The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the Future of Liberalism (Think Now)
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
For the first time in paperback, from Dean Koontz, the master of suspense, comes an epic thriller about a terrifying killer and the singular compassion it will take to defeat him. | Learn more
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
“Blackford does a good job explaining how the rise of the internet has made self-expression much more risky, since any violation of supposed norms can result in the formation of an internet mob in hours.” – CHOICE
“As the Right devolves into barbaric know-nothingism and the Left becomes a censorious, perpetual offense machine, Russell Blackford reminds us that our greatest source of political virtue and strength is our liberal heritage. At a time when crucial questions of civil discourse, free-speech, and democracy have become tools in a bloody fight between ideologues and hyper-partisans, Blackford brings to them a careful examination of specific cases and a learned consideration of some of the key texts in classical liberal philosophy. Rigorous, readable, and on the side of the angels, Tyranny of Opinion represents the entry of one of our most thoughtful and talented public intellectuals into what is arguably the central cultural conflict of our day.” ―Daniel A. Kaufman, Professor of Philosophy, Missouri State University, USA
About the Author
- Item Weight : 11.4 ounces
- Paperback : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1350056006
- ISBN-13 : 978-1350056008
- Product Dimensions : 5.4 x 0.78 x 8.6 inches
- Publisher : Bloomsbury Academic (October 18, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,601,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Blackford is always a careful thinker, and in this book I think he has laid out the problems with conformity, or at least the strong pressure to conform. He begins with this problem as conceived of by Mill, and explores what the limits of freedom of speech should be. The book proceeds along these lines, by exploring recent examples of de-platforming, social media mobbing/bullying, and a thoughtful critique and exposition of propaganda.
I especially like that Blackford explains how he inevitably feels pressure to put in extra caveats when discussing prominent controversial issues today, while also explaining that simply saying "political correctness" is not a solution. We must tolerate nuances in opinion, and, it is encouraging that at least some people still believe in the principle of charity for arguments. He also makes clear that we must not only look to the law when considering tolerating nonconformity, but the norms of society as well.
I was aware of most of the examples in the book, and from all I've read Blackford gives fair summaries of what transpired. He is upfront that while this book is rooted in a critique on "liberalism" or the left, that the rightwing has been more dangerous historically to freedom of speech and opinion. He wrote this to defend the idea that we should tolerate freedom of speech broadly (but not to the point of allowing dangerous speech, that is speech calling for violent action immediately or for using truly dehumanizing language for a class of people [such as using vermin or pest comparisons]).
As I have usually found with Blackford, he gives interesting, nuanced discussions in a fair-minded way and usually provokes me to re-examine issues that I had not given much thought to before. I fully recommend this book.
Top reviews from other countries
Russell Blackford’s book does not see things in such stark terms. His language is mild: it is “disappointing when self-styled liberals threaten individual freedoms.” Freedom, especially freedom of speech is his subject. Behind this central issue, lie most importantly the areas of sexuality, race, cultural background and far from least, education. Blackford takes as his starting point the ideas about freedom put forward by James Stuart Mill, the 19th century British philosopher, most importantly, Mill’s explanation of the harm principle. While this gives structure and a continual point of reference to his arguments, I believe it to be ultimately a weakness since Mill lived in a world so remotely removed from today’s social realities – indeed those of us around more than 30 or 40 years ago lived in a world, in the context of this discussion, closer to Mill’s than the contemporary situation. This is Blackford’s tyranny of opinion, the world of revisionist liberalism and identity politics.
Quickly Blackford comes to the nub of the matter in his words: “The right to freedom of speech need not be absolute”. Thereafter, it is into this fluid and uncertain claim that we are taken, largely, but by no means exclusively in terms of theory and language. The exceptions to the theory incorporate discussion of three crucial particular cases: the Salmon Rushdie affair arising from the publication of his novel, “The Satanic Verses” and the subsequent fatwah, the Charlie Hebdo tragedy and the Christakis affair at Yale University. What is so sinister about each of these events is the meek connivance of those in authority, who saw the very real victims as the source of their own downfalls, and who went on to argue for even more stringent constraints to prevent any possible affront to the targets of those who became to be known as “the perpetrators”(!) every bit as much as those with blood on their hands. Blackford concludes his argument with a series of “Tips and Tricks”, as ways of meeting the challenge of the tyranny he has described. This polite list of decent behaviour is all very well, but seems to me to be nowhere near radical enough to confront the forces behind these gross excesses of political correctness.
Blackford does identify the importance of education and educational institutions in accelerating these dire tendencies and as probably the only long-term strategy for changing our sense of values. He argues for a return to core values, but is reluctant to identify with any precision what needs to be done, perhaps because he does not see the situation as being as critical as many do. The writer also points up the key importance of the media, the social media outlets in particular. Here is a battleground of hate tweets, victim hood and the persecution of any who as much as touch on “taboo” topics. Here, as in universities, we have a culture of vulnerability to offence. We are here in a world of total fragility without a hint of resilience. Although, most of the input is from the younger generation, it is sad to see the connivance of the older generation. Trigger warnings, the re-writing of history (shades of Stalinist Sovietism) and so on.
What we find is no challenge to people’s ability to cope with life, to cultivate that resilience necessary to be an effective student and later a constructive member of society. We are in thrall to political correctness. What desperately needs to be recognised is that giving offense – challenging contemporary orthodoxies the great– is beneficial. It is what lies behind the achievements of the past. Of course, the cosseted students of today, have no understanding of how they have been the inheritors of those who have stood against the tide in the past. In closing down dispassionate thought and becoming chained to political correctness we have stepped back into a dark past, where to question the platitudes of the age could mean imprisonment and death. In Yeats’ salutary words written as the second world war approached:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Blackford offers a great deal of invaluable diagnosis in this book; the prognosis seems to bear out all too closely Yeats’ words.