Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (3):639-655 (2019)

Paul Billingham
Oxford University
‘Transformative liberals’ believe that the state should use its non-coercive capacities to counter hateful speech and practices, by seeking to transform the views of those who hold hateful and discriminatory beliefs. This paper critically assesses transformative liberalism, with a particular focus on the theory developed by Corey Brettschneider. For Brettschneider, the state should engage in ‘democratic persuasion’ by speaking out against views that are incompatible with the ideal of free and equal citizenship, and refusing to fund or subsidise civil society groups that hold such views. My critique has five parts. I first rebut two central justifications for transformative liberalism, regarding complicity and the undermining of equal citizenship. Second, I show that some of the central policies that Brettschneider advocates are in fact coercive. Third, I raise concerns about the nature of the complex and contestable judgments that transformative liberalism requires the state to make. Fourth, I argue that Brettschneider’s view has various troubling implications. Finally, I argue that many of these problems derive from his adoption of a thick conception of free and equal citizenship, resulting in an overly broad definition of hateful viewpoints and of hate speech. A defensible version of transformative liberalism would use a significantly narrower conception.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10677-019-10001-1
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.
Liberalism Without Perfection.Jonathan Quong - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
Liberalism’s Religion.Cécile Laborde (ed.) - 2017 - Harvard University Press.
On Complicity and Compromise.Chiara Lepora - 2013 - Oxford University Press.

View all 16 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

On Racist Hate Speech and the Scope of a Free Speech Principle.Mary Kate McGowan & Ishani Maitra - 2009 - Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 23 (2):343-372.
Does Freedom of Speech Include Hate Speech?Caleb Yong - 2011 - Res Publica 17 (4):385-403.
Dignity, Harm, and Hate Speech.Robert Mark Simpson - 2013 - Law and Philosophy 32 (6):701-728.


Added to PP index

Total views
76 ( #150,373 of 2,498,995 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
10 ( #72,987 of 2,498,995 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes