Masses on the Stages of Democracy: Democratic Promises and Dangers in Self-dramatizations of Masses

Christiane Mossin*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    The political significance of masses is more obvious than ever. The aim of this article is to develop a conceptualization capable of capturing the dangerous (totalitarian) as well as promising (potentially emancipatory) aspects of masses. It argues that, intricately, the dangers and fruitful potentials of masses are born out of the same fundamental structural features. We may differentiate analytically between different kinds of masses, but all masses contain elements of ambiguity. The mass conceptualization developed builds on a critical, deconstructing interpretation of selected Bataille texts centering on ontological features of individuality and collectivity. Especially, Bataille’s concepts of ‘myth’ and ‘sacrifice’ are accentuated and critically transformed. Contemporary examples of masses – right-wing anti-establishment movements, Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter – are presented and reflected through the prism of sacrifice, with the aim of highlighting the multifaceted and complex nature of the dynamics of masses.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalThesis Eleven
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)58-76
    Number of pages19
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Published online: November 15, 2021.


    • Political philosophy
    • Masses
    • Democracy
    • Bataille
    • Sacrifice
    • Social movements

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