The Review of Politics

Research Article

Public Opinion and the Middle Class

Francis G. Wilson

Two ancient symbols—public opinion and the middle class— have nearly always been associated in some degree. Public opinion has stood, first of all, for participation in the government of a society. Such participation has raised the issue of the quality of opinion or the quality of the participation in the government of res populi. From the time of the Greeks at least, the middle class has been regarded by certain conservatives, or let us say, Aristotelians, as having moderate, intelligent, and balanced opinion.

Though public opinion and the middle class idea have been often associated, they have each had different and divergent lines of emergence; different theoretical problems have been presented, and some of this development is to be outlined here. Yet at the tense moments of the eighteenth-century revolution, the French Revolution and its children, they were joined together in close doctrinal union at the height of an historical crisis.