chapter  9
14 Pages

The Consequences of Being an Influential Minority in the Context of Social Controversies in the Emerging Polish Democracy

Social controversies refer by definition to issues on which a society is divided. Frequently the dispersion of opinions is unequal, with a majority of society taking one position and minorities taking other positions. In such a situation, the majority is often able to superimpose its own opinion on minorities using purely democratic procedures (e.g., voting). Nevertheless, the basic tenet of modern democracy is that the majority should refrain from forcing its position on minorities and, instead, compromise in such a way that would take into account minority standings on the issue. For the sake of the common good and to facilitate smooth functioning in a democratic society, both majorities and minorities should-the prescription goes-step down from their preferred ideals in favor of a compromising position. To attain such a compromise, different attitudinal groups would need to engage in mutual influence processes-recognizing what is the actual dispersion of opinions and which social group believes in what, trying to shift opinions of another group, accommodating their opinions, and so on. This suggests that social

influence may and should be studied as a phenomenon originating in the dynamics of social structure, in addition to being understood in terms of mass-mediated influence (the perspective reflected in the chapters constituting Part II of the present volume) and interpersonal influence (the chapters in Part III).