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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the most important book I've read for ages
"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"...
Published on 28 Oct 2011 by Jan Bowman

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just awful, a waste of my life and my money. Very annoyed
Furedi doesn't half write some tripe. The only consistency is in his typos and horrendous use of the English language - has he never heard of spellcheck ? It makes for really hard reading at times, as does the thin rhetoric and let's make no mention of his outdated arguments (political correctness, yawn heard it all before).
Published 7 months ago by S


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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
By 
Jan Bowman - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On Tolerance: The Life Style Wars: A Defence of Moral Independence (Hardcover)
"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. Nowadays we accept that an unkind word can hurt you as much as a blow to the head. Yet what's missing from this viewpoint is the notion that you have a choice in how you respond to an unpleasant remark. And how you respond is what matters; the words themselves are merely words. The fact that we can choose whether to be offended or not, that our response, rather than the words themselves, is a matter of free choice and the only thing that counts, has been forgotten.

Furedi details the connection between bans on free speech and the loss of our moral independence. He takes up identity politics, hate speech, Holocaust denial, the Rushdie affair, evolutionary psychology, and umpteen weasel arguments for denying free speech to those whose views we detest in favour of some spurious notion about redefining tolerance to protect the vulnerable.

Furedi shows that `tolerance' today has come to mean a refusal to have an opinion, a sort of self-muzzling of the mind. In fact, true tolerance means we have to make moral judgements; and the most difficult one is the one that accepts people's right to voice repellent opinions. He also makes an important point about how today we don't allow others the benefit of the doubt; if someone says something we find repulsive, we are much more ready nowadays to shun them as entirely beyond the pale, rather than to a) argue back b) give them the benefit of the doubt. But true tolerance does mean giving people the benefit of the doubt.

This book should be required reading in schools, let alone public institutions and anywhere that unequal power relationships exist between people.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly tolerant societies allow the expression of intolerant speech, 28 Nov 2011
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This review is from: On Tolerance: The Life Style Wars: A Defence of Moral Independence (Hardcover)
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.

Furedi is a sociologist who is happy to live with unfettered dissent or social conflict as long as no voices are ever silenced and differences are always expressed freely.His trenchant cultural critique of our contemporary malaise is imbued with undoubted moral courage.This alone should make the reading of this book an urgent political duty.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frightening, 19 Mar 2012
By 
Philip Inman (Debrecen, Hungary) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On Tolerance: The Life Style Wars: A Defence of Moral Independence (Hardcover)
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. As a rationalist, he is outraged by what people say. But that is only the start. We want to know who they are that use this language of offended rights, why they say what they say, and how this affects their social and productive relationships. Is this linguistic pathology confined to the English language or is it a manifestation of one of Noam Chomsky's absolutes? What have Chinese or Japanese philosphers got to say on the subject, or maybe the bushmen of South-West Africa? Meandering round departments of sociology in England and North America, as they sink into Spenglerian twilight, is hardly the basis for an universal theory. Furedi needs to answer Lenin's question "who, whom?" Moreover, he should face the question of whether or not the New Toleration is the negation of the earlier bourgeois Toleration, dating from the time of the Enlightenment, and, if so, what is going to emerge when the negation is itself negated. In other words, we need a bit of Marxist analysis.

So I strongly urge all readers to buy Professor Furedi's book, ponder it and encourage him to further efforts. How those efforts could best be applied is another matter. According to his biographical details, Frank Furedi was born in Budapest, so he has already drawn a winning ticket in the lottery of life. He might feel he could do more good by introducing the Enlightenment to the countrymen of his birth, who have never known it, rather than trying to resurrect it among the academics of his adoptive culture, who discovered the Enlightenment, and then lost it. Perhaps he has already started.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just awful, a waste of my life and my money. Very annoyed, 25 Nov 2013
This review is from: On Tolerance: The Life Style Wars: A Defence of Moral Independence (Hardcover)
Furedi doesn't half write some tripe. The only consistency is in his typos and horrendous use of the English language - has he never heard of spellcheck ? It makes for really hard reading at times, as does the thin rhetoric and let's make no mention of his outdated arguments (political correctness, yawn heard it all before).
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