The Freedom to Listen

Friday, October 1, 2021 12:00 pm EST

Beyond recognizing the inherent importance of public discourse to democracy, a reckoning must be made that listening itself constitutes discourse as much as does speech — that in formulations such as free expression, the incessant equation of speech with discourse, conversation and discussion, obscures the fact that there is no speaking without listening. To listen is to participate in politics, to cooperate with diverse others and bend one’s ear in order to listen. In this historical moment, at a time of ceaseless violence and rising authoritarianism, speech without listening is increasingly dangerous. Without actual listening, the ability for engaged deliberation erodes and our capacity to discern a common good disappears. How do we get there from here?