Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Atomization, mass politics, and 9/11

I think that the outpouring of pseudo-patriotic chest thumping and xenophobia that followed 9/11 can be traced directly to the alienated state of society that existed before the event. Loss of community and structures to support the individual lead to a  state where, following a tension causing event, people went spontaneously from being atomized to being part of a generic mass that was vulnerable to suggestion by elites who were eager to manipulate them for their own purposes. Patriotism became a convenient rallying point in a society that had been hollowed out from within as regards meaning and purpose, and the sudden integration of society that followed became a prime example of how this shouldn't be done. People found meaning in patriotism, in their perception of American values, and in the perceived difference between those values and those of the vaguely defined "Axis of Evil", but there was no restraint. It was basically mob rule in an almost pure form, with Bush and company directing the juggernaut here and there to serve their purposes.

Earlier writers who have talked about mass society and mass man have almost exclusively associated it with working class folks and with things like the labor movement, but I don't think that there's any necessary connection between the two. I think that a mass state is something that is ultimately temporary, can happen to any social class, and can be avoided by fostering both social integration and economic justice. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found your blog while searching for a slant on romantic socialism.....via reading "Crime and Punishment" Dostoevsky has me completely mesmerized by the social fray during the peasant reform in Russia. Unfortunately we have too many commentators today, telling us how to think. I have enjoyed many of your comments, though I don't agree with all of them. Thank you for your voice.