Comparison Of Alexander Meiklejohn's Freedom Of Speech

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Alexander Meiklejohn was a philosopher and university lecturer although it is his legacy as an advocate of free speech which he is most known for. It is through his published work Free Speech (1948) and its Relation to Self Government that we can draw conclusions about his view on freedom of expression and democracy. Additionally we can contrast Meiklejohns views through further analysis of his model of the Town Hall debate and comparison with Jurgen Habermas (1964) and his theory of the Public Sphere which will be used to draw examples from. In both theories outlined by Meiklejohn and Habermas the relationship between freedom of speech and the acknowledgment of recognition in relation to democracy is outlined specifically and will be contrast opposingly to set fourth the notions of their arguments and theories as outlined.
The first point of mutual agreement that can de drawn upon relates to the people and their rights to themselves and others. Both Meiklejohn (1948) and Habermas (1964) mutually agreed upon the fact that democracy could not be achieved without acknowledging that each and every person has first and foremost a high degree of respect for each other. The need for mutual respect for one another can be seen at various times throughout their texts under closer inspection when analysizing their displayed arguments.

The second similarity between Meiklejohn (1948) and Habermas (1964) is that they both created spaces for political discussion unhindered by governmental influence. For Meiklejohn (1964) it is the real ‘town hall meeting model’ versus the imagined or physically unable to see ‘public sphere’ model by Habermas (1964). Further analysis of their theories on democracy and freedom of speech. In regards to the...

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...o not declare that any man may talk as he pleases, when he pleases, about what he pleases, to whom he pleases’. This implies that Meiklejohn (1948) does not support each and every individuals right to speak when they have something to say. Therefor this is a limitation on an individuals right of being an autonomous person in a self governed democracy. Like wise Schauer recognized the limitations of Meiklejohn’s (1948) theory of the town hall meeting:
To the extent that we support individual rights of expression, argument and criticism, we make claims inconsistent with a view of democracy founded on the absolute sovereignty of the people as a whole. (1982, p. 41)

This further supports the said limitation of Meiklejohn’s theory because as he states yes individuals have a right to speak but it is the people as a whole that a conclusion can be drawn Meiklejohn (1948).

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