Extreme Speech and Democracy

Ivan Hare, James Weinstein

Research output: Book/ReportBook

72 Scopus citations


A commitment to free speech is a fundamental precept of all liberal democracies. However, democracies differ significantly when addressing the permissibility of laws regulating certain kinds of speech, especially extreme speech. In the United States, for instance, the commitment to free speech has been held by the Supreme Court to protect the public expression of even the most noxious racist ideology. In contrast, in almost every other democracy governments enjoy considerable leeway to restrict racist and other types of extreme expression. What accounts for the marked differences in attitude towards the constitutionality of hate speech regulation? Does hate speech regulation violate the core free speech principle constitutive of democracy? Or do values such as the commitment to equality or individual dignity legitimately override the right to free speech in some circumstances? In attempting to answer these and other questions, this book focuses on highly topical issues such as homophobic speech, Holocaust denial, incitement to terrorism, veiling controversies, and the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. It includes interdisciplinary perspectives from law, philosophy, history, psychology, and literature, and provides comparative perspectives from experts in various countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, and Israel, as well as from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages706
ISBN (Electronic)9780191720673
ISBN (Print)9780199548781
StatePublished - May 1 2009


  • Democracy
  • Dignity
  • Equality
  • Hate speech
  • Holocaust denial
  • Homophobic speech
  • Incitement to terrorism
  • Racist
  • The Danish cartoons
  • Veiling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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