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Historical Development of Public Opinion

Hans Speier
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 55, No. 4 (Jan., 1950), pp. 376-388
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2772299
Page Count: 13
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Historical Development of Public Opinion
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Abstract

Public opinion, defined for purposes of this historical review as free and public communications from citizen to their government on matters of concern to the nation, is a phenomenon of middle-class civilization. Its attainment of political significance was accompanied and facilitated by certain changes in the economic and convivial institutions of society and by shifts in social stratification. In its early phase public opinion was preoccupied with domestic affairs, but during the French Revolutionary wars and after the Congress of Vienna the utilization of public opinion in international affairs, became generally respectable among statesmen. Effective government by public opinion in the field of foreign affairs today is jeopardized by various specified characteristics of modern democratic civilization.

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