The people i.e. the people = everybody en masse = the general public is the immediate context within which political choices are made authoritatively by government. The notion of the people en masse playing a major part inis intrinsic to the .
The general public has a role in the political process by virtue of the fact that government is supposed to be working for the public benefit. However, the only way that most people can express their views in society is to let their views blend and merge with others to form a general. This is based on widely held —often fostered by the media. These have variable validity, and often reflect the prevailing rather than any deep understanding.
do not function in a rational fashion.
The general public is always subject to flows of feeling or sentiment associated with pervasive moods. Social moods may be positive (e.g. confidence, enthusiasm, openness, inclusionist) or negative (e.g. fear, anger, disappointment, exclusionist).
Moods can generate contagious atmospheres and herd-like behaviour that shows up in such things as joyous celebrations, raptures over film stars, weeping hysteria over the death of a leader, runs on banks and speculative orgies.
Emotions in individuals have a physiological basis and social mood swings are probably of biological origin. Public opinion and sentiment are affected by both major historical events and the most recent experiences.
There is a body of theory, named «socionomics» by its primary exponent Robert Prechter, which claims that people individually and as a group go through mood cycles—from intensely pessimistic to intensely optimistic. These herd-like cycles show up in many social areas e.g. types of films enjoyed, fashions, sports, economic activity.
These swings in mood are expressed in stock market sentiment and investor behaviours and can be assessed via stock prices. The result is «Elliott Waves» after R.N. Elliott, who first identified this fractal pattern.
It is likely that these moods are based on biorhythmic brain states and are not controllable or dependent on external events. Causation is psychosocial not physical: the mood produces events which are then provided with rationalizations.
R. Prechter: Socionomics: The Science of History and Social Prediction (2003). New Classics Library.
Mark Twain 1835–1910… Its name is «Public Opinion». It is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God.
Abraham Lincoln 1809–1865… Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.
A purely social aspect of the can be easily seen in . Pollsters can identify this social phenomenon by questioning a tiny sample. A single person's opinion need have little solidity and can be changed in moment. On big issues of the day (e.g. what to do about a polluted river or how to help the mentally ill), a personal opinion has little impact in itself and a person bears no responsibility as a result of their view.
However, when individuals act decisively and commit themselves (even if as part of a herd), it is a private matter with each person needing to take their own circumstances into account and feeling compelled to accept responsibility for their own actions. The result is a range of adaptations to society in regard to practical matters (e.g. where to live, what business to pursue, how to look after children or aged parents). Multiple similar, even near-identical, practical adaptations cannot be unified but, taken together with firms that emerge to serve the herd, they generate a status quo and a major sunk cost that cannot be easily ignored by governments.
So there are two political Centres:
Which dominates? Tree. expresses itself more forcibly than the varied . Most people find the social mood and herding impulses virtually irresistible—and often get into trouble as a result. So opinion generally shapes commitments (even if there is a reciprocal influence). is therefore placed on the right side of the
Originally posted: July 2009; Last updated: 12 June 2014.