The Revolt of the Masses JOSE ORTEGA Y GASSET THE REVOLT OF THE MASSES AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION FROM THE SPANISH W □ W □ NORTON. José Ortega Y. Gasset The Dissection of the Mass-Man Begins 7. Why the Masses Intervene in Everything, and Why Their Intervention is Solely by Violence . SUMMARY OF THE BOOK THE REVOLT OF THE MASSES BY JOSE ORTEGA Y GASSET CHAPTER 1 THE COMING OF THE MASSES In this chapter, Jose.

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Continuously in print sinceOrtega’s vision of Western culture as sinking to its lowest common denominator and drifting toward chaos brought its author international fame and has remained one of the influential books of the mzsses century. Social ervolt 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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Second Treatise of Government. Selected Writings Hackett Classics. The Politics of Aristotle. Man and Crisis Norton Library. 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.

I’d like massee read this book on Kindle Don’t have a Kindle? Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention mass man ortega y gasset revolt of the masses liberal democracy mass men assurance to proclaim moral code men of excellence proclaim the rights impose them wherever commonplace assurance knowing itself to be commonplace mind knowing read this book rights of the commonplace ortga and to impose commonplace mind public life spanish philosopher characteristic of the hour.

Showing of 69 reviews. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Oh, but this is a fascinating book. That means we can see where he was wrong, and where he was right, and what he wrote says to us today. First, though, we have to hack our way through two misconceptions that both seem to attend any modern mention of “The Revolt of the Masses.

Given that class was a hot topic inthis is a reasonable guess from joxe title, but it is totally wrong. Rather, this is a book about human excellence, what it can accomplish, and how it can be destroyed. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Revolt of the Masses

In fact, Ortega thinks all, or almost all, modern experts are the definition of mediocrity, and the masses deferring to them is like deferring to a mirror. Instead, people should defer to a natural aristocracy, not of blood, but of focus and accomplishment. Those people are not experts, who are narrow, but are instead broad people mzsses taste, judgment, and discipline. The key question is who is average and who is not.

Thus, someone who examines his talents and concludes he is mediocre, and feels that is a mssses, is not a mass man. They are those who make personal demands for excellence upon themselves, and live in that way.

This makes them the minority, by definition. They may not reolt those demands; it is the demand being made, that alone, which makes the person a minority. The class of intellectuals, in particular, fancy themselves to be above the masses, but are often vulgar pseudo-intellectuals, swept along by lazy, commonplace thinking, and therefore mass men.

Now, the mass assert their right to dictate in all such areas, without having to demand from themselves, much less achieve, te. The mass crushes beneath it mzsses that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select. All this is a new thing in our history, but not in world history. It can be found in the declining years of Rome, among other places.


Ortega ascribes its modern growth, though, not to decline, but to liberal democracy, to the discovery of the abstract sovereignty of the individual.

Fo if the individual is sovereign, we should not be surprised if each man treats himself as if he is indeed sovereign. Now, with the triumph of the masses, nobody supplies those things. America is treated as close to a non-entity, with thinly veiled contempt.


At the same time, liberal democracy makes the mass man believe that he is master of his psychic and political destiny. That is to say, in modern parlance, he is emancipated.

Instead, his objection is that the mass man fails to appreciate that all this, that benefits him, was created with great toil by the excellence of minorities; he thinks it manna from heaven. No standards, no progress, only regress. This is the new thing: Hence his ideas are in effect nothing more than appetites in words. Result of their end: The very idea that there is such a thing as excellence is denied as a matter of course.

Similarly with the political processes Ortega identifies.

José Ortega Y. Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses – PhilPapers

And, more broadly, what characterizes everything in the West is a call for total autonomy implemented, if necessary, by government tyranny, and a rejection of any standards as an offense against emancipation. Ortega believed that as long as the minority gasest the excellent dominates, progress is inevitable. And the reverse is also true. Therefore, Ortega would, perhaps, not be surprised by the situation today. Moreover, since barbarism has arrived in the form gassett the domination of mass men, it is natural that a portion of those mass men hold themselves out as the minority, as the elites.

