Systems Thinking Vocabulary

Mass Society

Mass society requires both accessible elites and available non-elites if it is to exhibit a high rate of mass behavior. Elites are accessible and non-elites are available in that there is a paucity of independent groups between the state and the family to protect either elites or non-elites from manipulation and mobilization by the other. William Kornhauser
Categories: Systems Thinking
Mass society theory argues that with industrialization and subsequent social changes, people have become isolated and alienated. Mass society, as depicted by Kornhauser, refers to a social system in which elites are readily open to influence by nonelites.



  • David B. Tindall, … Kerri L. Bates, Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict (Third Edition), 2008
  • Hamilton, R. (2001) Mass Society, Pluralism, and Bureaucracy: Explication, Assessment and Commentary. Praeger, Westport, CT
  • Kornhauser, W. (1959) The Politics of Mass Society. Free Press, New York
  • Michel Maffesoli, The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society, SAGE Publications, 1996, ISBN: 0803984731,9780803984738
  • Gabriel Marcel, Man against Mass Society, St. Augustines Press (April 5, 2008)
  • William Mazzarella, The Mana of Mass Society, University of Chicago Press, 2017
  • Swingewood, A. (1977) The Myth of Mass Culture. Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, NJ


Concept Coordinates

    • Mass society, concept used to characterize modern society as homogenized but also disaggregated, because it is composed of atomized individuals. The term is often used pejoratively to denote a modern condition in which traditional forms of human association have broken down and been replaced by conformist or even totalitarian forms of collective behaviour. (Britannica – Mass Society)

    • Mass society is a concept that describes modern society as a monolithic force and yet a disaggregate collection of individuals. The term is often used pejoratively[1] to refer to a society in which bureaucracy and impersonal institutions have replaced some notion of traditional society, leading to social alienation. (Wikipedia – Mass society)

    • Ideologically, the concept of mass society has been used by conservative thinkers to express dismay about the leveling tendencies of industrial society and the declining influence of family and community (Swingewood 1977). It has also been used by radical thinkers to bemoan the manner in which large bureaucratic institutions (especially in the guise of mass culture) can pacify populations and reinforce the status quo (Marcuse 1964). (STEVEN M. BUECHLER, Mass Society Theory)

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