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Pierre Bourdieu asserts that public opinion does not exist. How should we conceive public opinion?

April 3, 2016 | Author: | Posted in education

The Dilemma of Public Opinion

Introduction

Democratic theory has over the years found it extremely challenging to define the contours of public opinion . Simply speaking public opinion is a general consensus over an issue or a situation which derives from a common understanding of the circumstances and values governing the same by all constituents forming it . Some as Bourdieu however deem that being a common denominator of judgment of a large body of people , there is possibility of manipulation and hence there is no such thing as public opinion . Public opinion [banner_entry_middle]

however has a long history has been a significant facet of democratic politics over the years . A common notion in democracies all over the World is that governance rests on opinions and values cherished by people , which in turn will denote their aspirations . This is sustained by the writings of Machiavelli who counsels even monarchs to respect public opinion , while Hume indicated in Britain that democratic government is founded on mass judgment (Lippmann , 1922 . As democracies have taken firm root and extended their reach across the globe , the body of , public ‘ which can create attitudes has considerably enlarged . Lasswell (1941 ) contends that popular governance is dependent on vibrant interaction between policy and opinion . Thus the influence of public on opinions should be extensive

However there is a large school of thought who supports the premise by Bourdieu that public opinion need not always be right and can be frequently swayed . On the contrary these thinkers assert that mass opinion is frequently the result of opinionated biases of ivory towered political elites and liberal capitalists who influence it for their own power and pecuniary interests . Thus public opinion should be conceived based on a deep understanding of the subject as the traditional view of mass opinion does not take into account the manipulative processes that encumber it

Understanding Public Opinion

Public opinion has grown from the concept of , public . The growth of consciousness of public is a result of congregation of a large number of persons due to the process of modern day urbanization . Massing of views can provide powerful indicators of social as well as political outlooks of people forming the community . Shared opinions , views and beliefs are thus said to develop through this public sphere formed by access to common media , rational thought processes and healthy respect for individual opinion devoid of hierarchy (Powell , 1951 . However these ideal conditions have hardly ever existed in society , thus public opinion has been the subject of manipulation over the years

An essential aspect of this paradigm is that public opinion is the views of a body of people which has coagulated during a particular period and restricted to discussion of a specific issue . Once the issue has been resolved or overcome by circumstances , the opinion as well as the community that was created this opinion is also seen to disappear This possibly can be explained in the context of the opinion polls which are a common phenomenon during elections . These indicate… [banner_entry_footer]

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