The names of categories are maintained, in art, politics, and culture, but they are hollow, for hasset standards are set by mass men clothed in false skins. So, it is entirely possible, if standards have decayed and barbarism returned, for there to be nobody at all to whom the masses can turn for guidance.

The polestar may simply have winked out, to, perhaps, be restored at a time to be announced, when the world gasset remade. Thus, “The Revolt of the Masses” feels surprisingly fresh, given not only its age but all the water that has passed under the bridge since it was written. Yes, Ortega does display a simplistic, if touching, faith, in liberal democracy, which has since his time shown its deficiency.

True, the term no longer ortefa what it meant for Ortega. So perhaps we can say that Ortega may have been right, but liberal democracy as he used the term is dead, a casualty of the barbarism fo feared, replaced by its zombie equivalent although probably such zombification was inevitable, in the nature of liberal democracy, as several recent writers have claimed.

There it seemed to lead to Fascism.

His objection is not that the mass man fails to be intellectual; it is that the mass man does not pursue excellence. For the most part, Ortega loathes modern intellectuals as the very worst type of mass man. Nor does he make any suggestion at all that mass men lead to Fascism; rather, he says that the domination of mass men leads to regression in political organization, one possible end of which is Fascism.

He would call them ignoramuses, narrow men whose narrow learning did not qualify them to say anything at all to society at large, especially about topics not subject to rigid calculation.

Our experts are scientists and similar types who are narrow and ignorant outside of a tiny area, yet presume to think otherwise. His leaders, to whom the mass should defer, are men of great mind, not technicians. The names are endless, but include everyone from Bill Nye to Stephen Hawking. That is, the experts we revokt told today we must listen to are, for Ortega, the archetypical mass men, whom we should ignore, and to whom we listen to at our peril. Finally, Ortega veers off the mark in his last chapter, which covers masdes third of the book.


Here, he extols the need for a European superstate. The biggest problem, though, is that he extends this idea of fusion, or consolidation, to extend beyond the nations of Europe, to a true fusion of Europe. We have seen the zenith of this idea in our lifetimes, and it ortegq not a very high zenith. The so-called great nation is about to be no nation at all, as all can clearly see.

It is not the failure of prediction that bothers me, but that the reasoning and analysis on which it is based, which is conclusory and fantastical, is far inferior to that in the rest of the book. I read it because my mother asked me to, on the grounds that she would likely never get around to it herself, and I would do her a service by reviewing it.

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 egoismstrive for greatness, and have the thoughtfulness to ‘make things happen. Ortega is not advocating hereditary rule has exceptionality is something deserved and earned, not inherited. Third Edition is that the very processes that led to an improvement in everyone’s conditions presumably capitalism was leading to its own destruction, by deluding the mass man into thinking that material comforts and abundance are just a naturally existing part of the world’s fabric.

Thus, the masses demand a certain easiness of condition that, in reality, must be worked for, and lack any appreciation that the very exceptional people they demean are the ones largely responsible for material comfort and abundance in the first place. Ortega is generally labeled a conservative, and I think this is somewhat accurate, though it would not be a stretch to call him a classical liberal either. Like conservatives in the vein of Burke and Oakeshott, Ortega displays a fierce disdain for ahistorical and rationalistic approaches to social thought – approaches that do not pay careful attention to the present as a contingent outcome of specific historical circumstances, or attempts to ‘make the world over’ as if we can deduce the proper first principles from pure reason rather than close historical study.

For my money, I agree with Ortega on a good many things. His bemoaning of the purposelessness and, because of that, the stupidity he finds in the mass man can in many ways be read as a critique of modernism, where many people’s primary goal is to keep up with everyone else and live for distraction as opposed to purpose. Ortega’s suggestion that the ‘revolt of the masses’ will lead to an ever-increasing egalitarianism that seeks to remove any whiff of tradition and legitimately arising hierarchy may also be playing out to various degrees.

I have a few problems with this work, though, particularly owing to the author’s oscillation between suggesting that he doesn’t believe in historical determinism and reminding us that we must each fulfill our destiny.