Civility and Its Discontents

Civic Virtue, Toleration, and Cultural Fragmentation

Edited by Christine T. Sistare

Commentators in popular media and professional publications alike have decried the extent to which civility, civic virtue, tolerance, and socio-cultural unity have declined in modern liberal societies. In this volume, contributors from philosophy and political science discuss this dilemma while exploring the nature of civil society, the conflict between individual liberty and the common good, and the role of law and government policy in weaving the threads of the social fabric.

Here are provocative insights from such distinguished voices as Joan McGregor, Patricia Smith, and Wade Robison, integrating many of the key issues in contemporary political and legal philosophy while representing viewpoints ranging from Rawlsian liberalism to communitarianism, libertarianism to republicanism. All of the contributors share a dedication to fundamental liberal values and advocate respect for others, but they pointedly disagree on the practical implications of such beliefs for political and legal policy.

“A timely and interesting collection of papers organized around three themes—civil virtue, toleration, and cultural fragmentation. While the essays articulate a variety of perspectives, the writers share both a commitment to liberal ideals, and a concern that civility and tolerance are decreasing. . . . This is a book that addresses a very current problem within liberal societies, as well as suggesting areas worthy of further exploration. It is a volume that would be of interest to those concerned with the state of liberal democracies, and with the theoretical and moral commitments that underpin them.

—Philosophy in Review

“This work provides rhetorical scholars with a wealth of background material and several case studies on a wide range of controversial, contemporary issues.

—Argumentation and Advocacy
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While not unconcerned with private morality, these essays primarily address public issues—largely in an American context—including economic, legal, and political policies. They focus on the constituent elements of civility and civic virtue, problems surrounding civil rights and the promotion of tolerance, appropriate social and legal responses to increasing social fragmentation, and applied issues such as hate crimes, speech codes, and bad Samaritan laws.

Civility and Its Discontents is a lively collection in which readers will find stimulating debate over the requirements of good citizenship, the demarcation between public and private, and the accurate characterization of liberal democratic ideals and realities. It transcends current mass appeals to patriotism and civic responsibility by asking what it is to live in a truly civil society, forming a timely and accessible collection for students—and provocative reading for all interested in our collective future.