Thats Offensive

Criticism, Identity, Respect

Stefan Collini


4.25 x 7 inches, 82pp. February 2011

ISBN : 9781906497798

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It is becoming increasingly common to claim that the criticism of someone else’s deeply-held ideas or beliefs is ‘offensive’. This is reinforced by what are widely recognized as two of the central requirements of an enlightened global politics: first, treating all other people with equal respect; and second , trying to avoid words or deeds which threaten to compound existing disadvantages. As a result, the fact that people find criticism of their views offensive has come to be treated as a sufficient reason for blocking the expression or publication of such criticism.


In this powerfully argued Manifesto, Stefan Collini subjects these claims themselves to searching criticism. He identifies a confused form of relativism and a well-meaning kind of condescension at the heart of such current attitudes, and he suggests that one of the most profound ways in which we show our respect for other people is by treating them as capable of engaging in reasoned argument and discrimination; in other words, as equals in intellect and humanity. Collini’s argument is topical and controversial, addressing deep issues about identity and human agency. 

Stefan Collini has taught at the universities of Sussex and Cambridge, where he is professor of intellectual history and English literature. A frequent contributor to periodicals such as the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and the Nation, his books include Public Moralists (1991), English Pasts (1999) and, most recently, Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain (2006) and Common Reading: Critics, Historians, Publics (2008).


Manifestos of the 21st Century