Critiquing Free Speech: First Amendment Theory and the Challenge of Interdisciplinarity

By Matthew D. Bunker | Go to book overview

Introduction

Mainstream First Amendment theory is under assault. Free speech should be protected, liberal theorists1 have proposed, for a number of important reasons, including democratic self-governance, self-realization, respect for individual autonomy, the search for truth, and a variety of other reasons.2 While these classical free speech justifications still have significant influence, free speech theory is nonetheless in a state of great ferment. The notion that government should extend to individuals the greatest possible rights of free expression (long nearly a truism among scholars in law, communication, and related disciplines) has become subject to significant challenges. The old consensus of expanding free expression rights has been challenged in a series of critiques by feminist legal scholars, critical legal theorists, communitarian theorists, critical race theorists, literary

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1
Liberalism here and throughout this book refers broadly to the political tradition that advocates protection of individual rights, equality before the law, and similar values. It should be noted that liberalism in this sense—with roots in the thought of Locke, J. S. Mill, and many others—is embraced by many on both the political left and right in the United States.
2
Rodney Smolla, Free Speech in an Open Society 317 (1992).

-xi-

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