Post World War I Era Term Paper

Pages: 6 (2253 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 23  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology

In the modern age, however, "man... is unable to keep pace with the progress of his own civilization." The result is a fragile, amoral, insecure society characterized by political instability, violence and cultural decadence.

For Ortega y Gasset, as for Freud, the human motivations that underlay the war and perpetuated it - nationalism, chauvinism, rivalry and ignorance - are the products of mass society, because the "mass man" sinks to the median level of the mass of which he is part; mediocrity is his natural condition, and he takes his political and social opinions and attitudes from those around him. The result is a mass society that behaves like an irrational animal, impervious to reason, logic, or appeals to higher morality. Freud describes this reversionary process as follows:

The logical infatuations into which this war has deluded our fellow-citizens... are... A consequence of emotional excitement, and are destined, we may hope, to disappear with it... It is just as though when it becomes a question of a number of people, not to say millions, all individual moral acquirements were obliterated, and only the most primitive, the oldest, the crudest mental attitudes were left.

Similarly, Ortega y Gasset sees the emotions of war and of the turbulent post-war world, dominated by nationalism and political extremism, as a kind of collective reversal of the civilizing process: "Nationalism is nothing but a mania... Its primitive methods of action and the type of man it exalts reveal abundantly that it is the opposite of a historical creation."Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Post World War I Era: Assignment

Both Freud and Ortega y Gasset, formed by the assumptions and perceptions of the nineteenth century, found themselves grappling with a world that had violently changed into an unstable, violent, threatening place. Freud wrote in 1915 of "a world grown strange," Ortega y Gasset of "the terra incognita" of the modern world. Freud is in some ways the more despairing; his essay describes a process in a way which, within the terms of Freudian psychoanalysis itself, is convincing, but he can offer no clear remedy beyond allowing the "developmental process" to resume once the temporary madness of war is over. After the war, Freud's thought took a darker turn and became preoccupied with sadism, cruelty, and various forms of the exercise of power; it is fair to say that he never quite recovered his pre-war state of mind. Ortega y Gasset does look forward to a world in which the problems he describes have been overcome. Post-war Europe, he writes, "has been left without a moral code," and must rediscover it by striving to overcome political and national division and create a new, united Europe that will rediscover its role of global leadership - the role that was fatally undermined by the experience of the First World War: "Only the determination to construct a great nation from the group of peoples of the Continent would give new life to the pulses of Europe." Like Freud, however, Ortega y Gasset believes that the "primitive" instincts that triumphed with the war and that have continued to infect the post-war world cannot ever be permanently overcome. They can only be striven against, and in that process of striving itself lies the greatest hope for the future of civilization.

Works Cited

Freud, Sigmund, "Thoughts for the Times on War and Death" (1915), in Collected Papers: Volume IV (London: Hogarth Press, 1924).

Gilbert, Martin, First World War (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994).

Ortega y Gasset, Jose, The Revolt of the Masses (English translation, New York: Norton, 1932; 2nd edn., 1957).

Pick, Daniel, War Machine: the Rationalization of Slaughter in the Modern Age (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993).

Martin Gilbert, First World War (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1994), p. 540.

Sigmund Freud, "Thoughts for the Times on War and Death" (1915), in Collected Papers: Volume IV (London: Hogarth Press, 1924), p. 288.

Freud, "Thoughts for the Times," p. 289.

Freud, "Thoughts for the Times," p. 292.

Freud, "Thoughts for the Times," p. 295.

Freud, "Thoughts for the Times," p. 299.

Freud, "Thoughts for the Times," p. 311.

Freud, "Thoughts for the Times," p. 316.

Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (English translation, New York: Norton, 1932; 2nd edn., 1957), p. 11.

Ortega y Gasset, Revolt, pp. 19, 21.

Ortega y Gasset, Revolt, p. 44.

Ortega y Gasset, Revolt, p. 89.

Ortega y Gasset, Revolt, p. 91.

Freud, "Thoughts for the Times," pp. 303-4.

Ortega y Gasset, Revolt, p. 187.

Freud, "Thoughts for the Times," p. 294.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Post World War I Era.  (2004, May 25).  Retrieved September 20, 2020, from

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"Post World War I Era."  25 May 2004.  Web.  20 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Post World War I Era."  May 25, 2004.  Accessed September 20, 2020.