Gasset: The Revolt of the Masses (Analysis)


Gasset and Barbarians

The Revolt of the Masses, by Gasset, is a paradoxical essay in an era of “runs and falls” and “calm in the storm”, proud but not pretentious exploration of the problem of modern man.

According to Ortega y Gasset, Man-mass through some of its characteristics as in the first place, forgetting (or rather the concealment) of the past. “This man mass- the man emptied in advance of its own history, without feeling the past, and, for that very reason, is obedient to all disciplines called” international “. Rather than a man’s shell of a man, made of simple idola fori. It lacks an “inside” intimacy inevitably, his inalienable, irrevocable me one “(p. 58).

The desire to make a clean sweep, so clean revolutions, can only lead to ruin, lead man to the barbarism: “The real treasure of man is the treasure from its mistakes . Nietzsche defines why the superior man as being “the longest memory.” Breaking the continuity with the past, want to start again, suck it down and plagiarize the orangutan “(p. 77).

It is also bogged down in this final. Ironically, although the irony can not in any way be placed on the account, we shall see, a hint of reactionary critic José Ortega y Gasset belief in indefinite progress of knowledge and techniques, “Under the mask of a future generation, the lover of progress does not care about the future, convinced that it will offer no surprises, no secrets, no episode, no essential innovation, assured that the world will go straight, without drift or demote He turns his concern for the future and now moves into a final. It is not surprising that the world seems empty now projects, expectations and ideals “(pp. 116-7).


This desire to destroy the unhealthy past, live in the perpetual present of the animal, bearing a negative impact on the present and the future:

“And that means being a nation of men yesterday to extend his the present without ceasing to live for the future, to exist in the real present, since this is only the presence of the past and the future, where they are actually past and future “(p . 79).

Thus, in contrast, Britain will be reviewed by Ortega y Gasset as the people of the infinite foresight, the people composed of men who are not yet the workings of a huge machine though, as the highlight the philosopher, the same people could be misled in the Pacific: “This people circulating in his time, he is truly master of his century which retains the active possession ‘(pp. 78-9).

The revolt of the masses, due to the desertion of the elites (“The desertion of the ruling minorities is still in the back of the revolt of the masses”, pp. 116-7), also owes its direct cause is that the society in which do men live longer forced to want to excel. If the ancient world was the world of constant danger, lightning, our time is that the paralysis caused by the triumph of machinery, reduction of uncharted territory, the tremendous growth of science and technology forced to confine the hyper-specialization, the flight of the gods:

“The world that surrounds the new man since his birth did not grow to be limited in any sense whatsoever between him no veto, no restriction, but rather heightens its appetites, which can, in principle, grow indefinitely. So it happens – and this is very important – that the world of the nineteenth and early twentieth century not only has all the perfections and the extent it has in fact, but suggests that its inhabitants complete certainty that the days to come will be even richer, deeper, more perfect, as if they had a spontaneous growth and inexhaustible “(pp. 130-1).

Thus, the lives of men of the past, though full of dangers, was synonymous with excess, the less opportunity to excel. The mass-man is the man tight, closed, while the man of the past is that of opening a world itself open to innumerable and bloody conquests: “In this way the noble life remains opposed to poor or inert life, which, statistically, is closing in on itself, is doomed to perpetual immanence as an external force is no requirement to come out of herself. That’s why we call “mass” this type of man, not so much because it’s multitudinous because it is inert “(p. 139).

The mass-man is a dispossessed being . He has no past and because he has lost, he has no future. It is not even certain, we have seen, it can be proud to live in perpetual peace of this boundless, freed of the weight of what has wrought: “Man-mass , Ortega y Gasset writes, is the man whose life is without projects and goes adrift. That’s why it builds nothing, although its possibilities and its powers are enormous “(p. 121).

The mass-man is a being doubly deprived because no one knows more about it. Strangely, José Ortega y Gasset refers to the degeneration of the language of the mass-man, he treats, for the purposes of his demonstration, a resident of the Empire, bringing it closer to that of Vulgar Latin: thus, ” symptom and also the most damning document that forms both homogeneous and stupid – and each other – that takes the life of an across the empire is where the ‘is least expected and where no one, to my knowledge, has not thought about the look: in language “(p. 67). The author goes on to the main feature of Vulgar Latin: “The first [line] is an incredible simplification of its grammatical organization compared to that of classical Latin” (p. 68), continuing: “The second trait we landed in Vulgar Latin, it is precisely its homogeneity. Linguists who, after the pilots are the least cowardly men do not seem particularly moved by the fact that we have the same language spoken in countries as diverse as Carthage and Gaul, and Dalmatia Tingis, Hispalis and Romania. But who am fearful and trembling when I see some high winds, reeds, I can not, at this, repressing a shudder throughout the body. It seems to me simply atrocious “.

