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Corey Brettschneider’s New Book on “Value Democracy”

Princeton University Press has released Corey Brettschneider’s new book, When the State Speaks, What Should It Say? How Democracies Can Protect Expression and Promote Equality.

Corey Brettschneider is Professor of Political Science at Brown University. In 2007, he published Democratic Rights: The Substance of Self-Government (Princeton UP), in which he developed a value-based account of democracy, that incorporates both procedural and substantive values, and, like the Habermasian thesis of the co-originality of democracy and Rechtsstaat, tries to resolve the tension between proceduralism and substantive individual rights. The three core values which underlie Brettschneider’s value democracy are political autonomy, equality of interests, and reciprocity.

In this new book he elaborates further the value democracy, explaining how it would respond to the problem of hate speech and discriminatory viewpoints. He takes a third, middle way approach, between the two opposite approaches of “prohibitionism” (Waldron) and “neutralism” (Dworkin) that we saw in this debate, and argues for the obligation of liberal democratic state to engage in “democratic persuasion”.


How should a liberal democracy respond to hate groups and others that oppose the ideal of free and equal citizenship? The democratic state faces the hard choice of either protecting the rights of hate groups and allowing their views to spread, or banning their views and violating citizens’ rights to freedoms of expression, association, and religion. Avoiding the familiar yet problematic responses to these issues, political theorist Corey Brettschneider proposes a new approach called value democracy. The theory of value democracy argues that the state should protect the right to express illiberal beliefs, but the state should also engage in democratic persuasion when it speaks through its various expressive capacities: publicly criticizing, and giving reasons to reject, hate-based or other discriminatory viewpoints.

Distinguishing between two kinds of state action–expressive and coercive–Brettschneider contends that public criticism of viewpoints advocating discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation should be pursued through the state’s expressive capacities as speaker, educator, and spender. When the state uses its expressive capacities to promote the values of free and equal citizenship, it engages in democratic persuasion. By using democratic persuasion, the state can both respect rights and counter hateful or discriminatory viewpoints. Brettschneider extends this analysis from freedom of expression to the freedoms of religion and association, and he shows that value democracy can uphold the protection of these freedoms while promoting equality for all citizens.

Table of Contents:


Averting Two Dystopias
An Introduction to Value Democracy [PDF]

Chapter One
The Principle of Public Relevance and Democratic Persuasion
Value Democracy’s Two Guiding Ideas

Chapter Two
Publicly Justifiable Privacy and Reflective Revision by Citizens

Chapter Three
When the State Speaks, What Should It Say?
Democratic Persuasion and the Freedom of Expression [Article version]

Chapter Four
Democratic Persuasion and State Subsidy

Chapter Five
Religious Freedom and the Reasons for Rights [Article version]

Value Democracy at Home and Abroad



  • Brettschneider discusses the book with Glenn Loury in this video from bloggingheads.
  • Virginia Held (City University of New York, Graduate School) reviews the book in Notre Dame Philosophical Review.
  • Robert Talisse interviews Brettschneider at New Book in Philosophy.