31661 - Theory and History of Public Opinion

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Maria Laura Lanzillo

  • Credits 8

  • SSD SPS/02

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Forli

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Mass media and politics (cod. 8051)


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Partnerships for the goals

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course analyses the genealogy of the concept of public opinion, its evolution and its transformations during modern and contemporary age from an historical-philosophical-political point of view.

Course contents

This course examines the genealogy of the political concept of public opinion, its evolution and its transformations during modern and contemporary age.

In the first part of the course, we'll examine the nature, structure and critical role of public opinion and its relation with political and social institutions in the XIXth Century. We'll read also some of the most important political thinkers on public opinion, like Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill. Then, we'll analyze the social and political transformations enabled in public opinion by the process of democratization during XXth Century with the help of authors like Tarde, Bentley, Lippmann, Dewey and Hannah Arendt.

During the second part of the course, we'll refer to authors like Adorno and Marcuse, Lazersfeld and Kaplan, Debord, Habermas, Baudrillard, Bourdieu to understand the new political configurations of the public opinion in the age of mass democracy; then, we'll analyse the crisis of public opinion in the age of globalisation, the age of information, the show society age, the post-truth age, and we'll argue on the possibility for public opinion in contemporary democracies to gain (or not) a new political role (Barber, Sunstein, Lévy, Han, Ferraris).


Students attending the course

Please, see the Italian version for the list of books.

Students not attending the course

Not attending students are kindly requested to meet the teacher at least once before the exam to get in touch with the program.

Teaching methods

20 two hours classes (twice a week for 10 weeks).


In the event of continuing health problems due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students will be able to follow the lessons also remotely on MS TEAMS.

Assessment methods

Oral examination

Teaching tools

Films, audiovisual tools

Office hours

See the website of Maria Laura Lanzillo