Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media.

AuthorKapp, Marshall

Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media

By Jacob Mchangama

Reviewed by Marshall Kapp

Danish attorney and think tank scholar Jacob Mchangama has produced in Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media a potential antidote to our ignorance about the past social and political ramifications of speech oppression: a convincing historical account that demonstrates in detail the continuous, unstable ebb and flow of the freedom of expression concept, as both an abstract philosophical idea and a tangible legal and political practice, during recorded time from (as the subtitle accurately suggests) ancient Greece to contemporary times. The range of Mchangama's intellectual investigation is geographically and culturally ambitious; discussion of the American approach is an important part, but only part, of a comprehensive investigation that reviews and reflects on an enormous and lengthy worldwide experience.

The story of free speech as revealed by the author is not one of steady evolutionary progress guided by a predetermined "end ofhistory" arc bending inevitably in the liberal direction. Instead, there has always been a tendency toward "free speech entropy." Various national entities have sometimes produced bright but limited (in both time and scope) pockets of tolerance, but also long and bloody periods of aggressive persecution by overt or tacit alliances of religious and political rulers, in de facto partnerships of throne and altar, warring against unwelcome individual expressions of nonconformity...

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