Mass society is a society in which the concerns of the majority – the lower classes – play a prominent role, characterized by extension of voting rights, an improved standard of living for the lower classes and mass education.
The theory of mass society, cited by Daniel Bell in the first essay in The End of Ideology (1960) as being "probably the most influential social theory in the Western world today", is derived from several sources. Bell, after a survey of the diverse origins and permutations of the concept concludes it does not apply to modern American with its many diverse voluntary organizations .
C. Wright Mills in his book, The Power Elite describes society as being divided between the power elite and the masses who are controlled by them . Mills describes the American theory that power arises from the public as a "fairy tale", arguing that autonomous public opinion arising from public discussion does not exist, rather a disorganized mass which is acted on by an elite through the mass media thus shaping the nature of "public opinion". The theory of mass society has heavily influenced public discourse on popular culture and even scholarly popular culture studies.
- Tuttle, Howard N. The Crowd is Untruth: The Existential Critique of Mass Society in the Thought of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Ortega y Gassett (1996). (American University Studies: Ser. 5, Philosophy; Vol. 176) New York: Peter Lang. ISBN 0-8204-2866-3