Studies in Leadership: Leadership and Democratic Action

By Alvin W. Gouldner | Go to book overview

Democratic Leadership and Mass Manipulation1

BY T. W. ADORNO2

THE CONCEPTS of "leadership" and "democratic action" are so deeply involved in the dynamics of modern mass society that their meaning cannot be taken for granted in the present situation. The idea of the leader, as contrasted with that of princes or feudal lords, emerged with the rise of modern democracy. It was related to the political party electing those whom it entrusts with the authority to act and speak in its behalf and who are, at the same time, supposedly qualified to guide the rank and file through rational argumentation. Since Robert Michels ' famous Soziologie des Parteiwesens, political science has clearly demonstrated that this classical, Rousseauistic conception no longer corresponds to the facts.

Through various processes such as the tremendous numerical increase of modern parties, their dependence on highly concentrated vested interests, and their institutionalization, the truly democratic functioning of leadership, as far as it had ever been achieved in reality, has vanished. The interaction between party and leadership has become more and more limited to abstract manifestations of the will of the majority through ballots, the mechanisms of which are largely subject to control by the established leadership, notwithstanding the fact that in decisive situations "grass-root" democracy, as opposed to official public opinion, shows amazing vitality. Leadership itself, fre-

____________________
1
This is a previously unpublished paper.
2
This article forms part of the author's continuing collaborative work with Max Horkheimer.

-418-

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