What Conversation? Free Speech and Defamation Law

24 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2010  

Andrew T. Kenyon

University of Melbourne Law School


Common rationales for free speech are offered in legal writing across many countries, even though their laws regulating speech differ markedly. This article suggests another way of thinking about speech, based on particular qualities of speech which help to explain why public speech – or at least public speech perceived as valuable for cultural, political or other purposes – is frequently thought of as a conversation. That often appears as the ideal, but a conversational conception can limit what is seen to be at stake in the control of speech. Instead of imagining public speech as open exchange that leads to agreement, here a slightly different vision is offered based more on the articulation of incommensurable world views and dissent. Implications of such an approach are considered for scholarly understanding, particularly of defamation law – an area of law commonly seen as important for the range and style of public speech.

Suggested Citation

Kenyon, Andrew T., What Conversation? Free Speech and Defamation Law. The Modern Law Review, Vol. 73, Issue 5, pp. 697-720, September 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1661421 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.2010.00815.x

Andrew T. Kenyon (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne Law School ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au/cmcl/

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