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Speech Rights in America The First Amendment, Democracy, and the Media by Laura Stein

Speech Rights in America The First Amendment, Democracy, and the Media

Part of the History of Communication Series


Speech Rights in America The First Amendment, Democracy, and the Media by Laura Stein

Why the First Amendment fails to protect speech rights and what to do about it The First Amendment is the principle guarantor of speech rights in the United States, but the court\u2019s interpretations of it often privilege the interests of media owners over those of the broader citizenry. In Speech Rights in America, Laura Stein argues that such rulings prevent the First Amendment from performing its critical role as a protector of free speech, alienate citizens from their rights, and corrupt the essential workings of democracy. Stein locates the source of clashes over First Amendment interpretations in the differing views of neoliberal and participatory democratic theory on the meaning of rights and the role of communication in democratic processes. Drawing on the best of the liberal democratic tradition, she develops a systematic and concise definition of democratic speech and compares this definition to legal understandings of speech rights in contemporary media law. She demonstrates that there is a significant gap between First Amendment law and the speech rights necessary to democratic communication, and proposes an alternative set of principles to guide future judicial, legislative, and cultural policy on old and new media.


A forceful and intellectually comprehensive argument that the First Amendment should be a positive, not simply a negative, guarantee that empowers and perhaps obliges government to protect the public ends of free expression. . . . Stein brings a breadth of perspectives and material to the subject that few, if any, have managed to do. Her book is an original and important contribution to our understanding of free expression in America. --Randall P. Bezanson, author of How Free Can the Press Be? An important work, offering sophisticated yet engaging analyses of First Amendment law and the media landscape in which we find ourselves in the United States. --Matthew Bunker, Reese Phifer Professor of Journalism, University of Alabama

About the Author

Laura Stein is an assistant professor of communication at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st October 2007


Laura Stein

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University of Illinois Press


184 pages


Constitutional & administrative law

Political science & theory



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