The Tyranny of Opinion

The Tyranny of Opinion : Conformity and the Future of Liberalism

4.03 (29 ratings by Goodreads)
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We live in an age of ideology, propaganda, and tribalism. Political conformity is enforced from many sides; the insidious social control that John Stuart Mill called "the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling." Liberal or left-minded people are often more afraid of each other than of their conservative or right wing opponents. Social media and call-out-culture makes it easier to name, shame, ostracize and harass non-conformists, and destroys careers and lives.

How can we oppose this, regaining freedom and our sense of ourselves as individuals? The Tyranny of Opinion identifies the problem, defines its character, and proposes strategies of resistance. Russell Blackford calls for an end to ideological purity policing and for recommitment to the foundational liberal values of individual liberty and spontaneity, free inquiry, diverse opinion, and honest debate.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 138 x 216 x 17.78mm | 334g
  • Bloomsbury Academic
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1350056006
  • 9781350056008
  • 482,039

Table of contents


1. Introduction and overview
2. Mill on liberty: Morality, paternalism, and harm
3. Freedom of thought and freedom of speech
4. The limits to speaking our minds
5. Conformity and its limits
6. Ideology, propaganda, and outrage
7. You can't say that! Identity politics and the flight from liberalism
8. Cyberspace and its discontents
9. Conclusion: What can you do?

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Review quote

Blackford does a good job explaining how the rise of the internet has made self-expression much more risky, since any violation of supposed norms can result in the formation of an internet mob in hours. * CHOICE * Anyone who has felt chills after watching a news story about crazy SJWs on a college campus or witnessing a P.C. mob on Twitter should read this book for a more nuanced understanding of political correctness and the 1st Amendment, in general. * Russell A. Whitehouse, Modern Diplomacy * Ultimately, Blackford enjoins readers to 'take a stand, as loudly as [they] dare, for liberal values and for freedom'. Noting that most of us are happy to entertain and to venture a much greater range of views and opinions in private than we are in public, he suggests that we should, to the extent that we can, be courageous in doing so publicly, for the sake of 'true' liberal principles and values...Blackford's book exemplifies how things might be if only we would all stop shouting at one another and learn to listen. * Ceridwen Spark, Australian Book Review * If we are to have a coherent commitment to free speech, our conception of that value should allow for it to be applied consistently, whether involving controversial expressions by either friends or enemies, or the expression of either popular or unpopular ideas. The Tyranny of Opinion is a valuable resource in helping us to think these problems through, and I'd encourage you to read it. * Jacques Rousseau, Synapses * On that (literary) point, Blackford has a beautiful, calm, civil voice. He writes gorgeously, guiding the reader through a great deal of material with expertise and, sometimes, elan. It is a lesson in how to argue, and how to think. The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the Future of Liberalism is an exceptional book. Anyone who engages in political debate should read it. * Quillette * A masterpiece. This should be required reading for every university professor. * Peter Boghossian, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Portland State University, USA and author of 'A Manual for Creating Atheists' * As the Right devolves into barbaric know-nothingism and the Left becomes a censorious, perpetual offense machine, Russell Blackford reminds us that our greatest source of political virtue and strength is our liberal heritage. At a time when crucial questions of civil discourse, free-speech, and democracy have become tools in a bloody fight between ideologues and hyper-partisans, Blackford brings to them a careful examination of specific cases and a learned consideration of some of the key texts in classical liberal philosophy. Rigorous, readable, and on the side of the angels, Tyranny of Opinion represents the entry of one of our most thoughtful and talented public intellectuals into what is arguably the central cultural conflict of our day. * Daniel A. Kaufman, Professor of Philosophy, Missouri State University, USA *
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About Russell Blackford

Russell Blackford is a philosopher, legal scholar, literary critic based at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. He is the author of Freedom of Religion and the Secular State (2012), Humanity Enhanced (2014), The Mystery of Moral Authority (2016) and Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination (2017). In 2014, he was inducted as a Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism.
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Rating details

29 ratings
4.03 out of 5 stars
5 38% (11)
4 34% (10)
3 21% (6)
2 7% (2)
1 0% (0)
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