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On Tolerance: The Life Style Wars: A Defence of Moral Independence [Hardcover]

Frank Furedi
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 Aug 2011
Outwardly, we live in an era that appears more open-minded, non-judgemental and tolerant than in any time in human history. The very term intolerant invokes moral condemnation. We are constantly reminded to understand the importance of respecting different cultures and diversities. In this pugnacious new book, Frank Furedi argues that despite the democratisation of public life and the expansion of freedom, society is dominated by a culture that not only tolerates but often encourages intolerance. Often the intolerance is directed at people who refuse to accept the conventional wisdom and who are stigmatised as 'deniers'. Frequently intolerance comes into its own in clashes over cultural values and lifestyles. People are condemned for the food they eat, how they parent and for wearing religious symbols in public. This book challenges the 'quiet mood of tolerance' towards morally stigmatised forms of behaviors. The author examines recent forms of 'unacceptable behaviour'. It will tease out the real motives and drivers of intolerance.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum (18 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441120106
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441120106
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 14.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Furedi gives his readers an in-depth analysis and (hopefully) ultimate understanding of all things on the tolerance radar. --The Bookbag

About the Author

Frank Furedi is Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He is the author of numerous books including Culture of Fear, Invitation to Terror and Paranoid Parenting, all published by Continuum.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the most important book I've read for ages 28 Oct 2011
"One regrettable consequence of the belief that intolerance towards harmful speech is necessary to protect minorities and the vulnerable is that movements that have traditionally supported free speech have switched sides"

When my sisters or I used to whinge about perceived slights and insults, my mother would soothe us with the mantra: "rise above it, dear". Furedi's book expresses the humane core at the heart of that remark. It's sad and telling that you never hear such an expression used today.

On Tolerance is timely and important. As, it seems, with all Furedi's books, it's liberally peppered with typos and grammatical errors; but these irritating distractions aren't enough to spoil his argument.

Furedi starts from the position that society has to allow people to make their own mistakes. Yes, we all make truly awful decisions sometimes; but without the moral autonomy to freely choose the path we want to take through life, we might as well be beasts. Notwithstanding the problems and heartbreak it causes, this independence is essential for us to become truly human.

Yet today, we accept the view that humanity is in permanent need of protection from itself. We invite rules and regulations into our private lives that would have been unthinkable in the past. From parenting to sexual health to what we eat and drink to what we say, we willingly allow governments to step in and dictate how we should behave.

Likewise, the old motto that `sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you', has been well and truly abandoned. Today self-censorship is the norm, and the notion of `zero tolerance' for offensive speech or behaviour is mainstream. We shy away from voicing strong opinions and disagreements in case they offend someone.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By docread
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Tolerance has become a slippery notion full of paradoxes.It has mutated from a permission concept to a respect or esteem concept without discernment ,thus neutralizing any form of moral judgement.Furedi's task is to pare it down to it's essential core which is the promotion of freedom of speech.As a radical exponent of the libertarian ideal best articulated by J S Mill ,he upholds absolute freedom of speech without equivocation and rejects any form of censorship even of intolerant views and spiteful offensive speech as long as it doesn't lead to physical harm.He insists on the primacy of personal autonomy which he calls moral independence over and above any other sacred principles cherished by our unequal diverse societies particularly equity & security.

The text contains a powerful indictment of identity politics and it's constant preoccupation with group injury.In a highly charged rhetoric the author exhorts us to eschew the vacuous expressions of "politically correct speech" and invites us to resist the continuous encroachment of Governments, with their therapeutic patronising efforts , to regulate private behaviour.One may not necessarily agree with all his views but his book is an important contribution to the contemporary debate about freedom of opinion starting with the strident freedom of the Press that allows it on the one hand to uncover and report the abuses and moral flaws of those who hold political or economic power, but at the same time advocates any means "to obtain a story" through intrusive harassment and callous trespass over private lives or the spreading of malevolent rumours.The author in this context would reject the drawing of any line and would vehemently object to any form of regulation.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frightening 19 Mar 2012
For readers who have lost touch with academia, or never were in touch with it, or are living on a different planet, this book comes as something of a revelation. Frank Furedi, for all his impeccable Marxist-Leninist credentials as founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party, comes across as an Eighteenth Century enlightened rationalist who, taking form as the shade of his philosophical mentor, John Locke, escorts the reader sorrowfully through the intellectual inferno that is the modern canon of sociology. His main theme, which he reiterates several times, is that the idea of toleration espoused by liberal thinkers since the Enlightenment, namely that the truth emerges in the heat and dust of uninhibited debate, has been transformed into an absolute prohibition on passing judgement on anything that could cause offence or loss of self-esteem to anyone who might be listening. Furedi examines various aspects of this new morality before returning in the final chapter to a defence of toleration in its original sense. However, he never makes clear the distinction between courtesy in debate and intellectual freedom, almost as if "rudeness is good" serves to purge inhibitions in philosophy, in the way that "greed is good" is supposed to purge one's inhibitions in economics. But that is where the worship of reason gets you: it closes your eyes to the fact that fundamental human relations are not based on reason, but on contradictory emotions, such as love and hatred, the desire to be together, and the desire to be apart. Professor Furedi is the sociologist. Maybe his philosophy embraces the limits to rationality, only he does not have space to mention it in the book.

One hopes this book will be the first in a series. What Professor Furedi has identified is a pathology of the language.
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