Tolerating Hate in the Name of Democracy

Modern Law Review 80 (4):746-65 (2017)
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This article offers a comprehensive and critical analysis of Eric Heinze’s book Hate Speech and Democratic Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2016). Heinze’s project is to formulate and defend a more theoretically complex version of the idea (also defended by people like Ronald Dworkin and James Weinstein) that general legal prohibitions on hate speech in public discourse compromises the state’s democratic legitimacy. We offer a detailed synopsis of Heinze’s view, highlighting some of its distinctive qualities and strengths. We then develop a critical response to this view with three main focal points: (1) the characterisation of democratic legitimacy as something distinct from (and whose demands aren’t identical with those of) legitimacy per se; (2) the claim that the requirements of democracy are hypothetical, rather than categorical, imperatives; and relatedly (3) the question of how we should reconcile the requirements of democratic legitimacy with the costs that may follow from prioritising democratic legitimacy. We argue that there are significant difficulties for Heinze’s account on all three fronts.
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