Becoming large groups: from crowd and public to powerful and spectacular mass movements

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In this article, the author examines different theories and approaches to mass movements in the historical process and their impact on the condition of Western culture. In the short introduction, the main historical, cultural and philosophical origins of the mass movements from antiquity to present time are described. This paper examines the question why the social and cultural influence of the man of mass is difficult to predict. To answer this question, the author demonstrates the continuing transition from the psychology of the crowd to the structure of mass instinct and collective interaction. The first part exposes general psychological characteristics of the mob according to the ideas of Gustave Le Bon (1841–1931). Le Bon describes masses as emotional, irresponsible, uncritical and conservative, although marks heroism and sacrifice as their positive manifestations. In the second part, the author reflects upon the perspective of Gabriel Tard (1843–1904) on this problem. Tard’s term “public opinion” deals with the representatives who – while living in separation – participate in the mass communication. In the third part, attestations of the mass such as humility, conformism and obsession are investigated based on the ideas of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). The next point of the article is devoted to Jose Ortega y Gasset’s (1883–1955) concept of the revolt of masses. Ortega captures the ambivalence of masses who express the power ambition and indifference to culture. From the point of view of Hannah Arendt (1906–1975), masses become terrible, self-satisfied, atomized, unstructured and anonymous. However, Elias Canetti (1905–1994) defines masses as compressed and scattered, closed and open, fast and slow. Yet different parameters of the masses one can find in Siegfried Kracauer’s (1889–1966) writing – namely aesthetics, technicism, ritual. Finally, in the last part, the author appeals to Jean Baudrillard’s (1929–2007) approach to the problem who declares that masses became silent and indistinct.
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Archival date: 2019-04-24
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