Democratic Formation as the Response to a Growing Cancel Culture

Sigri M. Gaïni

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There is an ongoing discussion among scholars as well as among the public about whether liberal democracies should have laws against hate speech. Proponents of hate speech laws argue that these laws play a crucial part in liberal democracies since they help ensure the protection of basic rights, such as every citizen being treated equally with respect. Opponents of hate speech laws, on the other hand, argue that hate speech laws are a threat to freedom of (political) speech and that, hence, these laws are illegitimate in a liberal democracy. I argue that hate speech laws can actually work both as a protection for minority groups, while at the same time also as a defence against unreasonable demands for restrictions on (political) speech. Further, I argue that laws against hate speech are an expression of democratic formation, meaning that the respect for, and protection of, minorities should be an inherent part of an enlightened and educated modern democracy. I present an argument from democratic formation, which builds on foundational pillars of democracy such as dignity, civility, equality, and critical thinking. I hold that phenomena like cancel culture and ‘extreme political correctness’ are a result of a tendency towards the decline of democratic formation in modern society in general – something, which springs from, inter alia, decades of a growing focus on technological development, while at the same time a decreasing focus on critical thinking in the educational system.
TidsskriftATHENA - Critical Inquiries in Law, Philosophy and Globalization
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)47-73
StatusUdgivet - 6 jul. 2023


  • democratic formation
  • liberal democracy
  • Freedom of speech
  • hate speech
  • cancel culture
  • democratic principles

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