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How relevant are the early theories of Mass Society in today’s media environment?

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The Media has been thought to have effects on people since its infancy. When the mass media first evolved many people became concerned about what influence it was having on society, and so various theories were used during this early period in attempt to explain just what these effects were. The reason for concern about the media was primarily based on the change in society, so there was the belief that the ‘powerful’ media could take advantage of this situation and manipulates the ‘masses’. This essay will discuss how relevant the early theories of mass society are in today’s media environment, as there have been vast changes in terms of society as well as the media. Before this discussion, the concepts of mass society need to be examined in order to understand the reasons why scientists were concerned for society and how theories were developed around these ideas of society to comprehend the media’s effects.
As the twentieth century was approaching society was in transition. Society once thought of as ‘a traditional and stable social system’ (DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach, 1989: 159) was developing into an atomized one where tradition, community and family values began to decline; leaving a mass of isolated individuals which scientists called the ‘mass society’. A variety of theorists gave their perspective on the concept of this changed society, one of which was German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies who established a ‘theory of social bonds’ (ibid: 152). His analysis contrasts the features of the ‘Gemeinschaft’ (community) (Tonnies, 2002:33) with features of the ‘Gesellschaft’ (society) (ibid) to explain the nature of the mass society and how corrupt it was compared to traditional society of the pre-industrial period. Tonnies explai...


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... The culture industry: selected essays on mass culture, New York: Routledge
Adorno, T.W. and O’Connor, B. (2000) The Adorno Reader, Oxford: The Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
Boyd-Barrett, O. and Newbold, C. (1995) Approaches to Media: A Reader, New York: Oxford University Press
Cook, D. (1996) The Culture Industry revisited: Theador W. Adorno on mass culture, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield publishers Inc.
DeFleur, M.L. and Ball-Rokeach, S. (1989) Theories of Mass Communication, New York: Longman Publishers Ltd.
Durkheim, E. (1964) The Division of Labor in Society, trans. George Simpson, New York: Free Press Glencoe
Lowery, S.A. and DeFleur, M.L. (1995) Milestones in Mass Communication Research, New York: Longman Publishers Ltd.
Perse, E. (2001) Media Effects and Society, Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum
Tonies, F. (2002) Community and Society, Courier Dover Publications


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