Ceridwen Spark reviews 'The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the future of liberalism' by Russell Blackford

Ceridwen Spark reviews 'The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the future of liberalism' by Russell Blackford

The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the future of liberalism

by Russell Blackford

Bloomsbury, $43.99 pb, 256 pp, 9781350056008

Recently I was speaking with a friend about the impact of the #MeToo movement on gender politics and the implications for male academics. He suggested that there are only two speaking positions for men. The first is as a cheerleader from the sidelines. The second is as a critic, offering challenges or raising questions. But, he said, for those who would like to be viewed as politically left, the first is the only real option, because the second entails too many risks. Chief among these is the likelihood of being labelled a dinosaur with a vested interest in defending the patriarchy. Men on the conservative side of politics may be willing to wear such charges, but those who are more liberal understandably are cautious about risking the damage to their reputations that raising questions about feminist orthodoxies may imply.

The dilemma inherent in this example – namely the risk of exploring views that deviate from current, accepted norms – lies at the heart of Russell Blackford’s The Tyranny of Opinion: Conformity and the future of liberalism. Though not focused specifically on contemporary discussions about gender equity, the book explores arguments of relevance for debates on this hot topic, as well as those relating to the politics of religion and identity, including racial identity. Accessibly written and well-structured, it offers an excellent overview of the complex issues at stake when we talk about freedom of speech and the ways in which civility, privacy, and personal stability are undermined by call-out culture and social media.

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Published in March 2019, no. 409
Ceridwen Spark

Ceridwen Spark

Ceridwen Spark is a Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Global Research at RMIT University. Most of her research is about gender and social change, with a particular emphasis on Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

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