Italy's intellectual debate over the concept of ‘public opinion’ in the first fifty years after unification can be better understood if one starts from an analysis of the constitutional framework. The definition of the rights and duties of rulers and ruled was the most pressing concern for the liberal ruling class. It should be noted that a strong paternalistic element was always present in the Italian intellectual debate. This paternalistic approach emerges clearly in the official Catholic culture. The main difference between Catholic intellectuals and liberals was over the ‘public sphere’. Liberalism mistrusted the masses because they were prone to insubordination and easily manipulated by demagogy, but it also believed the masses could elevate themselves. The ruling class's culture was essentially a synthesis between ‘moderatismo’ and that section of Catholicism that was less closed to modernity. Public opinion was considered by many as ‘queen of the world’, but according to the Albertine constitutional statute, the king was more politically influent.
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