Dr Teresa Bejan Writes Editorial for Washington Post Outlook

  • Mere Civility by Teresa Bejan
10 March, 2017

Dr Teresa Bejan's new book Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration, published with Harvard University Press, is making waves in the USA, where it is proving very topical in the current political climate.

Dr Bejan recently wrote an Editorial for the Washington Post's Outlook section in which she links the concept of 'mere civility' discussed in her book to current political discourse in the US. The Editorial, entitled: "You don’t have to be nice to political opponents. But you do have to talk to them" discusses the shift away from a traditional concept of civility in American politics under the new administration.

Although tempting for political opponents to fight fire with fire (or incivility with incivility), Dr Bejan argues that prosecuting incivility can lead to the silencing of all 'uncivil' speech and the shutting down of debate, thus increasing the alienation and sense of injustice felt by the 'perpetrators' of such speech. Dr Bejan does not call for the abandonment of civility altogether, but rather suggests that a certain type of civility - mere civility - is required to "keep the disagreement going, no matter how disagreeable, to continue the battle of words without resorting to swords".

This 'mere civility' is "the minimal, often grudging conformity to social norms of respectful behaviour needed to keep a conversation going", and it is this concept that Dr Bejan discusses at greater length in her new book.

Read Dr Bejan's full Editorial in the Washington Post here.