Theres No Such Thing As Free Speech: And Its a Good Thing, Too

Paperback | December 1, 1994

byStanley Fish

not yet rated|write a review
In an era when much of what passes for debate is merely moral posturing--traditional family values versus the cultural elite, free speech versus censorship--or reflexive name-calling--the terms "liberal" and "politically correct," are used with as much dismissive scorn by the right as"reactionary" and "fascist" are by the left--Stanley Fish would seem an unlikely lightning rod for controversy. A renowned scholar of Milton, head of the English Department of Duke University, Fish has emerged as a brilliantly original critic of the culture at large, praised and pilloried as avigorous debunker of the pieties of both the left and right. His mission is not to win the cultural wars that preoccupy the nation's attention, but rather to redefine the terms of battle. In There's No Such Thing as Free Speech, Fish takes aim at the ideological gridlock paralyzing academic and political exchange in the nineties. In his witty, accessible dissections of the swirling controversies over multiculturalism, affirmative action, canon revision, hate speech, and legalreform, he neatly eviscerates both the conservatives' claim to possession of timeless, transcendent values (the timeless transcendence of which they themselves have conveniently identified), and the intellectual left's icons of equality, tolerance, and non-discrimination. He argues that whileconservative ideologues and liberal stalwarts might disagree vehemently on what is essential to a culture, or to a curriculum, both mistakenly believe that what is essential can be identified apart from the accidental circumstances (of time and history) to which the essential is ritually opposed. In the book's first section, which includes the five essays written for Fish's celebrated debates with Dinesh D'Souza (the author and former Reagan White House policy analyst), Fish turns his attention to the neoconservative backlash. In his introduction, Fish writes, "Terms that come to us wearingthe label 'apolitical'--'common values', 'fairness', 'merit', 'color blind', 'free speech', 'reason'--are in fact the ideologically charged constructions of a decidedly political agenda. I make the point not in order to level an accusation, but to remove the sting of accusation from the world'politics' and redefine it as a synonym for what everyone inevitably does." Fish maintains that the debate over political correctness is an artificial one, because it is simply not possible for any party or individual to occupy a position above or beyond politics. Regarding the controversy over therevision of the college curriculum, Fish argues that the point is not to try to insist that inclusion of ethnic and gender studies is not a political decision, but "to point out that any alternative curriculum--say a diet of exclusively Western or European texts--would be no less politicallyinvested." In Part Two, Fish follows the implications of his arguments to a surprising rejection of the optimistic claims of the intellectual left that awareness of the historical roots of our beliefs and biases can allow us, as individuals or as a society, to escape or transcend them. Specifically, he turnsto the movement for reform of legal studies, and insists that a dream of a legal culture in which no one's values are slighted or declared peripheral can no more be realized than the dream of a concept of fairness that answers to everyone's notions of equality and jsutice, or a yardstick of meritthat is true to everyone's notions of worth and substance. Similarly, he argues that attempts to politicize the study of literature are ultimately misguided, because recharacterizations of literary works have absolutely no impact on the mainstream of political life. He concludes his critique of theacademy with "The Unbearable Ugliness of Volvos," an extraordinary look at some of the more puzzing, if not out-and-out masochistic, characteristics of a life in academia. Penetrating, fearless, and brilliantly argued, There's No Such Thing as Free Speech captures the essential Fish. It is must reading for anyone who cares about the outcome of America's cultural wars.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$23.24 online
$38.50 list price (save 39%)
Ships within 1-3 weeks
Ships free on orders over $25

From Our Editors

A vigorous debunker of the pieties of both the left and the right, Stanley Fish takes aim at the ideological gridlock paralyzing academic and political exchange in the nineties. Fish is Arts and Sciences Professor of English and Professor of Law at Duke University, and the author of many books

From the Publisher

In an era when much of what passes for debate is merely moral posturing--traditional family values versus the cultural elite, free speech versus censorship--or reflexive name-calling--the terms "liberal" and "politically correct," are used with as much dismissive scorn by the right as"reactionary" and "fascist" are by the left--Stanley...

Stanley Fish is Arts and Sciences Professor of English and Professor of Law at Duke University. A founder of Reader Response Theory, he is the author of many books, including Surprised by Sin, Self-Consuming Artifacts, Is There a Text in this Class?, and Doing What Comes Naturally.

other books by Stanley Fish

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One
How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One

Paperback|Aug 7 2012

$14.45 online$18.50list price(save 21%)
Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn't Work in Politics, the Bedroom, the Courtroom, and the…
Winning Arguments: What Works and Doesn't Work in Polit...

Hardcover|Jul 5 2016

$22.46 online$24.99list price(save 10%)
Is There a Text in this Class?: The Authority of Interpretive Communities
Is There a Text in this Class?: The Authority of Interp...

Paperback|Apr 15 1982

$41.60 online$42.50list price
see all books by Stanley Fish
Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.07 × 5.35 × 0.67 inPublished:December 1, 1994Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195093836

ISBN - 13:9780195093834

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of Theres No Such Thing As Free Speech: And Its a Good Thing, Too

Reviews

Extra Content

From Our Editors

A vigorous debunker of the pieties of both the left and the right, Stanley Fish takes aim at the ideological gridlock paralyzing academic and political exchange in the nineties. Fish is Arts and Sciences Professor of English and Professor of Law at Duke University, and the author of many books

Editorial Reviews

"By turns funny, savage, and sly--a brilliant and devastating indictment of first amendment orthodoxy."--Richard Delgado, Charles Inglis Thomson Professor of Law, University of Colorado School of Law