The loss of the past that must be eradicated to allow new sun rising steel on a redeemed humanity, the destruction of any historical awareness, this break of continuity in the words of Max Picard, and the simplification of language , are the marks of the two main political forces (Bolshevism and fascism) that share of Europe at the time Ortega y Gasset wrote his essay, two forces described as remarkably regressive forces, entropy, an intuition that will become an Obviously even a cliché, for many authors like Elias Canetti and about Nazism, that years after the publication of The Revolt of the Masses “movements typical masses of men, the author wrote them, directed, as all who are, poor men, nuisance, with little memory, no “historical consciousness”, they behave as they come on stage as if they were already in the past, as if reaching Currently, they belonged to the fauna of the past “(p. 167). The author continues:

“One and one – Bolshevism and Fascism – were two false dawns, they do not tomorrow morning, but that of one day old, who served one or more times and they are of primitivism. And so it will be all the social movements that are naive enough to start a fight with this or that portion of the past, instead of trying to assimilate it “(pp. 168-9).

The mass-man, without past, living only in this one that refuses to face the future as anything other than the realization of dreams gorgeous, huge, the termite man who is a hollow, demoralized, can only revolt. The mass-man, even, has no life, and this absence of life that the whole book, as one man to the haunting voice of dictators, whose reign was announced by the author: “For to live is having to do something specific – hold any office – and since we avoid to devote our lives to something, we will make our lives more and more empty. Will be heard soon by the entire planet a huge cry, which will rise to the stars, like the howling of dogs innumerable, asking someone, something that order, which imposes an obligation or an activity “(p. 212).

This revolt of the masses, caused by the disappearance of Kings, is itself an illusion because it decides as vectors fascism and Nazism are condemned to disappear, which are the only interregnum: “I will now summarize the thesis of this essay: the world now suffers from severe demoralization that occurs – among other symptoms – a frenzied revolt of the masses, this general demoralization has its origin in a demoralization of Europe whose causes are multiple. A key is the shift of the power that our continent once had on the rest of the world and himself. Europe is safer to order, nor the world to be ordered. Historical sovereignty is now in full dispersion “(p. 254).

Having carefully a diagnosis of the disease of the century, Ortega y Gasset, a good doctor, issued its order, which also has an amazing value of premonition, a true prophecy: Europe!

This is probably the major thesis of José Ortega y Gasset, accompanied by a stinging challenge to the idea, so widespread, the decline of the West, which you can not accuse to be outmoded or even reactionary, like so many of the poor readers claimed at the time of publication of the magisterial essay, “But stop the individual who provides [the idea of ​​decadence in Europe] with a wave light, and ask what phenomena of concrete and obvious he bases his diagnosis, you will see how soon actions waves, the excitement and practice of arms to the roundness of the universe, characteristic of all wrecked. In fact, he does not know where to hang on. The only thing that appears without great detail when defining the current decadence of Europe is all the economic difficulties which now stands at each of the European nations. But when we want to clarify a little the character of these difficulties, we note that none of them seriously affect the power of wealth creation, and that the Old Continent went through crises of this kind much more serious ” (p. 221).

Europe, undoubtedly the civilizing power of the world, is called by the author on his own to overflow, again, to show the way forward and thus save the world which is at the edge of the abyss: “The real situation of Europe so happen to be this: the vast and magnificent past did reach a new stage of life where everything has increased, but at the same time, the surviving structures of this past are small and paralyze its current expansion. Europe is made of small nations. In a sense, the idea and national feelings were his most characteristic invention. And now it is bound to excel itself. This is the huge scheme of the drama is going to play in the coming years. Will she break free of his survivors or she will remain trapped? because it’s already happened once in history that a great civilization died not being able to change their traditional view of the state … “(p. 225).

And once again urge the enlightened elites and governments to unite the European nations to give new meaning to the idea, obsolete or at least frozen in tradition, nation-state: “We do not see What other little thing that we could do well, we who exist on this side of the planet, except to fulfill the promise that for four centuries, does the word Europe. One opposes the bias of the old “nations,” the idea of ​​nation as a past “(p. 254).

I do not know if it would be too easy to point to the author, if still alive, that the building of Europe had been hoping that the strongest would be the source of ‘hyperdemocracy routinely overwhelmed by it also as an illustration of a monstrous direct democracy, the democracy of the masses (11) exerted by a force which is no longer prima ultima ratio, but:

“Today we are witnessing the triumph of a hyperdemocracy in which the mass directly acts without law, imposing its aspirations and tastes by material pressures “(p. 89).

And this action of the mass fascination with empty words not yet fully rid of their old prestige, the intelligence of José Ortega y Gasset is not she have given us a synonym, barbarism, which is the very opposite of the rest, let us note, that use of forests advocated by Jung? “Civilization is not really there, it does not subsist by itself, it is artificial and requires an artist or craftsman. If you want to enjoy the benefits of civilization, but without worrying about support … too bad for you in the blink of an eye, you may find civilization. A moment of inattention, and when you look around you, everything will be gone. As if we had suddenly detached from the tapestries that hide the wilderness, the primeval forest reappears as to its origin. The forest is still primitive, and vice versa, is the primitive forest “(p. 163).



Cite this article as: Tim, "Gasset: The Revolt of the Masses (Analysis), April 8, 2020, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, April 8, 2020,

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