The Academy: session abstract and readings

Philosophy, Lecture 1: The emergence of the public

Frank Furedi

The focus of this lecture is the emergence of the public and the role of public opinion in the constitution of a modern society. In his Social Contract, Rousseau wrote that the “real constitution of the State” is composed “of morality, of custom, above all of public opinion”. Others echoed similar sentiments and, in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the public and the role of its opinion became a subject of concern and anxiety. Yet the powerful influence attached to the role of the public was rarely explored and elaborated in a systematic manner. By the late nineteenth century, the public was invariably represented as a problem, and frequently equated with mass society. The different stages in the conceptualisation of the public constitutes the focus of this lecture.


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