Cover: Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration, from Harvard University PressCover: Mere Civility in HARDCOVER

Mere Civility

Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration

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Product Details


$46.50 • £37.95 • €42.00

ISBN 9780674545496

Publication Date: 01/02/2017


288 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


Penetrating and sophisticated.—James Ryerson, The New York Times Book Review

Impressive.—Scott Yenor, Claremont Review of Books

Mere Civility is centered in the years after the Reformation, when the emergence of myriad Protestant sects splintered communities across Western Europe. That splintering was magnified, just as in our own time, by the explosion of a new means of communication—the printing press—which allowed people who had never before had a public voice to spread their ideas far and wide. Invectives and broadsides were the order of the day, as members of different religious denominations fought for each other’s souls, and incivility became a central concern of political thought. I doubt that for most readers of Mere Civility, this account of social disarray in the Reformation years is a huge surprise. But by keeping a tight focus on the concept of civility, Bejan manages to make that old story feel new—or at least to draw new lessons from it, lessons that are particularly interesting within the context of contemporary political theory… [Mere Civility] does not purport to solve the problems of incivility, but it unknots them, making the nature of the problems—both in general and in this time of numbing nostalgia—more evident. 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.—Susan McWilliams, The Los Angeles Review of Books

A deeply admirable book: original, persuasive, witty, and eloquent. It is also admirably, bracingly, skeptical, in the best sense: the kind of liberal skepticism that we associate in political theory with Judith Shklar, Bernard Williams, and George Kateb.—Jacob T. Levy, Review of Politics

This carefully argued and documented volume documents three early modern understandings of civility, offering that of Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams, as a fitting response to our perceived crisis of civility.—J. H. Fritz, Choice

Bejan’s important book is beautifully written, cogently argued, and provocative. It foregrounds the matter of ‘civility’ with astute historical analysis of touchstone texts in political thought.—Jeffrey Collins, Queens University

Mere Civility is a terrific book—learned, vigorous, and challenging. Bejan makes Roger Williams the hero of this story and the thinker who provides a principled justification for America’s exceptional permissiveness toward ‘uncivil’ speech. Justifying the American status quo isn’t easy. Doing it with arguments that are often surprising is even harder.—Alison McQueen, Stanford University

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