Alcove Activities: First Level: Paraphrasing a Text, The Revolt of the Masses
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First Level: Paraphrasing a Text, The Revolt of the Masses
In this set of activities you will be both paraphrasing and explicating the thesis of several classic texts. You will paraphrase each excerpt section by section, followed by explicating the texts by stating your understanding of each one in your own words, then elaborating, exemplifying and illustrating them. In other words, for each of the texts in this section, you will begin by articulating them in your own words, sentence by sentence, or in parts, as we have presented them. Then you will explicate each one at level two.

After writing out your paraphrases in your own words, and explicating them, click on the thinker icon to see our specimen answers. You will first read the text as a whole at the beginning of each section, along with its background information, and then you will find the same text divided into parts for your practice.

The Revolt of the Masses

Background Information:
In the book, The Revolt of the Masses, thinker and social critic Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote:

There is one fact which, whether for good or ill, is of utmost importance in the public life of Europe at the present moment. This fact is the accession of the masses to complete social power. As the masses, by definition neither should nor can direct their own personal existence, and still less rule society in general, this fact means that actually Europe is suffering from the greatest crisis that can afflict peoples, nations, and civilization... Society is always a dynamic unity of two component factors: minorities and masses. The minorities are individuals or groups of individuals which are specially qualified. The mass is the assemblage of persons not specifically qualified... The select man is not the petulant person who thinks himself superior to the rest, but the man who demands more of himself than the rest... For there is no doubt that the most radical division that it is possible to make of humanity is that which splits it into two classes of creatures: those who make great demands on themselves...and those who demand nothing special of themselves... The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated.

Now that you have read the full text above, you will find the same text in sections below. Write out your paraphrase of each section in the box provided. Then see our specimen answers by clicking on the thinker icon.


There is one fact which, whether for good or ill, is of utmost importance in the public life of Europe at the present moment. This fact is the accession of the masses to complete social power...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: One of the most important things going on right now in Europe is that the majority of ordinary people are gaining absolute control over their society.




As the masses, by definition neither should nor can direct their own personal existence, and still less rule society in general, this fact means that actually Europe is suffering from the greatest crisis that can afflict peoples, nations, and civilization...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: Because the overwhelming majority of people, as a whole, are incapable of guiding their own individual behavior—and even less able to guide the broader culture—Europe is experiencing a turning point greater than any other turning point imaginable.




Society is always a dynamic unity of two component factors: minorities and masses. The minorities are individuals or groups of individuals which are specially qualified. The mass is the assemblage of persons not specifically qualified...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: Culture as a whole is influenced by a powerful interrelationship between people who are individualists and those who are conformists. Individualists always have certain skills or competencies. Large groups of conformists who think alike are typically incompetent as persons.




The select man is not the petulant person who thinks himself superior to the rest, but the man who demands more of himself than the rest...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: Truly competent people are not easily annoyed by petty things, nor are they arrogant. Rather, they expect more of themselves than they do of others and hold themselves to higher standards.




For there is no doubt that the most radical division that it is possible to make of humanity is that which splits it into two classes of creatures: those who make great demands on themselves...and those who demand nothing special of themselves...



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: The most significant and deep-seated difference between people is the division between those who have great expectations of themselves, and those who don’t push themselves to do anything important or unique.




The mass crushes beneath it everything that is different, everything that is excellent, individual, qualified and select. Anybody who is not like everybody, who does not think like everybody, runs the risk of being eliminated.



Paraphrase:
Possible Answer: Society as a whole does not tolerate people who are unique, competent, and who strive to develop themselves. Nor can it tolerate anything within society that is superb in quality. Those people who refuse to pattern themselves after the mob, who think for themselves, are in danger of being eradicated. (It is unclear at this point whether the author is saying that unique people would be killed by the masses, or whether he means to imply that they couldn’t function openly within society with their alternative views and, therefore, would become more like the masses in order to survive.)