“Mass Society”: A Simultaneous Approach of David Riesman and Gino Germani

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 45 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Pablo DE MARINIS, Instituto de Investigaciones Gino Germani, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Insituto de Investigaciones Gino Germani, CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Alejandro BIALAKOWSKY, Instituto de Investigaciones Gino Germani - Facultad de Ciencias Sociales - Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
The paper has two interrelated goals. First, from an epistemological and methodological viewpoint, we explore the possibilities of a “simultaneous approach” of perspectives from different regions. Second, as application case of this approach, we analyze the problem of “mass society” in the 50s in two sociologists: Gino Germani, from Argentina, and David Riesman, from the United States.

The “simultaneous approach” allows the comparative study of sociological theories framed by unequal relations of intellectual “production and circulation”. However, this approach postulates that the relationship between “South” and “North” should not be understood only from an alleged “temporal delay”, tied to a logic of “reception” of theories, nor from a supposed “temporal incommensurability”, linked to a “cultural relativism” of theories. Thus, a simultaneous analysis of a theoretical problem enables a comparison between perspectives, specially about their differences and shared views on concepts, ways of developing theory and certain “epochal crossroads”.

These more general reflections are brought into play in the analysis of two perspectives on “mass society”. On the one hand, Germani deployed a complex analysis of the emergence of mass society in Argentina and Latin America. Obsessed by European totalitarian experiences, and seeking to identify the singular characteristics of the first Peronism and the “modernizing” governments which followed it, Germani conducted studies which elaborated original conceptualizations about psychosocial, historic, economic and political aspects of mass society. On the other hand, David Riesman criticized the “American character”, due to the emergence of a “lonely crowd”. This crowd was configured by the “other-direction”, for example, by the neighbors in the suburbs or by the media, rather than by an “inner-direction”, typical of the values of modernity. With this comparison between Germani and Riesman, we “test” the proposed methodology through analyzing a central sociological problem of the twentieth century: “mass society”.