Throughout history, human freedom has been one of the most challenging inspirations of people. People have fought for political freedom, slaves fought for their freedom, and women fought for equality. However, it is difficult to provide a concise definition of human freedom. In simple terms, freedom refers to the ability to do whatever one needs at any time. However, an individual’s freedom may be harmful to other people. This raises the question as to why one should be allowed to act in a way that violates the freedom of others. Therefore, freedom is a very abstract idea that it is difficult to define it accurately and precisely. Therefore, it is impossible for one to be completely free. An individual’s freedom may be another person’s restriction. Freedom of expression is one of the major fundamental rights of any contemporary society. It is not simply a privilege. From a sociological perspective freedom of speech is as a result of individualization due to the division and specialization of labor (Melkonian, 2012).
Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental freedoms of any modern society. Modern societies have high level of individuation and decreased shared ideas. Emile Durkheim is one of the scholars that has studied the concept of freedom extensively. Freedom of speech is vital in consensus building. Durkheim highlighted classical concepts that relate to the division of labor. He claims that division of labor increases individuation and reduction in shared beliefs. This increases the social need for freedom of expression. Reduction in shared beliefs make it difficult for economic, political, and social decisions to be made without freedom of expression. Durkheim’s theory focuses on the role of division of labor on freedom of expression. Jurgen Habermas builds on Durkheim’s theory to develop a contemporary theory on freedom of expression. He claims that the need for consensus building is one of the major factors that influence freedom of expression. Combining the concepts of freedom of the two scholars helps in the formulation of a model of freedom of speech that is not influenced by the prevailing legal or philosophical theories (Melkonian, 2012).
Durkheim’s classical theories are still relevant in the contemporary world. Durkheim predicted that increase in the division of labor would increase civil remedies instead criminal remedies for similar types of offenses. This is due to the fact that criminal laws are generally violations of community values. On the other hand, private remedies mainly focused on violations that injured an individual instead of the community. Increase in division of labor reduced commonly held beliefs. This increased the treatment of public crimes as private crimes. In the contemporary world, there has been a significant decrease in criminal defamation and a significant increase in private defamation remedies (Warburton, 2009).
Freedom of expression in the internet age is one of the most debated topics in the contemporary world. The theoretical foundations of freedom of expression in the internet age are mainly focused on legal and philosophical analysis. However, traditional theories on freedom of speech cannot explain modern concepts of freedom of speech sufficiently. This is due to the fact that they are unable to explain freedom of speech beyond the individual. Application of sociology theory would help in explaining freedom of speech in the 21st century. Freedom of speech is vital in any society. Lack of an expansive freedom of expression would make it impossible for a society to function effectively. In the context of sociological theory, freedom of expression is not simply an individual privilege it is a right that every individual should have. Freedom of expression is a cause and consequence of the social systems of a society. It is caused by individualization, which results from the specialization and division of labor. Despite the fact that sociology may not help in providing a conclusive explanation of the virtues of freedom of speech, it shows that freedom of speech is vital for the efficient functioning of any society. As society becomes a group of autonomous individuals that perform specific roles, it is vital for a communication mechanism to be in existence. Otherwise, the society would not function effectively. Freedom of expression is critical for the efficient functioning of any democracy. Presidential elections highlight the freedom of expression. Presidential aspirants may communicate differing views to woo voters. Totalitarian regimes such as North Korea do not have freedom of speech. Evolution of the freedom of expression has led to the reduction in criminal libel laws in modern societies such as the U.K. and U.S. The shift of modern societies from their agrarian past to industrial societies has made the societies replace criminal libel with tort of civil libel as the most efficient remedy that would help in balancing speech (Melkonian, 2012).
Any modern society should have freedom of expression. This is due to the fact that people in modern societies are autonomous. Freedom of expression facilitates consensus building. As such, freedom of expression is critical in individualistic societies. Most modern societies are individualistic according to the Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory.