Jose Ortega y Gasset, once a "Liberal" legislator in the doomed Spanish Republic, wrote Revolt of the Masses 70 years too soon. This elitist book, although seriously flawed, makes numerous excellent points, demands to be read in these opening years of the 21st Century, and should be quoted, frequently, publicly, and with great fervor. Gasset felt that man has come to demand things without taking responsibility. However, at the same time, Nietzsche's book, Disadvantages and Advantages of History does not explicitly examine the nature of morality, the master/slave relationship, or related questions. Instead, it questions the relationship of historical knowledge to life in the present. By "present," Nietzsche does not mean some specific century or decade, but rather the present we perpetually find ourselves in as human beings. He also discusses the possibility of people living like animals because they do not knowledge of history. By comparing Gasset and Nietzsche, it clear that the human race has some dilemmas in taking responsibility for their actions and what surrounds him.
In that case, Ortega y Gasset postulates that "mass man" has come to demand privilege without responsibility. With no idea of the workings of modern life, mass man expects it served up to him on a silver platter. Mass man pays no homage to the "men of excellence" who create, who move society forward, who shoulder responsibility. "Anarchist-influenced unions gave higher priority to leisure and free time for self-development than to high wages and economic gains" (Gasset p. 50). This is not the behavior which Ortega y Gasset attributes to mass man. This is the behavior of his "men of excellence."
By this example of Gasset argument, it is clear that the human race has a difficult time of taking responsibility.
Examining this evidence it is easy to find that when people are free, they are also free to be excellent. In the "open source" community, it is also easy to find "men of excellence."
People find other individuals free from corporate domination, who, without remuneration, have created one of the most sophisticated and reliable software systems for the mass market today. Linux has been described as far more stable, efficient, and powerful than any Microsoft Windows product. Again, freedom breeds excellence. The paradigm of domination and power-over does not exist in the open source community the way it does in a commercial environment.
Nevertheless, Ortega y Gasset has served up an apt description of the "typical" American, who watches 35 hours of TV each week and feels the ideas he absorbs from Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Matt Drudge, and the late news equal the work of serious scholars and intellectuals. Most of Americans have long since abdicated our power and responsibility to "somebody else." People do not really trust our government, but expect somebody else to fix it. Americans are the "mass man" who demands more government services, fewer taxes, and a higher quality of living, while refusing to volunteer our time in our communities. In other words, Gasset was correct to imply that human beings do not take responsibility for their actions and that puts their future in danger.
Ortega y Gasset's contempt for mass man echoes the fear of the Spanish Liberals. They feared both fascism and proletarian liberation movements. They wished to hang on to their middle class privilege without being dominated from above, or being equalized from below. A social and political hierarchy helped them to maintain their privilege. Contrasting this stance with more equalitarian writings is an interesting experience. Therefore, Gasset's argument was right in that people do not want to responsibility for anything happens around them which puts their future in danger.
One of the most prophetic parts of the book was Ortega y Gasset's exposition on the union of Europe. He saw that the creation of a single European state was an inevitable part of the historical process. Watching the European nations struggle to come together as an economic unit it is easy to see his "prophecy" being fulfilled. He also made a profound statement about the democratic process; one that every flag-waving American ought to consider deeply:
The health of democracies, of whatever type and range, depends on a wretched technical detail' electoral procedure. All the rest is secondary. If the regime of the elections is successful, if it is in accordance with reality, all goes well; if not, though the rest progresses beautifully, all goes wrong" (Gasset p. 158).
From this quote, regardless of how many flags get waved, regardless of how many red-white-and-blue ribbons get pinned on clothes, the 2000 election went terribly wrong. The Supreme Court prevented a full and accurate count from being conducted. The man in the White House was not put there by the vote of the American people, but by the vote of the United States Supreme Court. "All [has] gone wrong." This shows Gasset point that Americans want provides without working for them is true.
The Revolt of the Masses can be considered of limited value if one views it from a strictly historical perspective. True, Ortega y Gasset, writing in 1932, offered a clear and devastating critique of the tenets of fascism in particular and totalitarianism in general. He is particularly effective when he takes apart fascism's mystical elevation of race, blood and soil, arguing that the popular appeal to these factors was shallow, explained nothing about the process of nation building, and was used only as a political expedient for the emerging dictatorships of Europe.
Gasset throws down a gauntlet challenging us all to become people of excellence, to participate in shaping our own destinies, rather than handing that over to a few rich men in suits in corporate boardrooms and congressional offices. Gasset offers us a powerful diagnosis of the modern European political arena - the rise of the mass-man. Ortega y Gasset refers to a kind of "hyper-democracy" in which the mass-man has risen to such a degree that he now takes upon himself the cultural areas formerly reserved only for the nobility. Rather than believing that he is granted certain rights, the mass-man now assumes that he is entitled to those rights as a given. This has led to an overwhelming mediocrity among leaders. Furthermore, a reign of specialization, with an increasing number of men ("specialists") who know more and more about less and less, has brought us to a dangerous point in world history.
Therefore, it can be proven that Gasset's argument is true about people in society since they do not want the responsibility for anything.
Gasset contends that the masses intervene in everything and that their form of intervention is solely by means of violence. He suggests that a new form of primitivism exists in which civilization is just assumed as there, in a similar way to which nature is taken as given for the primitive.
He also points out the dangers of techniques and states, which both is the direct consequence of the rise of the mass-man. Europe no longer can hold its position of world dominance, but according to Gasset this is lamentable only because nothing has arisen to take its place. Ortega y Gasset discusses and finds problematic both Bolshevism and Fascism. The idea of what constitutes nation is discussed, and Gasset concludes that it is not solely ethnic, cultural, or linguistic in nature.
Gasset concludes that European culture suffers from certain "defects" and that it is in these defects that the root of this phenomenon of the mass culture can be found. By determining exactly what these are and finding a moral code for Europe, this difficulty can be overcome. This book provides much food for thought, especially for those troubled by the ever-growing difficulties associated with over-crowding, specialization, and the decline of high culture. Using Europe as an example Gasset proves his argument which can be compared to Nietzsche's since they both believe that the human race does not really do any to improve themselves and that puts their future in danger.
Nietzsche asks in his book, Disadvantages and Advantages of History: given that Americans always live in such a present, why do we want or need historical knowledge? Animals live without a historical sense: they do not reflect on the past or contemplate their future -- they simply live from moment to moment in the eternal present that humans perpetually avoid. And generally, Nietzsche notes, animals seem happier than human beings: more spontaneous, more cheerful, less given to morbid and resentful states of mind. Compared to Gasset argument, if people do not look at their history, they will not know where they are going in their lives. Therefore, they have to take responsibility and examine history so that their future will not be in danger. However, by Gasset argument that will not happen because Americans want everything handed to them. In other words, by Gasset's argument, Nietzsche's theory will be valid because the human race will be in danger without taking responsibility for their actions and surroundings.