Democracy, Expertise, and Academic Freedom


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A First Amendment Jurisprudence for the Modern State

Robert C. Post

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A leading American legal scholar offers a surprising account of the incompleteness of prevailing theories of freedom of speech. Robert C. Post shows that the familiar understanding of the First Amendment, which stresses the “marketplace of ideas” and which holds that "everyone is entitled to an opinion," is inadequate to create and preserve the expert knowledge that is necessary for a modern democracy to thrive. For a modern society reliably to answer such questions as whether nicotine causes cancer, the free and open exchange of ideas must be complemented by standards of scientific competence and practice that are both hierarchical and judgmental.

Post develops a theory of First Amendment rights that seeks to explain both the need for the free formation of public opinion and the need for the distribution and creation of expertise. Along the way he offers a new and useful account of constitutional doctrines of academic freedom. These doctrines depend both upon free expression and the necessity of the kinds of professional judgment that universities exercise when they grant or deny tenure, or that professional journals exercise when they accept or reject submissions.

"Dean Robert Post, one of our nation's most insightful First Amendment scholars, provides an eye-opening analysis of the inherent tension between our commitment to a free-wheeling marketplace of ideas and our need to recognize and protect the values of expertise."—Geoffrey R. Stone, The University of Chicago

"The slimness of the volume is inversely related to the heft of the book's achievement, which is that it advances a bold, innovative new understanding about why the First Amendment exists and the purposes it serves. . . . The argument is carefully drawn and intellectually challenging, making the book an absolute must read for experienced constitutional scholars as well as for readers just beginning their explorations into constitutional theory."—S.B. Lichtman, Choice

"In this brilliant and innovative book, Robert Post makes a conceptual breakthrough in First Amendment analysis.  As a lawyer who has litigated and written about academic freedom issues for over three decades, I am especially impressed that Post has moved beyond the undeveloped and often confusing judicial recognition of academic freedom by providing a convincing justification for its constitutional protection." —David Rabban, University of Texas School of Law

"We press the First Amendment with two conflicting desires:  On one side, we want to protect speech as a productive cacophony (marketplace of ideas).  On the other, we ferociously defend the hard-won, disciplined, often hierarchical production of research knowledge that is far from the blasts of opinion against opinion.  In this remarkable and timely book, Robert Post sorts through the constitutional issues behind this tension and gives us a vocabulary to move forward.  Though Post always keeps real cases front and center, his lively discussion opens up a pragmatic, philosophical stance that all of us would do well to take on board: citizens, jurors, politicians, and indeed anyone concerned with freedom of speech.  This is a terrific, important book."—Peter Galison, Joseph Pellegrino University Professor, Harvard University

"Most books on the First Amendment begin by attempting to define the concept and then connect it to democratic procedures. Robert Post does the reverse. He begins with the First Amendment commitment to the free formation of public opinion and then finds that this undoubted commitment necessitates a doctrine of academic freedom. The result is an argument that seems more inevitable and right at its every stage." —Stanley Fish, Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and Professor of Law at Florida International University

"At a time when "expert opinion" is coming increasingly under dark suspicion—when the political "mainstream" suddenly seems to include not only those who question the reality of climate change but those who blithely reject evolution itself—Robert Post's Democracy, Expertise and Academic Freedom arrives like a desperately needed beam of light. Post's analysis of the tangled relationship between the First Amendment, the ideal of "the marketplace of ideas" and what he calls "disciplinary knowledge" is creative, surprising, thought-provoking, important—and absolutely convincing. A necessary, timely book."—Mark Danner, author of Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2012 for U.S. Politics within the Social and Behavioral Sciences category.
ISBN: 9780300192490
Publication Date: April 26, 2013
192 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
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