Publicity and Diplomacy: With Special Reference to England and Germany, 1890-1914

Publicity and Diplomacy: With Special Reference to England and Germany, 1890-1914

Publicity and Diplomacy: With Special Reference to England and Germany, 1890-1914

Publicity and Diplomacy: With Special Reference to England and Germany, 1890-1914

Excerpt

Lord Esher, referring in 1874 to the first results of the Education Act, noted in his diary: "It is pleasant to see the small and dirty boys reading the labels in the shop windows. It is one of the signs of the happier future." The first generation to benefit from the new standard of literacy cast its vote in a parliamentary election in 1892. The parallel generation in Germany, born during the period of the Reichsgründung, cast its first vote in the election of 1890. Early in the same decade, newspapers for the masses began to make their appearance in England and Germany. At first, the popular journals, while they had the format and periodicity of newspapers, were really entertainment fiction, designed to meet a growing demand from those who "just wanted something to read." With the political seasoning of this new electorate, the popular journals became more and more informational in their intent and function. It was popular literacy, manhood suffrage, and the mass circulation press that gave a distinct impress to the quarter of a century that elapsed between 1890 and the outbreak of the World War in 1914.

It was inevitable, under the circumstances, that in this era domestic, economic, and social issues should dominate the political scene in Western Europe--the élites of birth and skill, however, were scarcely challenged in their control of military and diplomatic relations. And yet, the new forces were not without effect upon the relations between the national states. An easy assumption, but one far from universally demonstrable, identified the new political power as Public Opinion, a term used to give a causal explanation of state actions in the international sphere. My reasons for rejecting this concept in favor of another--Publicity--can be briefly stated.

First, the term Public Opinion, because of its origin and generally loose usage, conveys the impression of rationality, public will, even sovereignty. Second, the singular noun "Opinion" connotes a unified opinion or a consensus. Such a condition is almost always an exception, for ideas and opinions usually develop as polarities. Third, too often the term Public Opinion is debased as a concept and becomes a mere stratagem. And finally, when transferred to a higher level of analysis and definition, it resolves itself into the metaphysical problem of universals, a discussion which, as John of Salisbury noted in the twelfth century, had already taken . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.