It is in the context of industrialisation, urbanisation and the formation of the nation state in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that we need to situate concern with propaganda in social science research. It was these transformations, brought about by the accelerating growth of industrial capitalism, which were central issues in the classical tradition of sociology. They are reflected, for instance, in Tönnies' concepts of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, in Durkheim's distinction between mechanical and organic solidarity, and in Simmel's urban sociology, as well as in Marx's political economy. While European social thought is best known for grappling with the significance of these profound changes in ways of life, concern about them reached a distilled form in American 'mass society' theory:
The movements of population and the contact between people from the ends of the earth, the opening of world markets, and the spread of modern technology, the growth of cities, the operation of mass media of communication, the increasing literacy of the masses of people all over the world, have combined to disintegrate local cohesion and to bring hitherto disparate and parochial cultures into contact with each other. Out of this ferment has come the disenchantment of absolute faiths which expresses itself in the secular outlook of modern man. 1
As traditional bonds and values have weakened, it is argued, so has the individual become increasingly segregated, isolated and alienated. As society becomes ever more subject to the principles of rationalisation, 2 so do the mechanisms of social cohesion break down. As De Fleur and Ball-Rokeach emphasise, 'the most important element of this idea was that ineffective social organization failed to provide adequate linkages between individuals to maintain an integrated and stable system of social control'. 3
It was in this context of mass society theory that communications sociology came into being. The new communications technologies of the early twentieth century were clearly destined to play a crucial role in what soon
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Publication information: Book title: Times of the Technoculture: From the Information Society to the Virtual Life. Contributors: Kevin Robins - Author, Frank Webster - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 131.
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