Hannah Arendt presents the converging ideas of some philosophers and scholars who wrote on the subject of power as an expression of “the instinct of domination”(Arendt, Communicative Power, p. 60), “the power of man over another man” (Arendt, citing Strausz Hupe, p.60). Arendt blames bureaucracy in the modern society for a new form of domination, that of the rule by “Nobody”(Arendt, Communicative Power 61). The ability people have to unite for a cause, “to act in concert” (Arendt, Communicative Power, p. 64) is what actually makes a group powerful. Arendt points out that the power of that group resists as long as the group exists.(Arendt, Communication Power, p.64).
Deliberating between two traces characteristic to humanity: “the social” and the political” aspects, Arendt makes a distinction between the notions of man as “social or political animal,” as known from the classic philosophers like Plato and Aristotle (Arendt, the Human Condition, 1958, p. 22). According to the Greek thought, the human capacity for political organization is not only different from but stands in direct opposition to that natural association whose center is the home and the family”(idem, 24). Arendt is thus indicating two separate dimensions men were creating as a result of their two main characteristics: sociability because of necessity and the will to govern and to be ruled as an expression of freedom (idem, p. 30). Speaking about “public,” Arendt makes the distinction between society as in the gathering of people having some trace in common and “mass society” that is “so difficult to bear” because “the world between the people has lost its power to gather them together, to relate and to separate them”(idem, p. 53).
Wright Mills is also writing about the dangers “enforced conformity, Gleichshaltung”(Miller, p 583) pose to the mass society. In Mills’ vision, thee is a “mass public”(idem) characterized mainly by four things. First, the mass public is greatly influenced by a monopolistic media while the importance of separate discussion circles is diminished proportionately with the increase of media. Second, the process of forming opinion is hold and spread from a center, making media markets “huge and centralized” (idem). Third, opinion is determined by unnatural causes due to manipulation of the public who is passively receiving information and not invited to discussion. Fourth, that only in the case of authoritarian forms of government, decision making is enforced by the power of fear and violence. (idem) Mills briefly describes a survey destined to gather data from people in the American Midwest, in a small city in Illinois. The questions of the survey, conducted twice at an interval of two months, shed some light into the way people change their mind. Mass media is responsible for a big part of people’s opinions, but “person-to-person discussions” proved to be important in the process of opinion forming as well (Mills, p.588). Although, the “discussion phase”(Mills, p.584) seemed to be no longer existent since the public reacted as a consequence of a “stimulus presented by centralized management”(Mills, p. 584), people did not entirely loose their willingness to exchange opinions and thus the process of opinion forming was still a thing that was not as predictable as some scholars might think. The supreme example in this respect is for Mills the result of the elections from 1948, when Truman, the representative of the Democratic party was elected “against” a republican press (Mills, p10).
Arendt, H. Communicative Power. Readings in Social and Political Theory.New York University Press.
Arendt, H.(1958) the Human Condition. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago.
Mills, W. Power, Politics and People. Oxford University Press.
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