Summary of Is Civility a Sham?

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Is Civility a Sham? summary
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Picture a civil, tolerant society. Perhaps you imagine diverse people holding hands, swaying and singing “Kumbaya,” or simply see people ignoring disagreement and peacefully going about their own business. But a brief glimpse at history will assure you that diverse societies aren’t like that, have never been like that, and probably never will be. With some colorful language, political theorist Teresa Bejan provides insight for people who want to cultivate civility within diverse societies without surrendering their religious, political or cultural views.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why talk about civility is often uncivil,
  • How tolerant societies handle disagreement and
  • What the word “civility” truly means.  
 

About the Speaker

Teresa Bejan is an associate professor of political theory at the University of Oxford. She wrote Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration.

 

Summary

Appeals for civility are usually anything but civil. When someone makes a demand for civility or points out the incivility of their opponent, they’re attempting to claim the moral high ground, such that anyone who comes against them is immediately discredited. Talking about civility is often a “strategy of disengagement,” much like a child who says he’s taking his ball home with him when he starts to lose the game. Most talk about civility is a facade, but that doesn’t mean civility itself is a sham. Civility is a virtue, and a necessity in diverse, tolerant societies.


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