Theories On The Relationship Bewteen Freedom Of Speech, Expression And Democracy

1659 words - 7 pages

Theories on the relationship between freedom of speech, expression and democracy can be critically assessed through the comparative and contrasting of Alexander Meiklejohn (1948) and Jürgen Habermas’s (1964) views in their published works. ‘The Town hall’ theory as outlined by Meiklejohn (1948, p.22) and ‘The Public Sphere’ theory as outlined by Habermas (1964, p.49) have similarities in relation to expression and democracy such as the mutual agreement they have on realizing you cannot achieve democracy unless all individuals are valued as equals. Similarly they both acknowledge the created space for unabridged political discussion and an individual being able to express their opinion. Furthermore the similarity in both theories of individuals being self governed and not controlled by the state will also be analyzed. However in recognizing these similarities there are also limitations on both theories in which the restriction of an individual being autonomous will be addressed.
The first similarity between Meiklejohn (1948) and Habermas (1964) is in relation to the created forum for discussion in which a free man is able to attend. As Meiklejohn notes (1948, p. 22) ‘Every man is free to come…They meet as political equals’. Meiklejohn is implying that each and every individual is allowed to come to a place of mutual agreement in which a subject matter that is of public interest will be debated. Further more when a free man is in attendance at the town hall meeting he is every bit a part of the political system as the other men in attendance. The public sphere is a place in which people can express their opinion in a social setting where private people come together in the form of what is known as the public sphere Habermas (1964, p. 49). It was the rise of the bourgeois class wanting to get in on the high society sovereignty elite whom were responsible for decisions made at an elitist level that they wanted to be a part of Habermas (1964, p. 50 – 51). It was because the elite were the ones who voted on public discourse and therefore the middle class people under the bourgeois crept upon and into a public sphere. So therefore Habermas (1964) notes upon the fact that the public sphere became to be a place in which matters of opinion were discussed and opinions could be formed. Meiklejohn (1948) and Habermas (1964) in their theories of created and imagined places of public discussion acknowledge the forum and therefore the similarity between forums can be made. The public forum allows a man to express his opinion in a structured format, a further similarity between both Meiklejohn (1948) and Habermas (1964).
The second similarity between the theories of Meiklejohn (1948) and Habermas (1964) is the structuring of debate and discussion. Meiklejohn (1948, p. 22) notes that the chairman abides the rules of order. This means that although the town hall meeting is a place of political freedom and speech, in order for a town hall meeting to commence...

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