Crowds and Democracy

Crowds and Democracy: The Idea and Image of the Masses from Revolution to Fascism

Stefan Jonsson
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/jons16478
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  • Book Info
    Crowds and Democracy
    Book Description:

    Between 1918 and 1933, the masses became a decisive preoccupation of European culture, fueling modernist movements in art, literature, architecture, theater, and cinema, as well as the rise of communism, fascism, and experiments in radical democracy. Spanning aesthetics, cultural studies, intellectual history, and political theory, this volume unpacks the significance of the shadow agent known as "the mass" during a critical period in European history. It follows its evolution into the preferred conceptual tool for social scientists, the ideal slogan for politicians, and the chosen image for artists and writers trying to capture a society in flux and a people in upheaval. This volume is the second installment in Stefan Jonsson's epic study of the crowd and the mass in modern Europe, building on his work in A Brief History of the Masses, which focused on monumental artworks produced in 1789, 1889, and 1989.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53579-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science, History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  5. 1 Introducing the Masses: VIENNA, 15 JULY 1927
    (pp. 1-50)
    ELIAS CANETTI, ALFRED VIERKANDT, HANNAH ARENDT, KARL KRAUS and HEIMITO VON DODERER

    At eight o’clock in the morning of the fifteenth of July, 1927, Vienna’s electricity workers switched off the gas and electricity supply to the city.¹ Public transportation, communication, and production came to a complete halt. It was a signal: People left their work places and living quarters and began marching toward the parliament. Joining them halfway was Elias Canetti, later to become one of Austria’s most distinguished writers and a Nobel laureate: “During that brightly illuminated, dreadful day,” he wrote, “I gained the true picture of what, as a crowd, fills our century.”²

    The march was sparked by a court...

  6. 2 Authority Versus Anarchy: ALLEGORIES OF THE MASS IN SOCIOLOGY AND LITERATURE
    (pp. 51-118)
    GEORG SIMMEL, WERNER SOMBART, FRITZ LANG, LEOPOLD VON WIESE, WILHELM VLEUGELS, GERHARD COLM, MAX WEBER, THEODOR GEIGER, AUGUST SANDER, HERMANN BROCH, ERNST TOLLER and RAINER MARIA RILKE

    With the French Revolution and the advent of democracy, a new actor entered the political arena: the people. Almost a century later, with the consolidation of the organized labor movement, or the so-called fourth estate, this political force was successfully promoting universal suffrage, social justice, and the establishment of democratic sovereignty.¹ Not everyone welcomed this social and political transformation. Many feared that the treasured voice of the people foretold the wicked rule of the mob. As ordinary people slowly worked their way into the political arena, the elite claimed that the stage of history was invaded by threatening masses.² The...

  7. 3 The Revolving Nature of the Social: PRIMAL HORDES AND CROWDS WITHOUT QUALITIES
    (pp. 119-174)
    SIGMUND FREUD, HANS KELSEN, THEODOR ADORNO, WILHELM REICH, SIEGFRIED KRACAUER, BERTOLT BRECHT, ALFRED DÖBLIN, GEORG GROSZ and ROBERT MUSIL

    When people gather in great numbers, their moral qualities disappear. People stop thinking, act contrary to their interests, forget all sense of reason, and are guided solely by their emotions. At least, this is the conclusion that Sigmund Freud drew from his observations of the first few months of global war. In 1915, when he published his “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death” (“Zeitgemäßes über Krieg und Tod”) in the psychoanalytic journal Imago, there was no sign that the thunder would abate. Daily, death harvested thousands on the Eastern and Western Fronts. Although the battles had gone on...

  8. 4 Collective Vision: A MATRIX FOR NEW ART AND POLITICS
    (pp. 175-246)
    LÁSZLÓ MOHOLY-NAGY, MARIANNE BRANDT, WALTER BENJAMIN, ERNST JÜNGER, EDMUND SCHULTZ, WILLI MÜNZENBERG, DER ARBEITER-FOTOGRAF, ERWIN PISCATOR and WALTER GROPIUS

    The same year as Vienna’s crowds set the Palace of Justice on fire, in 1927, Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy offered a graphic illustration of the idea of the masses that many Europeans subscribed to in this period. The image has come down with two alternative titles: Massenpsychose (Mass Psychosis) and In the Name of the Law. It is one of Moholy-Nagy’s photoplastics, a mixed-media form he developed while he was teaching at the Bauhaus school of architecture and design (figure 4.1).¹

    Moholy-Nagy emphasized that the photoplastic image portrays “concentrated situations” that can be developed instantaneously through associations.² An Eskimo would...

  9. 5 Coda: Remnants of Weimar
    (pp. 247-256)

    This book has engaged critically with the idea and image of the masses in interwar European culture. Germany and Austria have been in the focus. For historical reasons the discourse on the masses in these two countries was more intense and contentious than in other intellectual milieus. However, comparable images and theories of the masses, as well as derivatives of the German discourse, circulated everywhere from Scandinavia to the Iberian Peninsula and throughout the world.

    It should be clear that the mass was a dominant theme in the culture of the Weimar Republic and Austria’s first republic, or even an...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 257-296)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 297-314)