus relativism, self-satisfaction, and the inauthentic nature of the mass-man in comparison to the authentic life of the noble man.


The first depiction of the mass-man is as self-satisfied. The text explains it from the viewpoint that other people guide the ordinary man in governing the world. From the text, Ortega brings this forth by asserting the contentment displayed by the ordinary man leads him to lock himself off from the proceedings in the external court of appeal as he does not want to participate through listening or providing his opinions. This shows how the ordinary man does not care about other people's existence as his urge of intimate feeling of power pushes him to exercise predominance. In addition, Ortega attests that these types of rulers, found all over the world, act as if it is only them and the people of their like who exist thus end up imposing their own spiritual barbarism. Ortega says that this self-satisfied class lacks the capacity to rule, as they are least qualified when it comes to societal affairs. Another depiction of the self-satisfied and lack of capacity for the mass-man to rule is the quote about "reason of unreason". This reveals how the masses have recently resorted to be unreasonable.

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They have opted to rule the world without the capacity to do so and Fascism provides a good example of mass rule, as the person under that leadership never wanted to give reasons or to be right. Furthermore, Ortega explains the self-satisfied nature of mass-man by comparing him to the aristocrat (E. Robert Statham, 2). He asserts that the average mass-man is corrupt in relation to the meritorious aristocrat. Ortega posses the view that the aristocrat is qualified to rule even though he inherits the position and is unqualified rather than the mass-man who inherit institutions and govern them with their "self-satisfaction" and complacency. Arguably, a cultured human being from Ortega's perspective entails a person cultivating his mind for instilling moral character and intellect. He adds that, living on human level without ideas is difficult. Therefore, Ortega reinforces the "self-satisfied" nature of the mass-man by claiming that they lack the integral connection between culture and reason as they did ascend social power through egalitarianism.

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Secondly, there is a depiction of the theme of objectivism versus relativism. The mass-man is a relativist, as he believes everything that he sees, while trying to create own reality. For instance, from chapter seven of the text, Ortega talks about the noble life and the common life. He refers to the noble life as an "effort" while depicting the common life represented by the mass-man as "inertia" (Gasset, 92). In this chapter, Ortega specifies that even though we represent what the world invites us to be, and the basic features found in our soul derive from the surroundings moulded, the mass-man of the ancient time is not the same as the current one. The ancient mass-man viewed things like dangers, want, limitations of his destiny and dependence, in everything the world offered him, while the current mass-man representing the new era sees limitless possibilities, independence of anyone and safety. This explains the relativism of the current mass-man (E. Robert Statham, 3).

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A comparison is made between the traditional sentiment that depicts objectivism and the contemporary sentiment depicting relativism as follows; "to live is to feel oneself limited, and therefore to have to count with that which limits us," The contemporary sentiment is, "to live is to meet with no limitation whatever and consequently, to abandon oneself calmly, to one's self (Gasset, 174). This shows how the contemporary mass-man behaves due to the belief that nothing is dangerous, nothing is impossible, and that no one is superior to the other. Material limitations and higher social powers form the basis of relativism for the ancient mass-man. This explains why the ancient mass-man believed in fortune as the main favour for their success. The ancient mass-man also believed their success was due to their effort and this is an exception to the general character of the world and life. The relativism of the contemporary mass-man becomes known through the finding of freedom complete, as it is natural, a condition pre-established with no special cause for it (Gasset, 153).

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Thirdly, Ortega refers to the mass-man as not free. The way he describes the mass-man in various instances from the text depicts this. In comparison to the noble man who is free, the mass-man can go to any extent in order to free himself from anything he deems prison. This explanation relates to where Ortega explains that the mass-man joins a party because it makes his life easier. The mass-man does this by surrendering his individuality, a thing that does not bother him at all. The mass-man links with some history as Ortega refers to him as a kind of human being that came into existence in the nineteenth century. In addition, the mass-man is a product of European historical development (Gasset, 96). Another reason why the mass man is not free is that Ortega claims that the mass-man lives with no discipline thus requiring monitoring of their actions. The mass-man demands for more and more, assuming it is his right to receive instead of working for his own.

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They search for something in which they can lay claim on. Democracy tries to depict the mass-man as being free compared to the noble man, which has no validation. Arguably, the good thing about democracy is that it bequeaths equality to equals, but the bad thing is that it also bestows equality among the non-equals, a case relevant in the "Revolt of the masses". This makes the mass-man not free as democracy provides them with equity compared to that of the bourgeois, which makes them to realize that they can take over the country and rule, in the same manner those that claim to own property do (Gasset, 142). The mass-man is also not free, as he has to work for the bourgeois who treat the mass-man as though they own them from the hours they allocate them and the meagre salaries they advance to them. The mass-man has no option to play his position as that is the only way they can survive in the current European civilization (Gasset, 147).

