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Mass society and revolutions: why revolutions fail

August 24, 2013


Mass society and revolutions: why revolutions fail


Isn’t good translation

There is something wrong in recent revolutions, both Arabic and Occupies. They are missing something. Yes, the overthrowing of presidents is fun and interesting. But what do we have besides it? So it turns out that there is no other content than the negation in the revolutions there.

You may recall that to overthrow of Charles I and Louis XVI was not just the aim itself. Moreover, the kings were in power for a considerable time during revolutions. Revolutions had an intention to reconstruct the society, and they did not have that original purpose, as to cut off the kings’ heads.

Earlier, the revolution almost always presented the idea of society transformation, sometimes the idea of a global restructuring – as it was during the French and Russian revolutions. In developing countries, although the revolutions did not aim to perform a global society transformation, but they usually replaced socialism with capitalism, or vice versa.

Modernity is our time.

Modern is style content of our time.

Modern is style content of modernity.

Modern is style content of our life.

Modern unites style content of time and life.

Modern is a determiner of life. Its characteristics are: a triumph of national states, the nationalism, the bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the struggle of classes and their ideologies, mass production and mass armies. Mass society appears in modern and when there is nothing left except mass society, modern is going to finish.

Modern is the concept of cultural perception.

Mass society percepts reality accordingly style norms of modern.

Then national states are blurred, nations are erased, the classes are losing the class consciousness, ideologies disappear. Fact of mass society exists contradicts to modern.

Theoretically it isn’t modern any more.

A flaw appears. It is a flaw between reality and perception of reality.

Mass society continues to percept reality as modern. But reality isn’t modern any more, it is something another.

If modern had been ended, reality is postmodern.

We have flaw between reality of postmodern and consciousness which inherited from modern.

Modern is always retrospective. It is important how we see it, how we compare it with the present times, and it does not matter when exactly it was started. Modern can be regarded as historical period, but above all it is a period of perception.

Modernity hasn’t modern content now.

Modernity has postmodern content now.

One of the main features of the postmodern is the final transition to the global mass society, or to a consumer society.

It can be also said that modern and postmodern are determinants of essence of time. One of the other ideas of postmodernism is that the world is changing, but most people live according to the old concepts of modernity.

Old world of modern doesn’t exist any more. But people’s consciousness lives in modern, so it lives in non-existing world.

If someone wants to make world better, he will make non-existing world better.

Revolution as a phenomenon traditionally refers to modernity. The elements of modern can be undoubtedly observed in countries where recent revolutions took place. Masses are coming to power – this is the story and the content of modern. Masses have come to power – that means that modern has ended.

When mass society comes to power, democracy is established. The mode can be changed at the elections, and therefore there is no need for revolutions. But revolutions occur. Marx would have been surprised by their country-wide and classless character.

Marx and Marxism belong to modern.

According to the results of votes’ counting, 89% of voters who came to vote supported the Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Three other competitors were left far behind.

The events in Tunisia have shown the following – mass society does not think when it votes. The president got 89% of votes. The elections were free enough. There were eight opposition parties! The voters voted for the president, whom they overthrew later. No one prevented them from voting for the opposition candidate. Or at least no one made them give 89% of the vote to the president. Mass society is manageable, but is prone to psychosis, especially mass psychosis.

Governance of mass society is performed by repeats. The more the mass person saw the candidate, the more likely it is that he will vote for him. (For somewhat reason, this simple and the most important way is not among ‘10 ways to manipulate’ by Chomsky). Similarly advertising works well. No means of analysis, no critical thinking exists among representatives of mass society.

Modern control technologies have reached the point that elections are always held the way the ruling group wants them. The technology is known. The difference lies only in the amount of money and information thrown into the election campaign. The more money is the more repeats, the more repeats is the more votes.

Voters will be attracted by repeats and will go to vote correctly. Later they will wonder why they voted like this. The victory will be the result of using the mechanisms of mass psychosis, and it will be achieved at the expense of forcing it. Pre-election information pressure influences on brain and gently blows them to the right direction. When the pressure ceases, the mass psychosis terminates into a state of breaking. This breaking is also a mass phenomenon. And in this condition it may happen an explosion of public anger.

We voted for Ali!.. We voted for Ali… Did we vote for Ali?.. What? Did we vote for Ali?! We … we… have really voted for Ali!! … A-a-a-a-!

