I am currently wading through "A History of Modern Political Thought" by Iain Hampsher-Monk. The sub-title, "Major Political Thinkers from Hobbes to Marx" took my attention in the public library and my intellectual stubbornness has got me through the tough sections.
What interested me recently was the following passage. The chapter in question concerns the thought of John Stuart Mill who advanced and developed his father's utilitarian philosophy. It concerns America but it struck me that it could also equally apply to England and Australia in the 21st century. Mill was writing in the 19th century.
"America was the country where, if anywhere, tradition, inherited authority and the past generally counted for nothing, and yet, strangely, 'in no country does there exist less independence of thought'.
Hampsher-Monk goes on to quote Tocqueville, "For whereas 'older societies have found (it) in the traditions of antiquity, or in the dogmas of priest or philosophers, the Americans find (it) in the opinions of each other."
"...the Americans endowed their own collective opinion with the aura and authority Europeans gave to their royalty, nobility, popes, academics and national myths."
"...faith in public opinion, becomes in such countries a species of religion and the majority is its prophet." (Italics mine).
It struck me, reading this, that although England has looked back on its historical traditions as the 21st century moves on it is becoming more generically like America and Australia, i.e. "the West".
The quote in italics gives food for thought in light of the change in opinion sharing with the prevalence of the internet to disseminate ideas. As much as people like to think that we are all individuals with our private religion it seems to me that "public opinion...(has become)...a species of religion and the majority is its prophet."