Does the “Tyranny of the Majority” Exist Today?

Marquis de Condorcet and John Stuart Mill write about equality, perfection, and liberty in late 18th-early 19th century Europe. Condorcet, who wrote Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind while in hiding, presents his hopes for the future well-being of society. These hopes consists of the elimination of inequality between nations, equality progression within each respective nation, and the true perfection of mankind.1 Condorcet’s hopefulness arises from his confidence of the Enlightenment period. He predicts that “the time will therefore come when the sun will shine only on free man who knows no other master but their own.”2 Determined that the Enlightenment will bring about the best in individuals and society, Condorcet believes that absolutism and tyranny are gone and will not repeat themselves. While Mill also believes that government as a result of the Enlightenment will become significantly less repressive, he still thinks that complete liberty is impossible. Mill writes about society’s restriction on individual power, and how individuals have the power to express their ideals and beliefs—but still limited in some regard. He believes that the majority’s power over the minority in terms of public opinion, the “tyranny of the majority” can lead to the potential exclusion of the minority, and this infringes on the individual’s sense of being in society. Towards the end of his piece, he states that liberty, which all individuals should have, consists of having a conscience, having the ability to pursue goals, and working with others for greater good.3 He implies that nonconformity should not be shunned, but unfortunately it sometimes is in society. Therefore, restrictions on liberty exist, according to Mill.

Freedom of speech and expression can be dangerous sometimes, as can lack of freedom of speech and expression. I believe that the potential effects of “tyranny of the majority” are not present in today’s society as much as they had been years ago. Because of the expanding mediums for free speech through public forums on social media, individuals are becoming less concerned with what they say. Furthermore, the plethora of issues in the world today contribute to proposed solutions and opinions, which inevitably lead to vastly different opinions of how to address the issues. Therefore, the “tyranny of the majority” has dwindled in today’s social media era, as increasing world issues have led to an increase in diversity of beliefs and opinions. People have more freedom to say what they wish, but not complete freedom. Even if a majority opinion exists, individuals are not shunned for not conforming to that certain opinion because society today is becoming more progressive and thus more accepting of other beliefs.

In an ideal society, should freedom of speech be limited? Do you think the “tyranny of the majority” exists today? And do you think true perfection, as Condorcet says, is attainable?

  1. Marquis de Condorcet, Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind []
  2. Mill, On Liberty []
  3. Mill, On Liberty []

One thought on “Does the “Tyranny of the Majority” Exist Today?

  1. The “tyranny of the majority” has certainly taken on a different appearance in today’s society, it seems there are multiple majority opinions rather than one, but people are still often shunned for not conforming to them. Thinking about majority in terms of our political system, people who register independent or vote for third parties are not necessarily socially shunned, but it is widely accepted that a non-Democrat or Republican will rarely if ever hold any political clout, which speaks to the consistent power of the majority. During election years such as the one we are in, some are shunned if their beliefs do not align exactly with either the radical right or left. I agree that this “tyranny” is not nearly as oppressive as in previous eras, there are many outlets for individuality and previously taboo subjects and lifestyles are becoming increasingly accepted, but American society is still dominated by predominantly white males with Christian, hetero-normative, and sometimes jingoist ideals, so even if they are not the majority in numbers, they often constitute the majority opinion.

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