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The First Amendment provides Americans with a far broader protection of free speech than that available in any other Western democracy, Lee Bollinger notes, and yet other democracies are not seen as significantly less open or more restrictive that the United States. Why do Americans guarantee people the right to advocate the overthrow of the government or advance racist or genocidal ideas? Why, for example, protect the right of neo-Nazis to march in predominantly Jewish Skokie, Illinois? In The Tolerant Society, Bollinger offers a masterful critique of the major theories of freedom of expression, and offers an alternative explanation. Traditional justifications for protecting extremist speech have turned largely on the inherent value of self-expression, maintaining that the benefits of the free interchange of ideas include the greater likelihood of serving truth and of promoting wise decisions in a democracy. Bollinger finds these theories persuasive but inadequate. Buttrressing his argument with references to the Skokie case and many other examples, as well as a careful analysis of the primary literature on free speech, he contends that the real value of toloeration of extremist speech lies in the extraordinary self-control toward antisocial behavior that it elicits: society is stengthened by the exercise of tolerance, he maintains. The problem of finding an appropriate response--especially when emotions make measured response difficult--is common to all social interaction, Bollinger points out, and there are useful lesons to be learned from withholding punishment even for what is conceded to be bad behavior. About the Author: Lee C. Bollinger is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.
In authoritarian states, the discourse on freedom of speech, conducted by those opposed to non-democratic governments, focuses on the core aspects of this freedom: on a right to criticize the government, a right to advocate theories arid ideologies contrary to government-imposed orthodoxy, a right to demand institutional reforms, changes in politics, resignation of the incompetent and the corrupt from positions of authority. The claims for freedom of speech focus on those exercises of freedom that are most fundamental and most beneficial to citizens - and which are denied to them by the government. But in a by-and large democratic polity, where these fundamental benefits of freedom of speech are generally enjoyed by the citizens, the public and scholarly discourse on freedom of speech hovers about the peripheries of that freedom; the focus is on its outer boundaries rather than at the central territory of freedom of speech. Those borderline cases, in which people who are otherwise genuinely committed to the core aspects of freedom of speech may sincerely disagree, include pornography, racist hate speech and religious bigoted expressions, defamation of politicians and of private persons, contempt of court, incitement to violence, disclosure of military or commercial secrets, advertising of merchandise such as alcohol or cigarettes or of services and entertainment such as gambling and prostitution.
Tolerance is widely regarded as a virtue - of both individuals and groups - that modern democratic and multicultural societies cannot do without. The historical emergence and growth of religious toleration is often seen as an important precondition for the development of political and legal institutions that aim to respect different ideas of the good in society. But the exact nature, limits and forms of expression of toleration are not beyond contestation. The very formulation of the ideal of tolerance is said to give raise to a moral paradox: why tolerate ideas, behaviour and practices that one believes to be wrong? The first part of this collection traces the passage of toleration from a moral to a political virtue, which may contribute to avoid such a paradox. Political toleration asks not that people accept the reasons or actions of others, to whom they may strongly object, but rather that they reassess and revise their own reasons for opposition and repression in the light of public reason. Such a shift to the political perspective brings, however, new theoretical and institutional problems relating in particular to the nature of political neutrality and the working of democratic institutions. The second and third parts of the volume attempt to clarify the terms of the debate on political toleration. The book brings together a group of international scholars, many of whom have already contributed to the debate on toleration, and who are offering fresh thoughts and approaches to it. The essays of this collection are written from a variety of perspectives: historical, analytical, normative, and legal. Yet, all authors share a concern with the sharpening of our understanding of the reasons for toleration as well as with making them relevant to the way in which we live with others in our modern and diverse societies.
Froma Glee ato gay marriage, from lesbian senators to out gay Marines, we have undoubtedly experienced a seismic shift in attitudes about gays in American politics and culture. Our reigning national story is that a new era of rainbow acceptance is at hand. But dig a bit deeper, and this seemingly brave new gay world is disappointing. For all of the undeniable changes, the plea for tolerance has sabotaged the full integration of gays into American life. Same-sex marriage is unrecognized and unpopular in the vast majority of states, hate crimes proliferate, and even in the much vaunted gay friendly world of Hollywood and celebrity culture, precious few stars are openly gay. Ina The Tolerance Trap, Suzanna Walters takes on received wisdom about gay identities and gay rights, arguing that we are not almost there, but on the contrary have settled for a watered-down goal of tolerance and acceptance rather than a robust claim to full civil rights. After all, wea tolerate aunpleasant realities: medicine with strong side effects, a long commute, an annoying relative. Drawing on a vast array of sources and sharing her own personal journey, Walters shows how the low bar of tolerance demeans rather than ennobles both gays and straights alike. Her fascinating examination covers the gains in political inclusion and the persistence of anti-gay laws, the easy-out sexual freedom of queer youth and the suicides and murders of those in decidedly intolerant environments. She challenges both born that way storylines that root civil rights in biology, and god made me that way arguments that similarly situate sexuality as innate and impervious to decisions we make to shape it. A sharp and provocative cultural critique, this book deftly argues that a too-soon declaration of victory short-circuits full equality and deprives us all of the transformative possibilities of full integration.Tolerance is not the end goal, but a dead end. Ina The Tolerance Trap, Walters presents a complicated snapshot of a world-shifting moment in American historyOCoone that is both a wake-up call and a call to arms for anyone seeking true equality."
One of the dangers in any political system is that the principles that underlie and characterize it may, through their application, bring about its destruction. Liberal democracy is no exception. Moreover, because democracy is relatively a young phenomenon, it lacks experience in dealing with pitfalls involved in the working of the system - the ‘catch’ of democracy. This is an interdisciplinary study concerned with the limits of tolerance, this ‘democratic catch’, and the costs of freedom of expression. Rights are costly, and someone must pay for them. We can and should ask about the justification for bearing the costs, weighing them against the harms inflicted upon society as a result of a wide scope of tolerance. While recognizing that we have the need to express ourselves, we should also inquire about the justifications for tolerating the damaging speech and whether these are weighty enough. This book combines theory and practice, examining issues of contention from philosophical, legal and media perspectives and covers such issues as: media invasion into one’s privacy offensive speech incitement hate speech holocaust denial media coverage of terrorism. This book is essential reading for anyone who has research interests in political theory, extremism, and free speech.
How to prevent the enemies of democracy from using its freedoms to attack its existence

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