Fellow in Politics Dr Teresa Bejan has recently published her new book, "Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration" with Harvard University Press.
Dr Bejan's book addresses the question of the so-called 'crisis of civility' that some politicians and intellectuals claim is polluting the public sphere. In Mere Civility, Dr Bejan examines contemporary calls for civility in light of seventeenth-century debates about religious toleration.
Many of the pressing questions facing liberal democracies today - such as what the proper scope of religious liberty should be and how to handle partisanship and hate speech - closely recall early modern concerns about the limits of toleration and the dangers posed by sectarianism, evangelical expression, and so-called "persecution of the tongue". Then as a now, thinkers appealed to civility as a way to reconcile the tension between diversity and disagreement, but determining what civility requires can be complicated. While some restraint on expression is surely necessary to make disagreement tolerable, accusations of “incivility” can easily become pretexts for persecution. The book considers competing conceptions of civility developed by Roger Williams, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke and argues that these were not superficial calls for politeness, but rather sophisticated efforts to think through what coexistence between people divided in their fundamental commitments requires.
Mere Civility is released in the UK at the end of January, but is already on sale in the USA and has been positively reviewed in both the New York Times Book Review and the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Dr Bejan will celebrate the publication of her book with a book launch event in Oriel's SCR on Tuesday 31st January at 4.30pm. All members of the College and of the University are welcome to attend.