Mass

Every time we talk about a mass we invoke an amassing. Whether via ratings measurement, political fantasy, or aesthetic judgment, an assemblage presents itself. As Raymond Williams famously put it, there are “no masses, there are only ways of seeing people as masses” (1997, 20). He took this nominalism one step further by claiming that we interpret masses “according to some convenient formula . . . it is the formula, not the mass, which it is our real business to examine” (20).

In its nineteenth-century expression, the mass emerged as an idea composed of other ideas (of bodies, spaces, identities, and affects). On one end of the idea spectrum, the physical convergence of bodies in streets and squares pose a challenge to capitalist power consolidation: the crowd. On the other, the regulative ideal of a democratic assembly poised to deliberate on matters of concern: the public. Near …

This essay may be found on page 119 of the printed volume.

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