No catches, no fine print just unadulterated book loving, with your favourite books saved to your own digital bookshelf.
New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop Plus lots lots more…Find out more
A New Statesman Best Book of the Year A Church Times Book of the Year We are facing a crisis of civility, a war of words polluting our public sphere. In liberal democracies committed to tolerating active, often heated disagreement, the loss of this virtue appears critical. Most modern appeals to civility follow arguments by Hobbes or Locke by proposing to suppress disagreement or exclude views we deem uncivil for the sake of social harmony. By comparison, mere civility-a grudging conformity to norms of respectful behavior-as defended by Rhode Island's founder, Roger Williams, might seem minimal and unappealing. Yet Teresa Bejan argues that Williams's outlook offers a promising path forward in confronting our own crisis, one that challenges our fundamental assumptions about what a tolerant-and civil-society should look like. Penetrating and sophisticated. -James Ryerson, New York Times Book Review Would that more of us might learn to look into the past with such gravity and humility. We might end up with a more (or mere) civil society, yet. -Los Angeles Review of Books A deeply admirable book: original, persuasive, witty, and eloquent. -Jacob T. Levy, Review of Politics A terrific book-learned, vigorous, and challenging. -Alison McQueen, Stanford University
Today, politicians and intellectuals warn that we face a crisis of civility and a veritable war of words polluting our public sphere. In liberal democracies committed to tolerating diversity as well as active, often heated disagreement, the loss of this conversational virtue appears critical. But is civility really a virtue? Or is it, as critics claim, a covert demand for conformity that silences dissent? Mere Civility sheds light on our predicament and the impasse between civilitarians and their opponents by examining early modern debates about religious toleration. As concerns about uncivil disagreement achieved new prominence after the Reformation, seventeenth-century figures as different as Roger Williams, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke could agree that some restraint on the war of words would be necessary. But they recognized that the prosecution of incivility was often difficult to distinguish from persecution. In their efforts to reconcile diversity with disagreement, they developed competing conceptions of civility as the social bond of tolerant societies that still resonate. Most modern appeals to civility follow either Hobbes or Locke by proposing to suppress disagreement or exclude persons and positions deemed uncivil for the sake of social concord. Compared with his contemporaries' more robust ideals, Williams's unabashedly mere civility--a minimal, occasionally contemptuous adherence to culturally contingent rules of respectful behavior--is easily overlooked. Yet Teresa Bejan argues that Williams offers a promising path forward in confronting our own crisis of civility, one that fundamentally challenges our assumptions about what a tolerant--and civil--society should look like.