The transformation of a community of publics into a mass society is one of the keys to the meaning of modern life. It is a structural trend that leads directly to many of the psychological and political problems that Americans, especially those concerned with liberal education, now confront.
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     In a public as I understand the term, virtually as many people express opinions as receive them; public communications are so organized that there is a chance immediately and effectively to answer back to any opinion expressed in public. Opinion formed by such discussion readily finds an outlet in effective action against, if necessary, prevailing systems and agents of authority, and authoritative institutions do not interpenetrate the public, which is thus more or less autonomous in its operations. When these conditions prevail, we have the working model of a community of publics, and this model, as we shall presently see, fits pretty closely the several assumptions of classic democratic theory.
     At the opposite extreme, in a mass, far fewer people express opinions than receive them; for the community of publics becomes becomes an abstracted collectivity of individuals who receive impressions from the the mass media. The communications that prevail are so organized that it is difficult or impossible for the individual to answer back immediately or with any effect. The realization of opinion in action is controlled by authorities who organize channels for such action. The mass has no autonomy from institutions; on the contrary, agents of authorized institutions interpenetrate this mass, reducing any autonomy it may have in the formation of opinion by discussion.
     The public and the mass may be most readily distinguished by their dominant modes of communications: in a community of publics, discussion is the ascendant mode of communication, and the mass media, if they exist, simply enlarge and animate discussion, linking one primary public with the discussions of another. In a mass society, the dominant type of communication is by the formal media and the publics become media markets, by which I mean all those exposed to the contents of a given mass media.
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