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Book Review

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In this important book, Professor Bollinger seeks to understand and remedy the inadequacy he perceives in the way our legal culture deals with extremist speech. He argues that the high level of protection the first amendment has been construed to require serves a social function that has not been fully recognized or carefully evaluated. His thesis is that the contemporary social function of the idea of freedom of speech is to help the society develop a general capacity for tolerance, a capacity that determines how we respond to many forms of conduct as well as speech. Once this function is appreciated, several familiar features of first amendment doctrine and rhetoric no longer seem justifiable. But one of the otherwise puzzling features of the first amendment tradition – the tendency to push the idea of freedom of speech to an extreme – takes on new meaning in light of the quest for a general capacity for tolerance.


Constitutional Law | First Amendment | Law


The Tolerant Society by Lee C. Bollinger, New York: Oxford University Press, 1986, pp. viii, 295, $19.95.