Why Societies Need Dissent

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 2003 - Political Science - 246 pages
3 Reviews

In this timely book, Cass R. Sunstein shows that organizations and nations are far more likely to prosper if they welcome dissent and promote openness. Attacking "political correctness" in all forms, Sunstein demonstrates that corporations, legislatures, even presidents are likely to blunder if they do not cultivate a culture of candor and disclosure. He shows that unjustified extremism, including violence and terrorism, often results from failure to tolerate dissenting views. The tragedy is that blunders and cruelties could be avoided if people spoke out.

Sunstein casts new light on freedom of speech, showing that a free society not only forbids censorship but also provides public spaces for dissenters to expose widely held myths and pervasive injustices. He provides evidence about the effects of conformity and dissent on the federal courts. The evidence shows not only that Republican appointees vote differently from Democratic appointees but also that both Republican and Democratic judges are likely to go to extremes if unchecked by opposing views. Understanding the need for dissent illuminates countless social debates, including those over affirmative action in higher education, because diversity is indispensable to learning.

Dissenters are often portrayed as selfish and disloyal, but Sunstein shows that those who reject pressures imposed by others perform valuable social functions, often at their own expense. This is true for dissenters in boardrooms, churches, unions, and academia. It is true for dissenters in the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court. And it is true during times of war and peace.

  

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Review: Why Societies Need Dissent (Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures)

User Review  - Ann Michael - Goodreads

I think this book is brilliant. It's clear enough that the layperson can understand some challenging statistical and psycho-social research; Sunstein's argument is pretty sound (and based a bit on the ... Read full review

Review: Why Societies Need Dissent (Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures)

User Review  - Vegard Pettersen - Goodreads

I may be overly critical in my rating. The book starts out well and with good intentions, but the author's background is in law and not in psychology, and my impression is that he lacks perspective in ... Read full review

Contents

DOING WHAT OTHERS DO
14
OBEYING AND DISOBEYING THE LAW
39
TRAVELING IN HERDS
54
WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS THINK?
74
FREE SPEECH
96
THE LAW OF GROUP POLARIZATION
111
THE FRAMERS GREATEST CONTRIBUTION
145
ARE JUDGES CONFORMISTS TOO?
166
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IN HIGHER EDUCATION
194
WHY DISSENT?
209
NOTES
215
INDEX
240
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

Cass R. Sunstein is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University.

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