After the election the daze of repeating dissipates. The fact of unreality of things that are happening, including the unreality of the past, leads to a change in behavior, namely to the strengthening of the perception, to aggression and pack gathering. An insignificant reason is sufficient for the explosion.

Political strategists know that too. That’s why opposition is allowed to participate in elections. The fact of the opposition existence softens the subsequent break-up. But the victory of the ruling President and his party are usually sealed. Revolution remains the only way to make a difference to the systems. But the revolution as a psychosis is an objective phenomenon. Such revolutions are not prepared, they just happen.

How these last revolutions are ending? What interesting is that they are ending up with the same situation as it was before the revolution. The victorious revolutions and the failed revolutions end similarly. Yes, some leaders are excluded from the power. Yes, something changes for these executives. And what happens for the rest of people? The show is over for the rest, everybody goes home to do the same things as they always did.

There were dictatorships in Libya and Syria. The regime was overthrown in Libya. But no major social changes have occurred. Previously, the clans and the tribes had all the power, which was not suitable for other clans and tribes. Now tribes changed places. Everything remained just the same as it was for the rest of the population.

It could be noted, that rigid civil wars are held not between the regime and its people, but between regime tribes and tribes against the regime. The idea, if any, of these wars is only a rationalization, making sense of tribal, clan war. And they are also held in order to attract foreign allies; to commonwealth, there are a lot of people in the world who want to participate in wars.

In Libya, there was one battle-cry: “Down with Gaddafi.” In Syria there was one battle-cry too. The countries turn to ruins for the sake of this one battle-cry. Of course, it’s not a battle-cry that really matters. Regime tribes tend to grow, which leads to a lack of resources. That’s why the war happens. Thousands of people participate in wars, millions of people are suffering. But thousands of people are fighting for their own property, and not for the millions of people, not for the mass society.

As it was mentioned at the beginning, there are no revolutions in the mass societies. There are psychoses in mass societies.

Revolutions of modernity also contained the elements of a mass psychosis, without which these revolutions would have been impossible. But the revolution of modernity had a structural component that was created before the revolution, and this structural component included both people and ideas – as was in case of the French Revolution, and the way it was for the Russian Revolution. After a mass psychosis started the idea of ​​revolution get embodied. There are no ideas in a mass society that can be implemented after the Revolution, these ideas were not prepared, they were not formed in advance.

It may seem that the revolutions are not necessary in countries where democratic elections are held. It is not necessary to organize a revolution to make some changes, elections are enough for it. But mass society cannot remain in an organized state for a long time, as it requires the election process. There are no structures in mass society. There is only mass psychosis and its usage.

Yes, millions of people are very poor. But there are millions of others who are even poorer. Millions of people in fact are not only poor. They live a dull life. What is the main cause of the irritation of a human mass in a mass society? In fact, the reason is that he is a person of mass in a mass society. It’s frustrating. This irritation should be discharged somehow.

The mass can never articulate what it wants because of the presence of this main irritant. It cannot articulate the wishes, that’s why it gets nothing. Although there is always a potential to request and receive something else.

Mass society is composed of people mass, and it is barely a real society, because people of the mass do not have sufficient public relations to be called a society.
In mass society the power belongs to the mass. If the mass was in power before the revolution, the mass will be in power after the revolution too. So, what do we have? We have only a discharge. We have the performance for the society of the performance. And the free space is occupied by Islamists as it is the most organized force.

Elements of modern do not work in the postmodern. The ideologies of modernity does not work, too. But other ideologies do not exist yet. The parties do not work; the class consciousness of the nation does not work, too. Revolutions do not work on a common basis.

The elections, which do not change anything in a mass society, are joined by revolutions, which also do not change anything. But if revolutions cannot change society as a whole, they can at least change the life of the some groups. But these groups should be formed beforehand, it should have names. They must claim not only general interests but mainly own. Moreover, the performances of progressive groups on behalf of all the people may be perceived as imposture and to have a negative response in a mass society.

Originally the bourgeoisie exists as a class with class consciousness, and this bourgeoisie carries out a bourgeois revolution. Mass society appears first as a mass society of the bourgeoisie. Then the proletariat appears, and as it is eroding, a mass society of the proletariat appears. The last mass society appears when the bourgeoisie is dissolved in the mass of new urban residents, the proletariat is divided into small groups, and the peasantry becomes too few. This is the last universal mass society.

