Political Civility: Another Idealistic Illusion

Public Affairs Quarterly 27 (4) (2013)
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This paper argues that political civility is actually an illusionistic ideal and that, as such, realism counsels that we acknowledge both its promise and peril. Political civility is, I will argue, a tension-filled ideal. We have good normative reasons to strive for and encourage more civil political interactions, as they model our acknowledgement of others as equal citizens and facilitate high-quality democratic problem-solving. But we must simultaneously be attuned to civility’s limitations, its possible pernicious side-effects, and its potential for strategic manipulation and oppressive abuse, particularly in contemporary, pluralistic and heterogeneous societies.

Author's Profile

Christopher Zurn
University of Massachusetts, Boston


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