Free Speech and the State

An Unprincipled Approach

  • David van Mill

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. David van Mill
    Pages 1-6
  3. David van Mill
    Pages 7-37
  4. David van Mill
    Pages 79-117
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 119-122

About this book


This book addresses the question: “What should be the appropriate limits to free speech?” The author claims that it is the state, rather than abstract principles, that must provide the answer. The book defends a version of Hobbesian absolutism and rejects the dominant liberal idea that there is a right (human or civil) setting the boundaries of free speech. This liberal view can be known as the “principled defence of free speech”, in which speech is established as a constitutional principle that has priority over the state. The author instead offers an “unprincipled approach to free speech”, suggesting that the boundaries of speech must necessarily be set by the state, which in liberal democracies means through social and political contestation. The final chapter applies the argument to the topic of hate speech and argues that it is appropriate to limit such speech when it causes harm and offense. The book will be of use to students and scholars across political theory, political science, sociology, philosophy and law. 


limits to free speech free speech as a human right state control of free speech Hobbesian absolutism civil right to free speech principled defence of free speech social impacts of free speech political impact of free speech political philosophy political theory hate speech censorship of free speech prohibition of hate speech philosophy of Hobbes

Authors and affiliations

  • David van Mill
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Western Australia NedlandsAustralia

Bibliographic information