cod. 1008781

Academic year 2023/24
1° year of course - First semester
Academic discipline
Sociologia generale (SPS/07)
Discipline storico-sociali, giuridico-economiche, politologiche e delle relazioni internazionali
Type of training activity
30 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

At the end of the course the student knows the main perspectives and the main authors who contributed to the reflection on public opinion during the last century; knows how to contextualize them with respect to social, structural and cultural transformations characterizing the transition from modernity to late modernity; know some basic sociological categories; develop critical and learning skills, in particular by comparing divergent conceptions of public opinion – public opinion as an object of power or as a force for social change. The drafting (optional) of a short in-depth text to complete the exam allows for the exercise of both judgment autonomy and written communication skills.


Written text comprehension

Course unit content

This course offers an analysis of public opinion in its current state, after introducing its emergence and transformations during the 1900s.
The characteristics of modern society will be exposed as a background to the contemporary perspectives on public opinion of authors including Bernays, Lippmann and the Frankfurt School exponents, while the theories of Noelle-Newman and Habermas will be linked to the transition to the contemporary. On current public opinion, the most recent studies linking public opinion to topics such as journalism, political communication, emotions, democracy, populism, social, platform capitalism, and sustainability will be presented.

Full programme

In the first part, a general introduction is offered on the origins of the notion of public opinion in Western democracies, the definitions that have been proposed of it and the questions, posed by it, that remain open. The conceptual constellation in which public opinion as a social phenomenon is placed is then highlighted, encompassing sociological themes including social order and change, elites and the masses, consensus and criticism, media diffusion and democracy as a form of government.
The structural and cultural transformations that characterise the first half of the 20th century, the age of modernity, are then set out, in which the previous social order is transformed by, among other factors, the two world wars and the spread of (mostly national) media, the rational organisation of production and mass consumption. These phenomena influence contemporary theories of public opinion, among which propaganda (Bernays), the stereotype (Lippmann) and the culture industry (Frankfurt School) are discussed. Of the redefinition of the links between public opinion, power and democracy, which started at the turn of the 1980s, the theories of Noelle-Neumann and Habermas are emblematic and bring us up to date. Based on new trends in the social sciences, public opinion is presented today in relation to topics such as, among others, journalism, political communication, emotions, democracy, populism, social, platform capitalism and sustainability.


For attending and non-attending students: Gherardi L. (a cura di), Lezioni brevi sull’opinione pubblica: nuove tendenze dalle scienze sociali, Meltemi, Milano 2022

Teaching methods

Lessons in presence - general sanitary conditions considered.
The interaction students - teacher is explicitly stimulated by proposing discussion of contents at the end of each lesson. At the end of the course, on the Elly platform, a list of the main authors, topics and categories treated in class will be published.

Assessment methods and criteria

The exam is oral and focuses on the main topics of the course of which at the end of the course a list is provided on the Elly platform.
Depending on general sanitary conditions, the exam could be on-line on Teams.

Fail: less than approximate or wrong knowledge about the topic
18-21: elementary knowledge of the topic, and/or improper knowledge, partial capacity for presentation and argumentation.
22-25: Fair knowledge of the topic, fairly solid presentation and argumentation capacity
26-29: Good knowledge or very good knowledge of the topic, good or very good presentation and argumentation capacity.
30: precise knowledge of the topic, optimal presentation and argumentation capacity
30 cum laude: precise knowledge of the topic, optimal presentation and argumentation capacity, pertinent personal re-elaboration of knowledge

Other information

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