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Fourthly, Ortega y Gasset's refers to the mass-man as inauthentic while the noble man appears to be authentic. The reasons why the mass-man is inauthentic include the fact that he lacks biographical life. This includes the mass-man's desire of experiencing self-conscious life defined by values and religious values. Secondly, the mass-man is inauthentic as in Ortega describes them that they have become a multitude and installed themselves in preferential positions in the society. This means they do not solely qualify to be in such positions but capitalize on the fact that they are many, and fix themselves in such positions. In addition, Ortega claims that in the past, the mass-man if present, was unnoticed and occupied the background in reference to the society's social class (Gasset, 57). He does not comprehend how the mass-man has managed to advance to the footlights as the main character. From the text, Ortega's definition of "mass-mentality" reveals mass-man as not authentic. According to Ortega, the definition of the mass does not require individuals to appear in a mass formation, but we can figure out if a person represents the "mass" from the individual's set of values on oneself.

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This definition shows how inauthentic the mass is, as Ortega reveals how the mass-man lacks no value while equalling others to them "just like everybody". The inauthentic nature of the mass-man depicts from the way Ortega defines the noble man. The noble appears as a person who does not think of himself as superior than others (Gasset, 117). However, the nobleman "demands more of himself than from the rest". This describes an authentic person. In chapter eight, Ortega claims that the mass-man considers himself as perfect a characteristic that the noble man would not bestow himself unless he deems himself vain with the belief to his perfection not united with him consubstantially. It can also be argued that the mass-man is inauthentic since The Revolt of the Masses reveals that the mass-man was a creation of the 19th century civilization. This asserts the barbarism nature of the mass-man and their population blamed on techniques and liberal democracy (E. Robert Statham, 2).











The fifth depiction of the mass-man is greed and the lack of quality of excellence. From the text, the place where Europe is depicted as currently governed by the masses, which do not possess the quality of leaders depicts a lack of excellence. This shows a lack of excellence amongst the masses (Gasset, 45). According to Ortega, whether there is presence of or lack of aristocracy, every society has some measure of aristocracy within it although it ceases to be, when it ceases to be aristocratic. In addition, he argues that human excellence, which forms the standard of the society, exists only in a few individuals. This statement reveals how the masses do not form excellence as they rule the world significantly through public opinion.

Among other reasons given for the lack of excellence in the mass-man is that through their rule the world loses civilization as the mass-man destroys everything beneath it that it deems to be excellent, different, qualified, and select (Gasset, 46). Ortega also depicts the mass-man as being the average person. This shows a lack of excellence as the mass-man likes his self, places no demands upon himself, and feels they are equal to other individuals. The distinction between the mass-man and the selectman helps reveal the lack of excellence. The greed of the mass-man reveals through the way they rule. Firstly, Ortega argues that the revolt of the masses had a significant effect on the society's elite. Consequently, one can notice how the mass-man has progressed and Ortega terms the as pseudo-intellectual, unqualified, unquantifiable and disqualified with their very mental texture.

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In conclusion, Ortega is remembered for his 1929 book, "The revolt of the Masses" through his depiction of the masses or the mass-man in several ways. Through that book, Ortega tried to establish the new sociological species that is not an ordinary man. He does that by not associating the mass-man with any particular class in the society. Ortega asserts that the mass-man has roots from the European historical development and that the mass-man developed during the 19th century. The book explicates how the masses took power from the aristocracy. They do not know how to use power and govern through people's opinion and do what is good to them, and people of their like.

Most descriptions provided by Ortega, in reference to the mass-man, do not seem enjoyable as they depict the mass-man in the negative. From the book, the mass-man seems to be in charge of the historical destiny because he has inherited rule from the aristocrat, propelled by their becoming dominant though their numbers. However, the mass-men have all the negative attributes that makes Ortega feel they are not fit to govern. For instance, he claims that they are greed from the revolt they carried against the aristocrat. Secondly, the mass-man is not authentic realized from the way they conduct themselves and their belief system. Thirdly, Ortega asserts that the mass-man is "self-satisfied" a characteristic that makes him not suitable to govern others. This concept seems to spread in the world and might reveal the reality behind Ortega's claims that man proceeds towards the animal scale.

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