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This article has an unclear citation style.(August 2021)
Mass society is a concept that describes modern society as a monolithic force and yet a disaggregate collection of individuals. It is often used pejoratively to refer to a society in which bureaucracy and impersonal institutions have replaced some notion of traditional society, leading to social alienation.
In a sense, all societies are mass societies, but the term typically refers to a developed countries that possess a mass culture and large-scale social, political and economic institutions which structure daily life for the majority of people. In modern times the term has taken on more importance and broader scope with the advent of mass media and the internet.
Descriptions of society as a "mass" took form in the 19th century, referring to the leveling tendencies in the period of the Industrial Revolution that undermined traditional and aristocratic values, and replaced monarchy with various forms of liberal democracy. Political theorists such as Alexis de Tocqueville analyzed mass society and pinpointed its beginning in the French Revolution.
Various conservative theorists developed concepts of mass society in which it replaces aristocracies with the "tyranny of the majority" or "mob rule" and José Ortega y Gasset, for instance, lamented the decline of high culture. Marxist accounts, such as those of the Frankfurt School, critiqued the prevailing forms of mass society as one dominated by a culture industry that served the interests of capitalism.
Mass society as an ideology can be seen as dominated by a small number of interconnected elites who control the conditions of life of the many, often by means of persuasion and manipulation. This indicates the politics of mass society theorists- they are advocates of various kinds of cultural elite who should be privileged and promoted over the masses, claiming for themselves both exemption from and leadership of the misguided masses.
"As technological innovation allowed government to expand, the centralized state grew in size and importance." "Since then, government has assumed responsibility for more and more areas of social life: schooling, regulating wages and working conditions, establishing standards for products of all sorts, and providing financial assistance to the elderly, the ill, and the unemployed." "In a mass society, power resides in large bureaucracies, leaving people in local communities with little control over their lives. For example, state officials mandate that local schools must meet educational standards, local products must be government-certified, and every citizen must maintain extensive tax records. Although such regulations may protect and enhance social equality, they also force us to deal more and more with nameless officials in distant and often unresponsive bureaucracies, and they undermine the autonomy of families and local communities."
Mass society theory has been active in a wide range of media studies, where it tends to produce ideal visions of what the mass media such as television and cinema are doing to the masses. Therefore, the mass media are necessary instruments for achieving and maintaining mass societies. "The mass media give rise to national culture that washes over the traditional differences that used to set off one region from another." "Mass-society theorists fear that the transformation of people of various backgrounds into a generic mass may end up dehumanizing everyone."
Sociologist C. Wright Mills made a distinction between a society of "masses" and "public".
As he tells: "In a public, as we may understand the term,
In a mass,