How relevant are the early theories of Mass Society in today’s media environment?

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The Media has been thought to have effects on people since its infancy. When the mass media first evolved many people became concerned about what influence it was having on society, and so various theories were used during this early period in attempt to explain just what these effects were. The reason for concern about the media was primarily based on the change in society, so there was the belief that the ‘powerful’ media could take advantage of this situation and manipulates the ‘masses’.

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Tonnies saw this as a negative impact, describing the Gesellschaft as ‘transitory and superficial’ (ibid: 35); a new environment where social bonds were loose and informal relationships were replaced with formal, contractual ones. It is revealed, in Tonnies’ theory, that he believed that society had moral problems due to the loss of tradition and religion and this was seen as a threat. Also because of the demise of community, Tonnies saw a mass of individuals who were psychologically isolated. This sociological analysis of societal organization has been exaggerated by Tonnies; it is a useful concept for thinking about the transformation to modern industrial society. However, the theory must also be criticised as it is elitist, because he emphasises the loss of power from authorities and opinion leaders such as religion and blames society for the diminishing morals. The theory also seems to ponder over ‘The Golden Age’ where traditional society was said to be ‘better’; not considering that there may still have been problems and controversy during that period as well. Tonnies’ pessimistic outlook on industrialisation fails to see what positive things could be gained, such as people being seen as individuals instead of being given an ascribed status based on family heritage and the freedom of choice. Society is no longer seen as
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