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sabato 4 giugno 2011

The role of public opinion in democracies

In particular, we reconstruct the performers in that line of American political thought ranging from John Dewey to Robert Dahl, of which the authors acknowledge the specific right in making democracy the primary object of reflection. We are interested in this discussion? And 'of course, for us who live in what have been called "post-democracy", one of the central themes of our lives as citizens: the existence of a strong public opinion and freedom is in fact linked to the double-node democracy.
It 's only in a democracy that the public acquires a fundamental role and a decisive influence in political life: the establishment of an area in society where we compare the views of all freely and exert influence on government has with contemporary democracies . From same circumstances that make the public crucial in a democracy come the problems that afflict it, distort it, the pervert. The criticism that the ancient world turns to democracy does not take account of this aspect of the issue and instead aims to stress that the democratic choice has the effect of the cancellation of excellence and the government by the poor or the prevalence of uncontrolled passions. When they become real democracies in the nineteenth century, now also their paradoxes emerge, their faults, their shortcomings. Alexis de Tocqueville was among the first to denounce them, along with democracy in the identification of the inevitable fate awaiting Europe in the wake of the United States of America: the negative effect of democracy is in its view, the leveling of all with all. Equality of conditions creates an environment in which the spikes disappear and are reabsorbed by the media. Takes hold in that condition of mind which makes it extremely difficult materialist the birth and the rise of intellectuals and ideas. John Stuart Mill takes up Tocqueville's thesis and pointing at a feature of democratic opinion on which the French friend had already drawn attention: quell'unanimismo that takes away freedom and independence of mind to individuals. For Mill the "despotism of the majority" is contrary to what should be the main feature of a free political system: the lack of impediments to the expression of the individual, his independence of mind, the originality of his thoughts (as well as its lifestyle choices).
When Dewey and other American thinkers begin their reflection on democracy, who come from this background of observation but also sympathetic critique of democracy, these harsh judgments, these notations merciless. Walter Lippmann (another American, author of a masterpiece, translated into Italian, The Public Opinion, 1922) highlights a flaw that lies precisely in the formation of democratic public and in particular on the cognitive level: within the same reflection that scholars of collective psychology play in those decades on their mental and psychological mechanisms of the crowd, Lippmann asks whether knowledge of public opinion is a true knowledge of what happens in the environment. It 'clear, in fact, that only if the public can access the knowledge of things, the public can exert a positive role in the political system. His answer is negative, even though her trust in democracy is not completely overwhelmed by the response: the use of experts (especially journalists trained to be) is the antidote to which democracy may be used for non-drifting and make decisions influenced only by the passions or stereotypes.
I'm not sure that there is specificity in these reflections, American public opinion in a democracy, and the proof is represented by an author such as Bertrand Russell. It belongs, however, say that Anglo-Saxon cultural environment, but the fact remains that it is a member of the aristocratic Old World, with all the features and characteristics (including eccentricity) that compete with its rank. Russell expressed the same concerns about democracy and the same appreciation of Dewey, a Lippmann: Notes that there is a spatial separation, psychological, intellectual, between representatives and represented, doubts that those elected by the suffrage are the best, does not accept the view public as a source of authoritative judgments, criticize the stifling of individual differences in the uniformity of ideas accepted without debate. Even for him is the radical question that arises Lippmann knowledge and behavior of the protagonists of democracy (the great masses of people): What have the opportunity to know? how they are used to react? Favors the conformity of the public as a reaction to be expected rather than the outbreak of violence, but keeps the character basically unanimous behavior, irrationality, poor and unreliable quantity of knowledge that can filter through the mesh.
For Lippmann barriers to knowledge by the mass of citizens are inherent to man's position in a world too large and complex to his ability, to Russell are tied to life in a world so spatially extended and so full of people from having made necessary the abandonment of direct democracy. For both, in the wake of the authors of the late nineteenth century positivists and sociologists of the early twentieth century, those obstacles are consistent with the characteristics of the new world idustrializzato, urban, from the many exchanges, communication, dense, multiplied by the media: that the world would become ours.

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