A Theory of Public Opinion

By Francis Graham Wilson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The Great Ideas: A Converging Stream

I

Many theories of public opinion have germinated within Western culture, and many of these ideas have shown remarkable power of survival, so that in the process of the development of modern political thought, it may be said that present theories of public opinion are built on the enduring conceptions of the past. But they have been built on the basis of new combinations of old ideas, which induced developments and the resurgence of concepts which were not always important, such as the modern systems of techniques for the expression of opinion. Consent, legitimacy, and technique must be seen as primal ideas in formation of a "public opinion democracy." It is the purpose of this chapter to bring together in brief discussion the most important ideas which have helped in the formation of the modern conception of the public mind. In the matured political society, the ideas which seem most important are (1) the nature of the citizen, (2) the supremacy of the law, (3) the medieval re-emergence of the classical notion of the possibility of sound opinion, (4) the mixed constitution as the proper context for the expression of opinion, (5) the direction and control of communication, (6) the wisdom or lack of wisdom of opinion, (7) the issue of legitimacy and the obligation of opinion, and (8) the statement of philosophical views in relation to the proper expression of opinion.

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