Dissent, Injustice, and the Meanings of America

Dissent, Injustice, and the Meanings of America

by Steven H. Shiffrin
     
 

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Americans should not just tolerate dissent. They should encourage it. In this provocative and wide-ranging book, Steven Shiffrin makes this case by arguing that dissent should be promoted because it lies at the heart of a core American value: free speech. He contends, however, that the country's major institutions - including the Supreme Court and the mass media -… See more details below

Overview

Americans should not just tolerate dissent. They should encourage it. In this provocative and wide-ranging book, Steven Shiffrin makes this case by arguing that dissent should be promoted because it lies at the heart of a core American value: free speech. He contends, however, that the country's major institutions - including the Supreme Court and the mass media - wrongly limit dissent. And he reflects on how society and the law should change to encourage nonconformity.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Shiffrin (law, Cornell) analyzes contemporary First Amendment jurisprudence, paying special attention to problems created by various forms of "hate speech" legislation. He contends that these types of speech restrictions do not fit into the traditional "free speech" framework, one that views free speech as a "marketplace of ideas." Rather, Shiffrin advocates a shift in First Amendment law toward a structure that better ensures various forms of dissent. The freedom to dissent, he observes, is the basis for preventing tyranny, as outlined by such notable liberty theorists as John Stuart Mill. Shiffrin's perspective also seems influenced by nontraditional intellectual strands, such as "critical race theory," which closely examines how racism affects American justice, and neo-Marxism. One is left wondering if he envisions a structure wherein some dissent is more protected than others. This is an academic work that will be appreciated by left-leaning legal scholars--those who will take the time to reread Shiffrin's informed but dense prose.--Steven Anderson, Gordon Feinblatt Rothman Hoffberger & Hollander, Baltimore
Booknews
Shiffrin (law, Cornell U.) argues for the centrality of dissent to the American concept of free speech, claiming that it should be actively encouraged by society; and he applies this viewpoint to consideration of such controversial topics as flag burning, cigarette advertising, racist speech, and subsidizing of the arts. He discusses how institutions such as the media and the Supreme Court work to stifle dissent rather than encourage it, and suggests specific changes in society and law that could reverse this trend, such as the reform of defamation laws to make them more open to criticism of those in powerful positions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
David E. England
Shiffrin has produced a work that is appropriate and necessary reading for anyone interested in social justice and/or the theory of freedom of expression. There certainly should be room on the bookshelf for this one, and it would make a very strong supplementary text for honors/graduate/professional classes dealing with freedom of expression.
Law and Politics Book Review
From the Publisher
"Shiffrin has provided readers with a challenging work that is well worth the reading and, in the opinion of this reviewer, well worth doing. This well-documented book is written in an engaging style with its theme and major points lucidly displayed. Very noteworthy is the author's penetrating analysis of Supreme Court cases."The Law and Politics Book Review

"In exploring dissent as a tool in opposing injustice, [Shiffrin] examines the place of dissent in liberal theory and in the media marketplace, as well as the marginalization of dissent. A demanding but interesting analysis."Booklist

Booklist
In exploring dissent as a tool in opposing injustice, [Shiffrin] examines the place of dissent in liberal theory and in the media marketplace, as well as the marginalization of dissent. A demanding but interesting analysis.
The Law and Politics Book Review
Shiffrin has provided readers with a challenging work that is well worth the reading and, in the opinion of this reviewer, well worth doing. This well-documented book is written in an engaging style with its theme and major points lucidly displayed. Very noteworthy is the author's penetrating analysis of Supreme Court cases.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691001425
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
12/28/1998
Pages:
220
Product dimensions:
6.33(w) x 9.48(h) x 0.74(d)

What People are saying about this

Robin West
What emerges from this fundamental reorientation is . . . a well rendered account of an embattled national vision: a vision of what it might mean to be an engaged participant in civic life, to be an independent thinker, and ultimately to be an American.
Robin West, Georgetown University
Frederick Schauer
This book will reinforce Shiffrin's position as one of the leading, if not the leading, theorist of a progressive understanding of free speech.
Frederick Schauer, Harvard University
Sanford Levinson
Shiffrin, one of the academy's leading first-amendment scholars, weaves into his account critiques of many of the arguments made by contemporary scholars, not to mention often devastating analyses of current Supreme Court doctrine. His analysis of the hash of current doctrine regarding regulation of advertising is particularly telling.
Sanford Levinson, University of Texas at Austin
Ian Shapiro
In an era when political philosophers from John Rawls to Michael Walzer to Jürgen Habermas appeal to consensus as the basis of political legitimacy, Steven Shiffrin makes compelling the contrary case that dissent is the lifeblood of democracy, and that freedom of speech is its essential guarantor. This refreshing and accessible tour through the logic and purposes of the First Amendment, buttressed by a host of applications to commercial speech, political speech, and hate speech, is valuable reading for all those interested in the dynamics of democratic politics.
Ian Shapiro, Yale University

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