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The Fatalism of the Multitude

This is an idea put forward by James Bryce, a British observer of the United States, in 1889:

This tendency to acquiescence and submission, this sense of the insignificance of individual effort, this belief that the affairs of men are swayed by large forces whose movement may be studied but cannot be turned, I have ventured to call the fatalism of the multitude. It is often confounded with the tyranny of the majority, but is at bottom different, though, of course, its existence makes abuses of power by the majority easier, because less apt to be resented. But the fatalistic attitude I have been seeking to describe does not imply any compulsion exerted by the majority. It may rather seem to soften and make less odious such an exercise of their power, may even dispense with that exercise, because it disposes a minority to submit without[999] the need of a command, to renounce spontaneously its own view and fall in with the view which the majority has expressed. In the fatalism of the multitude there is neither legal nor moral compulsion; there is merely a loss of resisting power, a diminished sense of personal responsibility and of the duty to battle for one’s own opinions, such as has been bred in some peoples by the belief in an overmastering fate. It is true that the force to which the citizen of the vast democracy submits is a moral force, not that of an unapproachable Allah, nor of the unchangeable laws of matter. But it is a moral force acting on so vast a scale, and from causes often so obscure, that its effect on the mind of the individual may well be compared with that which religious or scientific fatalism engenders.

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/697

Are we seeing a generational resurgence of this in Europe? If so, what are the consequences for politics and social life? Understanding these dispositions are crucial to the cultural politics of automationwe can’t just assume that mass automation would lead inexorably to a certain social response because those responses are always mediated by a culture which is transforming through the same processes driving mass automation.

FT_15.02.06_europeanMillSuccess FT_15.02.06_europeanMillWork

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