"Stefan Collini is an exemplary essay writer who combines great stylistic elegance with absolute ruthlessness when it comes to dissecting sloppy thought. These virtues are much to the fore in That's Offensive!
, a contribution to Seagull Books and Index on Censorship
's 'Manifestos for the 21st Century' series, addressing the issue of censorship. Collini's concern here is to analyse just one form of modern censorship (or, perhaps more accurately, self-censorship), one that may not strike many liberal readers as obvious, or even particularly important. This is the idea that, out of concern not to give 'offence,' one should refrain from criticising ideas, beliefs or practices that one regards as wrong." (William Skidelsky Observer
“What can be taken when not given, and is not always taken when it is given? Offence. It is often claimed these days as a badge of moral authenticity, against which bad faith Collini offers this brisk and cool intervention. At its heart is an ideal of ‘criticism:’ the way public debate is (or at least ought to be) conducted, through reasoning and scrutiny of evidence. No one, Collini insists, should be able to claim immunity to criticism by crying offence. Offence is not a ‘harm,’ and to eschew criticism because the targets might take offence is to infantilize them.”
(Steven Poole Guardian
“Collini, a distinguished historian of ideas, has written a powerfully argued manifesto on the subject of offense and criticism. The book is neither densely philosophical nor as militant as books that have covered some of the same ground. . . . But Collini’s deft dismantling of various forms of cultural relativism—conveyed in clear and concise prose—are sure to be debated and discussed by anyone who engages with his important essay.”
(Isaac Chotiner, New Republic The Book
About the Author
Stefan Collini is professor of intellectual history and English literature at the universities of Sussex and Cambridge. A frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, and the Nation, Collini is also the author of Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain and Common Reading: Critics, Historians, Publics, among other books.