The Labelling of a Mass Society

I don’t know about you, but I know that I don’t consider my perspective of the world as identical to everyone else’s. I don’t interpret information in the same way, and I certainly don’t come to the same conclusions. And yet when society is addressed in terms of cultural studies, and especially in the study of propaganda, we begin to hear the term “the masses.”

What is meant by mass society? Propaganda is often defined as a way of manipulating “the masses.” But with this description comes the assumption that each person is receiving and responding to information in an identical way. Given, it is valid that propaganda campaigns address people in this way. But the use of the term isn’t limited to this argument.

When we hear about “mass media” and “mass culture” as they appeal to a mass society, we are essentially being told that within society there is this uniformity, this simplistic structure that simply doesn’t exist. While there are definite similarities in terms of lifestyle (sources of information, entertainment, basic behaviors and decisions), this in itself does not mean that each individual is one and the same.

When analyzing any given society, it needs to be considered that each individual makes decisions and assumptions based on personal experiences and beliefs. Simply because the sources of media and culture are generally similar, this doesn’t mean that people derive meaning in the same way. One needs to consider differences in personality and experience, both of which inevitably affect how people look at the world.

This also applies to the perception of perceived enemies, considering that in wartime the generalization of an enemy’s people is a common way of removing the humanity from those people. It is interesting that this removal of humanity extends to the interpretation of our own culture.

It all comes down to the issue of reception…

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One response to “The Labelling of a Mass Society

  1. antireptilian

    The late 1800’s saw the advent of psychology and investigations into the Pshyche. It was determined by some that man had inherent or resultant mental deformataties that led to criminal behaviour.

    As the century turned, mass immigration and war came resulting in the leadership creating propaganda organisations to direct public opinion. It was feared that the “mass” would become uncontrollable.

    You state that people have their own opinions, but i would argue that much of the public opinion is engineered through education, media and marketing.

    We have percieved choices, eg a red car or a blue car, or politically left or right, but the truth is that we all operate in a carefully constructed system of control. Generally, anyone that exists outside the mass culture is ostracised or overidden by peer pressure. Democracy is a form of peer pressure where majority rules. The majority, i would say, are swayed by the media programming they are fed.

    One way information streams of the past have been interrupted by the Internet. For the first time in millenia, it is possible for multiple points of view to be discussed effectivly circumventing government or corporate control. In the past books were the alternative view, but not readily accessible to the mass where it may change public opinion.

    I will bookmark this page on my blog, and hope to visit often.

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