There are three revolutions, which can be considered as the reference. First, the French, bourgeois revolution gave the world the incredible momentum of development. Secondly, the Russian proletarian revolution launched some progressive processes, but it stopped other ones, that resulted in the national disaster. The third and last is the Iran revolution that was the revolution of a mass society. It just stopped development of the country. Actually, the modern era was finished with it. The masses came to power.

The scenarios of modern revolution do not work in postmodern society. In order the revolutions to work, they must be up to date. And when there is a legally elected president, it is probably not desirable to speak on behalf of the whole society.

Masses are always in power in a modern democratic society. But the presence of democracy does not mean that problems do not exist. The use of revolutionary methods can be justified and even necessary – especially when it comes to the rights and freedoms of minorities. But before you apply these methods, you need to have a social knowledge; you need to have people armed with this knowledge. It means that work for the development of social science should be done permanently. Those who do not read books, do not perform the proper revolutions. You need to have a developed and formed dream. You need to have this dream before the revolution in order the revolution to have a creative progressive content.

Sergei Morozov is a Russian social philosopher, sociobiologist, evolutionary psychologist and author of “Sex and Rank. Modern Man’s Ancient Programs”.

This text is free. You may republish it on any resource without permission of author.


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  1. perkerk permalink

    Democracy is perhaps less susceptible to corruption than other types of governance, but because of the relatively ease in manipulating public opinion, it is nonetheless corruptible or prone to being manipulated by those with power and wealth and access to the media. And as you point out, a revolution doesn’t necessarily come with a plan. The trick then is to figure out how to enact change on a large scale in an intelligent manner. I assert there is a straightforward way to leverage a population to do this.

    • Imho, democracy and corruption haven’t direct link. Manipulations are possible as a result of condition of population. To enact change one should know what to change. And absent of knowledge becomes main problem.

  2. Eric permalink

    True, there isn’t necessarily a direct link. Manipulation of public opinion is possible in any scenario. It is true (well, let’s say preferable) we should know what to change. But we do know what to change! At least, there is a good approximation to what is best. We don’t need to know what is optimally best – ANYTHING with some basis in knowledge or wisdom or experience is better than the goals of people who’s drive is to empower or enrich themselves.

    • About manipulation it is better “Postinformational”, two posts before.
      Everybody says “we know what to change”. But they cannot come to agree.

      • Eric Brown permalink

        Regarding postinformational – that’s a good explanation for the mass view of society. However it is this view that has been manipulated – it itself is not what caused the change. The postinformational aspect then is less useful to analyze than the underlying processes that cause change. As an example of an underlying process which relies on manipulation, let’s use the selling of cell phones. The manipulation is the widespread advertising and media saturation which leads people to want them. The resulting change in the view of society is a symptom, caused by the manipulation.

        And yes, it is a problem that everyone doesn’t agree. The solution is then to use the same type of manipulation to cause people to agree! There is a way to do this, for progress, instead of for self-gain.

  3. The transition to complete post-modernity is not possible; many millions would have to die from the effects of climate change if we continued that project – they will not be consumers of anything. Species, eco-systems, resources – these must feature in this discussion or we are just talking about a mythical as opposed to an actual present.
    Post-modernism tried to argue that the contradictions within capitalism had been resolved – they had not, not even momentarily, really. It was an appearance with a very different essence that burst through the appearance in the form of crisis – interconnected financial, ecological, social.
    Neo-liberalism says the needs of the corporation and the people are identical and post-modernism is not much more than a commentary on that claim. This was a moment of appearance, and it is definitively over.
    For the mass of people, the mechanism for imposing the neo-liberal consensus was not directly the corporations/marketers/brand executives – it was the state itself, or states themselves. They adopted this ideology wholesale, and became the transmitters/imposers/mouthpieces of the neo-liberal consensus. In reality, the corporations are now so fragile in zombie capitalism that you could say it is only the state, or the state-like bodies created to support them, like the WTO, that is keeping the show on the road at all.
    So for the mass of people, there is no change to had from the state or elections.
    What they are doing is struggling to find the active form of the underlying necessity for change is the challenge. In the past it might have been a party of labour, or in Leninist terms a revolutionary party. But we need to consider this question for today and come up with a form that matches up to the challenges facing us now.

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