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Public Opinion

Walter Lippmann

Book Overview: 

Public Opinion, by Walter Lippman, is a critical assessment of functional democratic government, especially the irrational, and often self-serving, social perceptions that influence individual behavior, and prevent optimal societal cohesion.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . in sport at a contest between experts in a complicated game, are further instances. Put an inexperienced man in a factory, and at first the work seems to him a meaningless medley. All strangers of another race proverbially look alike to the visiting stranger. Only gross differences of size or color are perceived by an outsider in a flock of sheep, each of which is perfectly individualized to the shepherd. A diffusive blur and an indiscriminately shifting suction characterize what we do not understand. The problem of the acquisition of meaning by things, or (stated in another way) of forming habits of simple apprehension, is thus the problem of introducing (1) definiteness and distinction and (2) consistency or stability of meaning into what is otherwise vague and wavering."

But the kind of definiteness and consistency introduced depends upon who introduces them. In a later passage [Footnote: op. cit., p. 133.] Dewey gives an example of how differen. . . Read More

Community Reviews

So overwrought with examples and anecdotes very little concrete information bleeds through. Man, what a blowhard.

This book is unfairly maligned because Chomsky holds it out as an example of elite liberal ideology (and it is a fair example in that regard), but Lippmann has a point about "public opinion". He wasn't the first or last to point out that the spontaneous majorities on various subjects are not necessa

Too many examples, anecdotes and questions, and not enough answers and explanation.

While reading the book, I was often clueless on what the main point of the chapter/paragraph was.

One of the most thought-provoking reads of my entire life. Deeply insightful and full of stunning truths. Brilliant explanation of the struggles defined by democratic nations and very relevant to current political affairs.

Public opinion was published in 1997 and written by Walter Lappmann. It discusses the nature of human information and communication, the last section is about the news, earlier he talks about censorship and privacy along with a section Titled The Enlisting of Interest which I found to be very intere

I really liked this book. Although it was written more than 80 years ago I think that it addresses a very current issue.

This book begins with a discussion of social psychology. It explains how people see through different paradigms.

Then he builds from this a political theory. He denies "democracy"

Nobody on Earth is omniscient and to make sense of the sea of info that surrounds us all all we make use of what Lippmann calls 'stereotypes,' preconceptions of ideas that help us fill in the gaps between the points of information we're exposed to. People carry different stereotypes with them and th

Want to understand the last hundred years, and maybe the next hundred, in terms of the interplay between mass media and people's assumptions? The short book is an awfully good start.

Whatever else one may think of this classic, it is written to take one's breath away. The images of Lippmann's prose alone--e.g. the Platonic, iconic "pictures in the mind," itself an almost mandatory talking point for those who pass through liberal arts education in America--guarantee that this boo

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