Al in de jaren vijftig signaleerde de prominente Amerikaanse socioloog C. Wright Mills vijf overkoepelende sociale problemen in de westerse maatschappij:
1) Alienation; 2) Moral insensibility; 3) Threats to democracy; 4) Threats to human freedom; and 5) Conflict between bureaucratic rationality and human reason. Like Marx, Mills views the problem of alienation as a characteristic of modern society and one that is deeply rooted in the character of work. Unlike Marx, however, Mills does not attribute alienation to capitalism alone. While he agrees that much alienation is due to the ownership of the means of production, he believes much of it is also due to the modern division of labor.
One of the fundamental problems of mass society is that many people have lost their faith in leaders and are therefore very apathetic. Such people pay little attention to politics. Mills characterizes such apathy as a ‘spiritual condition’ which is at the root of many of our contemporary problems. Apathy leads to ‘moral insensibility.’ Such people mutely accept atrocities committed by their leaders. They lack indignation when confronted with moral horror; they lack the capacity to morally react to the character, decisions, and actions of their leaders. Mass communications contributes to this condition, Mills argues, through the sheer volume of images aimed at the individual in which she ‘becomes the spectator of everything but the human witness of nothing.’
Mills relates this moral insensibility directly to the rationalization process. Our acts of cruelty and barbarism are split from the consciousness of men — both perpetrators and observers. We perform these acts as part of our role in formal organizations. We are guided not by individual consciousness, but by the orders of others. Thus many of our actions are inhuman, not because of the scale of their cruelty, but because they are impersonal, efficient. and performed without any real emotion.
Mills believed that widespread alienation, political indifference, and economic and political concentration of power is a serious all added up to a serious threat to democracy. Finally, Mills is continually concerned in his writings with the threat to two fundamental human values: ‘freedom and reason.’ Mills characterizes the trends that imperil these values as being ‘co-extensive with the major trends of contemporary society.’ These trends are, » Lees verder