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Self-Censorship for Democrats

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Publication details

JournalEuropean Journal of Political Theory
DateE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2015
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jul 2018
Issue number3
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)324-342
Early online date2/06/15
Original languageEnglish


On the face of it, self-censorship is profoundly subversive of democracy, particularly in its talk-centric forms, and undermines the culture of openness and publicity on which it relies. This paper has two purposes. The first is to develop a conception of self-censorship that allows us to capture what is distinctive about the concept from a political perspective and which allows us to understand the democratic anxiety about self-censorship: if it is not obvious that biting our tongues is always wrong, we need a fuller account of the moral sensibility that finds it so troubling and this is elaborated here. The second is to develop an argument to the effect that this sensibility should not have the last, or only, word, but instead that self-censorship should be viewed as an ‘ordinary vice’ of democratic societies. The grounds for tolerating it rest on the democratic values that critics believe it threatens.

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© 2015, The authors. This is an author produced version of a paper published in European Journal of Political Theory. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.

    Research areas

  • Self-censorship, democratic theory, free speech, power, realism

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