View Poll Results: Is the Revolt of the Masses an Accurate Picture of Society

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Thread: Revolt of the Masses

  1. #1
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    Revolt of the Masses

    I just finished reading Jose Ortega y Gasset's book, The Revolt of the Masses. He basically contends that there are two types of people in the world, the mass and the minority. The minority are the truly talented people who also put great demand on themselves to make advancements in science, philosophy, and politics. The mass are those without the talent or drive to do such. He's quick to point out that this has nothing to do with class, as there is minority and mass in both the upper and lower classes.

    Ortega sees a growing problem among the masses due to the rise of democracy. With the growing belief that everyone is equal comes a belief among the masses that their unexamined opinions are inherently equal in many areas to the minority. Those who have spent little time thinking about or studying politics believe that their political opinions carry as much intellectual weight as those who have been doing so for thirty years. They don't recognize that there are people in some areas who know better than they do. The problem that Ortega sees with this is that because the masses greatly outnumber the minority, politicians wanting power will begin to appeal to these unexamined opinions of the minority, leading to people who don't really know what they're doing to direct the political conversation. Writing in the 1930's Ortega sees this as the reason behind the rise of power of fascism in Italy and Bolshevism in Russia, condemning both movements. He definitely does not reject democracy and is a strong proponent of that political system over all others, but he does see this as a serious problem with it that needs to be addressed.

    Especially a problem for Ortega are those that he calls the specialists. These are the people who are legitimately knowledgeable in one area. They are usually college educated people who really are experts in their narrow field. However, this knowledge generally leads to them believing they are experts in other fields, not usually deferring to those who are actually experts in them. Ortega sees them as often more stubborn and more arrogant than the regular masses in projecting their opinions in fields they are clearly ignorant of. Ortega writes the book specifically to challenge these people to examine their political ideals the same way they examine knowledge in their own narrow field of work.

    So my question is, do you think that Ortega's work is a generally accurate view of society? Is he correct about the categories of mass and minority and the relationship between them? Do most people stubbornly view their opinions as inherently equal to those who know better than them?
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    Re: Revolt of the Masses

    With the growing belief that everyone is equal...
    Equal before the law. Not equal to everyone else.

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    Re: Revolt of the Masses

    Quote Originally Posted by ecofarm View Post
    Equal before the law. Not equal to everyone else.
    Which is not how some people see it, according to Ortega.
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    Re: Revolt of the Masses

    Quote Originally Posted by Anagram View Post
    Which is not how some people see it, according to Ortega.
    Anyone who believes democracy demands equal outcome or value is a moron.

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    Re: Revolt of the Masses

    Quote Originally Posted by ecofarm View Post
    Anyone who believes democracy demands equal outcome or value is a moron.
    Well I don't think he's saying that people believe there should be equal outcome. But he does think that people are beginning to believe that opinions are automatically equal no matter who proposes them. I think today he'd probably say that there are those who believe that reading a few wikipedia articles makes them qualified to debate economics with Paul Krugman or Alan Greenspan and that nobody could tell them otherwise or that they are wrong because all opinions are equal.
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    Re: Revolt of the Masses

    Quote Originally Posted by Anagram View Post
    But he does think that people are beginning to believe that opinions are automatically equal no matter who proposes them. I think today he'd probably say that there are those who believe that reading a few wikipedia articles makes them qualified to debate economics with Paul Krugman or Alan Greenspan and that nobody could tell them otherwise or that they are wrong because all opinions are equal.
    There is and always has been morons. Such morons are not, however, a majority (except in conspiracy theory forums).

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    Re: Revolt of the Masses

    Quote Originally Posted by Anagram View Post
    I just finished reading Jose Ortega y Gasset's book, The Revolt of the Masses. He basically contends that there are two types of people in the world, the mass and the minority. The minority are the truly talented people who also put great demand on themselves to make advancements in science, philosophy, and politics. The mass are those without the talent or drive to do such. He's quick to point out that this has nothing to do with class, as there is minority and mass in both the upper and lower classes.

    Ortega sees a growing problem among the masses due to the rise of democracy. With the growing belief that everyone is equal comes a belief among the masses that their unexamined opinions are inherently equal in many areas to the minority. Those who have spent little time thinking about or studying politics believe that their political opinions carry as much intellectual weight as those who have been doing so for thirty years. They don't recognize that there are people in some areas who know better than they do. The problem that Ortega sees with this is that because the masses greatly outnumber the minority, politicians wanting power will begin to appeal to these unexamined opinions of the minority, leading to people who don't really know what they're doing to direct the political conversation. Writing in the 1930's Ortega sees this as the reason behind the rise of power of fascism in Italy and Bolshevism in Russia, condemning both movements. He definitely does not reject democracy and is a strong proponent of that political system over all others, but he does see this as a serious problem with it that needs to be addressed.

    Especially a problem for Ortega are those that he calls the specialists. These are the people who are legitimately knowledgeable in one area. They are usually college educated people who really are experts in their narrow field. However, this knowledge generally leads to them believing they are experts in other fields, not usually deferring to those who are actually experts in them. Ortega sees them as often more stubborn and more arrogant than the regular masses in projecting their opinions in fields they are clearly ignorant of. Ortega writes the book specifically to challenge these people to examine their political ideals the same way they examine knowledge in their own narrow field of work.

