(Half Graduate Course taught as part of the Princeton-Humboldt Strategic Partnership)

Taught by Anna-Bettina Kaiser, Jan-Werner Müller, and Silvia von Steinsdorff

Free speech and academic freedom have been subject to major controversies in both the US and Germany in recent years.  In this interdisciplinary course, we examine the general normative underpinnings of free speech and the different forms that the legal (and specifically constitutional) operationalization of free speech has taken in the United States and Europe, Germany in particular. The US and Germany are often taken as paradigmatic examples of a more libertarian versus a “dignitarian” approach to free speech: we investigate to what extent that contrast is justified; we also ask how these traditions of thinking about free speech have evolved.  We also inquire how free speech relates to academic freedom (today, they are often equated), and how both, in turn, relate to democracy.  Finally, especially in the US, freedom of assembly appears to be a relatively neglected basic communicative right: it is often confused with freedom of association; according to many critics, it also has been subject to increasing restrictions.  Is the right more protected in Germany, as some might think?  In any case, which normative and legal arguments do European courts make for the importance of freedom of assembly?

At the end of the course, students will be familiar with a range of crucial debates at the intersection of political and legal theory.  They will also have a sense of different approaches to these debates in Europe and the United States.  Lastly, they will be able effectively to draw on some of the key findings of scholars working in the area of comparative constitutional law and comparative politics.


Grading Requirement: Papers 100%.  Students may either write three 7-10 page papers (double-spaced) or one 20-25 page paper (double-spaced).  All papers are due on Dean’s date.

Students are also expected to give one short presentation (15 minutes maximum) on questions and texts specified. Presentations should highlight the main arguments of a text and, if possible, offer a brief judgment on them; they should also include some suggestions for questions to be discussed in the seminar (presentations do not form part of the grade).  Ideally, presentations will be undertaken by transatlantic teams.

Semester: SoSe 2024