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The Democratic University: The Role of Justice in the Production of Knowledge*

  • Elizabeth S. Anderson (a1)

What is the proper role of politics in higher education? Many policies and reforms in the academy, from affirmative action and a multicultural curriculum to racial and sexual harassment codes and movements to change pedagogical styles, seek justice for oppressed groups in society. They understand justice to require a comprehensive equality of membership: individuals belonging to different groups should have equal access to educational opportunities; their interests and cultures should be taken equally seriously as worthy subjects of study, their persons treated with equal respect and concern in communicative interaction. Conservative critics of these egalitarian movements represent them as dangerous political meddling into the disinterested pursuit of knowledge. They cast the pursuit of equality as a threat to freedom of speech and academic standards. In response, some radical advocates of such programs agree that the quest for equality clashes with free speech, but view this as an argument for sacrificing freedom of speech.

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1 See, for example, Bloom, Allan, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986); and D'Souza, Dinesh, Illiberal Education (New York: Free Press, 1991).

2 See, for example, Matsuda, Mari, Lawrence, Charles III, Delgado, Richard, and Crenshaw, Kimberle Williams, Words that Wound (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993).

3 Herzog, Don, Happy Slaves (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 173–74; Walzer, Michael, “Liberalism and the Art of Separation.” Political Theory, vol. 12 (1984), pp. 315–30.

4 Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty (London: J. W. Parker and Son, 1859).

5 See Bromwich, David, Politics by Other Means: Higher Education and Group Thinking (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992); D'Souza, , Illiberal Education; and Kimball, Roger, Tenured Radicals (New York: Harper and Row, 1990).

6 See, for instance, Drctske, Fred, Knowledge and the Flow of Information (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981), which takes the paradigm of communication to be between an instrument and an observer, not between people; Quine, W. V., “Epistemology Naturalized,” in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), which assumes that science should regard knowers as isolated organisms interacting with the world; and Bayesian theories in the philosophy of science, such as Earman, John, Bayes or Bust? (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), which define rational belief revision in strictly individualist terms.

7 The arguments and observations in this paragraph are indebted to Coady, C. A. J.'s fine book, Testimony (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

8 Longino, Helen, “Essential Tensions—Phase Two: Feminist, Philosophical, and Social Studies of Science,” in A Mind of One's Own, ed. Antony, L. and Witt, C. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993), p. 264.

9 See Kahneman, Daniel, Slovic, Paul, and Tversky, Amos, eds., Judgments under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

10 Solomon, Miriam. “Social Empiricism,” Noûs, vol. 28 (1994), pp. 325–43, has documented the influence of these biases in scientists' evaluations of the theory of continental drift.

11 Ibid., pp. 18–20. See also Longino, Helen, “Essential Tensions,” pp. 266–67.

12 Bennett, William, To Reclaim a Legacy (Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Humanities, 198–1); Symposium on the Great Books, Academic Questions (a publication of the National Association of Scholars), vol. 2 (1989); and Bloom, , The Closing of the American Mind.

13 Raditsa, Leo, “On Sustenance: Teaching and Learning the Great Works,” Academic Questions, vol. 2 (1989), pp. 3039 (arguing that “it is essential that the teacher subordinate himself … to the texts [of the great books],” p. 34).

14 See, for example, Rorty, Richard, “Feminism and Pragmatism,” Tanner Lectures in Human Values, vol. 13 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992), pp. 138; and Asante, Molefi K., The Afrocentric Idea (Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 1987).

15 See, for example. Hentoff, Nat, Free Speech for Me, but Not for Thee (New York: Harper-Collins, 1992); and Rauch, Jonathan, Kindly Inquisitors (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

16 See, for example, Sunstein, Cass, Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech (New York: Free Press, 1993); O'Neill, Onora, Constructions of Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), chs. 1–2; and Longino, , “Essential Tensions.”

17 Use of this model by civil libertarians does not imply that they also support free markets in commodities, as political libertarians do. Most civil libertarians are liberals, not political libertarians. My target is all libertarians, whether civil or political, who are attracted by a market model of free speech. In drawing attention to some of the disturbing implications of this model for speech, I aim to persuade liberal civil libertarians that the same reservations they typically have about free markets in commodities apply to free markets in speech. I also aim to persuade political libertarians that free markets in speech are not sufficient to ensure freedom of speech for all, and can even reinforce cultures inimical to free speech.

18 Mill, , On Liberty, ch. 2.

19 See Kahneman, , Slovic, , and Tversky, , Judgments under Uncertainty.

20 Scanlon, Thomas, “A Theory of Freedom of Expression,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 1 (1972), pp. 204–26.

21 Oliver Wendell Holmes, joined by Louis Brandeis, promoted the analogy most vividly: “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” And: “The ultimate good desired is better reached through free trade in ideas” Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 630, 616 (1919) (Holmes and Brandeis, dissenting).

22 See, for example, Hentoff, , Free Speech for Me, but Not for Thee, p. 152 (chiding “the Jacobins” for their lack of humor); Rauch, , Kindly Inquisitors, p. 130 (arguing that calls for civility lead people to “go into the business of professional offendedness”); and Taylor, John, “Are You Politically Correct?” in Are You Politically Correct?, ed. Beckwith, Francis and Bauman, Michael (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993), p. 23 (complaining that “joking isn't allowed!”).

