Contextualizing the “Marketplace of Ideas” in Libraries


“The marketplace of ideas” is frequently invoked in debates concerning the merits of free, unrestricted speech; as social and information centres of their communities, libraries are often implicated in these debates. If we suppose that libraries are supporters of civic debate, what does it mean to take the “free market of ideas” as the principle by which the free speech debate is organized? This paper contextualizes the tendency to imagine the public sphere as a free market in ideas within jurisprudence and the neoliberal arts of government, consulting democratic theory to question which frameworks libraries might draw from to reimagine their contribution to the public sphere.

Keywords: civic space; democracy; free speech; markets; neoliberalism

Research Articles