    So my question is, do you think that Ortega's work is a generally accurate view of society? Is he correct about the categories of mass and minority and the relationship between them? Do most people stubbornly view their opinions as inherently equal to those who know better than them?
    Without reading it, I am basing alot of this on guessing in terms of what he specifically said, but based on your description, I see one big problem with his thesis: we do not mostly directly vote on policy. I am not an expert on any subject that has any real value in political discussion, though I am interested enough that I am moderately well read on a number of policy issues. When I look at political candidates(who are the ones who will be voting directly on policy issues), I am looking at their positions on issues in terms of philosophy and ideology. Based on this candidates stated positions, will he likely vote from an ideology and based on a philosophy I agree with most likely? I do not think most people view the process in those terms, but that is essentially what it boils down to.

    There are times when populist candidates base their stances on the will of the ignorant, but those are fleeting. The Tea Party is already waning in terms of political power for example and the candidates who actually do directly represent their views are not having any success getting those views past those with a longer, more informed view of issues. Compromises will be reached, damage mitigated, and the country will carry on. Mostly though people vote for those who closest match their ideology and trust to an extent that those candidates will gather the information and make the best informed decision based on ideological slant that they can, and usually it works.

    I am always wary of those warning against the great unwashed masses. The problem is that too often they define the (in this case) minority as those who agree with them, and the great unwashed masses those who think otherwise. It strikes me as a way to attempt to marginalize those who think differently that the speaker.
    We became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers - Lindsey Graham

    Quote Originally Posted by Fiddytree View Post
    Uh oh Megyn...your vagina witchcraft is about ready to be exposed.

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    Re: Revolt of the Masses

    Quote Originally Posted by Anagram View Post
    Which is not how some people see it, according to Ortega.
    At least in the modern world, that is how it is, but not how it is represented. Some like to spout the meme that liberals want a utopian equity of outcome, when all we really want is equity opportunity in terms of government policy.
    We became a great nation not because we are a nation of cynics. We became a great nation because we are a nation of believers - Lindsey Graham

    Quote Originally Posted by Fiddytree View Post
    Uh oh Megyn...your vagina witchcraft is about ready to be exposed.

  9. #9
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    Re: Revolt of the Masses

    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
    Without reading it, I am basing alot of this on guessing in terms of what he specifically said, but based on your description, I see one big problem with his thesis: we do not mostly directly vote on policy. I am not an expert on any subject that has any real value in political discussion, though I am interested enough that I am moderately well read on a number of policy issues. When I look at political candidates(who are the ones who will be voting directly on policy issues), I am looking at their positions on issues in terms of philosophy and ideology. Based on this candidates stated positions, will he likely vote from an ideology and based on a philosophy I agree with most likely? I do not think most people view the process in those terms, but that is essentially what it boils down to.
    That's true that we elect the politicians rather than vote directly on policy, at least mostly. But Ortega's ultimate goal is to have the minority put in charge. He believes that representative democracy is the best system for this, but so far it has failed in electing them. Rather than electing the minority, they are bringing to power mass people such as Mussolini who were not qualified. It's so easy to appeal to the mass peoples base appetites, that ones who should be in power aren't.

    There are times when populist candidates base their stances on the will of the ignorant, but those are fleeting. The Tea Party is already waning in terms of political power for example and the candidates who actually do directly represent their views are not having any success getting those views past those with a longer, more informed view of issues. Compromises will be reached, damage mitigated, and the country will carry on. Mostly though people vote for those who closest match their ideology and trust to an extent that those candidates will gather the information and make the best informed decision based on ideological slant that they can, and usually it works.
    I agree with this for the mostly. Liberal Democracy was new when Ortega wrote this, and I think for the most part it has worked out better than he predicted it would. The people like Hitler, Mussolini, and the Bolsheviks coming to power in Ortega's time have not been coming to power in democracies often since the end of the second World War.

    I am always wary of those warning against the great unwashed masses. The problem is that too often they define the (in this case) minority as those who agree with them, and the great unwashed masses those who think otherwise. It strikes me as a way to attempt to marginalize those who think differently that the speaker.
    I do think this is somewhat true for Ortega. He goes on later in the book to argue that a United Europe is destiny. That naturally if someone has an examined opinion he will accept this, and he implies that those who don't are simply mass. However, I do think there is at least some truth to what he's saying. I do know people who do vote almost literally without knowing what they're voting for or why they believe what they do. Some people who don't know anything about policy and even very little of whatever ideology they consistently vote for every election. I don't hang around with a group of people representative of the entire country, so I don't actually know how prevalent that is in our voters. I also think that politicians sometimes cater to the lowest common denominator of person when they give speeches or participate in debates.
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    Re: Revolt of the Masses

    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
    At least in the modern world, that is how it is, but not how it is represented. Some like to spout the meme that liberals want a utopian equity of outcome, when all we really want is equity opportunity in terms of government policy.
    I don't think there are very many people who believe we should have equal outcomes, and I don't really think that was what Ortega was talking about. More like equality of opinion. And I have seen some people use this to justify whatever they believe. For example when discussing what a certain policy should be, even if they don't use any facts to back up their interpretation of what the policy would bring, they say something like "you can't tell me I'm wrong, its just an opinion and it's as good as anyone else's." Again though, I'm not sure how prevalent this is.
    There should be Instant Runoff Voting

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