23 Longino, , “Essential Tensions,” pp. 265–66.

24 This is not to defend “standpoint theory.” Standpoint theorists claim that the position of subordinate groups offers an epistemically privileged perspective on social phenomena. See Hartsock, Nancy, “The Feminist Standpoint,” in Feminism and Methodology, ed. Harding, S. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987). Our thoroughgoing epistemic interdependence implies that no particular subject position can claim epistemic privilege over all the rest. The argument for diversity need claim no more than symmetrical cognitive biases on everyone's part. If no one has a perfectly representative sample of experiences, and everyone generalizes from his or her own experiences, then everyone will be biased. If the research community consists of a demographically unrepresentative sample of people, biases will remain that can be corrected by expanding its representativeness, even if the new members are just as biased in their own way as the old ones are.

25 Morris, Aldon, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement (New York: Free Press, 1984).

26 See, for example, Bleier, Ruth, Science and Gender (New York: Pergamon, 1984); Tavris, Carol, The Mismeasure of Woman (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992); and Mac-Kinnon, Catharine, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).

27 Cohen, Joshua, “Freedom of Expression,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 22 (1993), pp. 215–17; Sunstein, , Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech, chs. 2, 3.

28 O'Neill, , Constructions of Reason, pp. 3031; Longino, , “Essential Tensions,” p. 267.

29 Hall, Roberta, “The Classroom Climate: A Chilly One for Women?” (Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges, 1982); Sadker, Myra and Sadker, David, Failing at Fairness (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994); Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, How Schools Shortchange Girls (Washington, DC: American Association of University Women, 1992); Becker, J. R., “Differential Treatment of Females and Males in Mathematics Classes.” Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, vol. 12 (1981), pp. 4053

30 Paludi, M. A. and Bauer, W. D., “Goldberg Revisited: What's in an Author's Name,” Sex Roles, vol. 9 (1983), pp. 287390.

31 Fidell, L. S., “Empirical Verification of Sex Discrimination in Hiring Practices in Psychology,” American Psychologist, vol. 25 (1970), pp. 1094–98.

32 Lefkowitz, M. R., “Education for Women in a Man's World,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 08 6, 1979, p. 56.

33 Sanders, Lynn, “Against Deliberation,” Political Theory (forthcoming).

34 Numerous surveys of other campuses reveal similar patterns across the country. See The National Council for Research on Women, To Reclaim a Legacy of Diversity (New York: NCRW, 1993), and the reports in each issue of The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

35 Matsuda, et al. , Words that Wound.

36 Taylor, Charles, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

37 Some of the most interesting cases of a free-market-driven abolition of civil society appeared in the nineteenth-century company towns of the United States. They embodied a culture of class-based inequality incompatible with the egalitarian demands of civil society. George Pullman, the owner of the company town Pullman, Illinois, owned all spaces of public and private association-including church buildings, schools, parks, businesses, municipal buildings, and houses-and asserted the property right to determine what went on in them. Company towns are a social order likely to return in the kind of free-market regime endorsed by political libertarians. On Pullman, see Walzer, Michael, Spheres of Justice (New York: Dasic Books, 1983), pp. 295–99.

38 Addelson, Kathryn, “The Man of Professional Wisdom,” in Discovering Reality, ed. Harding, S. and Hintikka, M. (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1983), pp. 165–86.

39 “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. …”

40 Gates, Henry Louis Jr., “Let Them Talk,” New Republic, 09 20 and 27, 1993, p. 45.

41 For example, Sadker, and Sadker, (in Failing at Fairness, pp. 4648) report that most teachers who are shown through videotapes how they pay more attention to boys than to girls are surprised and hurt to discover this fact about themselves. Most genuinely like their female students, and sincerely profess belief in the equality of the sexes. People are unaware of many of their habits, which can persist even when they do not cohere with consciously held beliefs and attitudes.

42 See Rawls, John, Political Liberalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 152 n. 16.

43 Chafe, William, Civilities ami Civil Rights (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).

44 See, for example, Wood, Gordon, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), ch. 15.

45 See Cohen, , “Freedom of Expression,” p. 203.

46 U.S. constitutional doctrine defines “fighting words” as speech that is not an essential part of the expression of ideas and that is so insulting that it provokes the average person to fight. Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. 315 U.S. 568 (1942).

47 This was the opinion Judge Avern Cohn correctly reached about the University of Michigan's student speech code in Doe v. Michigan, 721 F. Supp. 852 (E.D. Michigan, 1989).

48 Spray-painted on the office walls of an African-American student and secretary at the University of Colorado, Denver; see The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, vol. 1 (1993), p. 107.

49 Matsuda, et al. , Words that Wound. An Illinois law against group defamation was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343 U.S. 250 (1952). The “fighting words” doctrine is articulated in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942).

50 Gates, , “Let Them Talk,” pp. 3940.

51 Ibid., p. 49.

52 See Scanlon, . “A Theory of Freedom of Expression” (supra note 20).

* I thank David Hills, Don Herzog, Ellen Frankel Paul, Justin Schwartz, Cass Sunstein, and the other contributors to this volume for helpful comments.

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