The English edition of Le Monde Diplomatique has republished a lecture by subversive sociologist Pierre Bourdieu entitled “Manufacturing Public Debate,” originally delivered at the Collège de France in 1990. Bourdieu details the slight of hand that transforms elite opinion into “public opinion,” and examines the collective suspension of disbelief that underpins political officialdom. The lecture is beautifully translated by Lucie Elven. Check out and excerpt below.
What is this public opinion that is invoked by the creators of laws, the creators of modern societies, those societies in which laws exist? It is, tacitly, everyone’s opinion, that of the majority or of those who count, those worthy of having an opinion. I think that the obvious definition in a society that calls itself democratic (ie, official opinion is the opinion of everyone) hides a less visible definition, which is that public opinion is the opinion of those worthy of having an opinion. There is a kind of selective-minded definition of public opinion as ‘enlightened opinion’, opinion worthy of that name.
Image of Pierre Bourdieu via thoughtco.com.