Boyd - Civility - http/ Urban Studies DOI...

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Unformatted text preview: Urban Studies DOI: 10.1080/00420980600676105 2006; 43; 863 Urban Stud Richard Boyd 'The Value of Civility?' The online version of this article can be found at: Published by: On behalf of: Urban Studies Journal Limited can be found at: Urban Studies Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: Citations by Sara Williams on April 20, 2009 Downloaded from ‘The Value of Civility?’ Richard Boyd [Paper first received, September 2005; in final form, January 2006] Summary. This essay argues for civility’s vital place in contemporary urban life. Contrary to many critics who see civility as a conservative or nostalgic virtue deployed to repress difference and frustrate social change, it is argued that civility should be understood as democratic, pluralistic and premised on a sense of moral equality. Civility’s most obvious contribution is functional—in easing social conflicts and facilitating social interactions in a complex and diverse market society. However, there is also and maybe more importantly an intrinsic moral value to civility. Observing the formal conditions of civility is one of the ways in which we communicate respect for others and generate habits of moral equality in the everyday life of a democracy. Introduction Before considering the value of civility, one must first determine, even if provisionally, what civility means. This may be harder than one would imagine. Like the famous comment by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart about pornography being impossible todefinebut‘IknowitwhenI seeit’(Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964)), civility has something of this same nebulous moral quality. The fact that civility is most conspic- uous in its absence—when, for example, we are confronted by flagrant instances of incivi- lity—does little to help generate a working definition, not to mention a philosophical jus- tification of civility’s value. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that civility and the related concept of civil society have under- gone significant transformations in their history. 1 The present study will focus on an understanding of civility derived primarily from classic moral philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson, aspects of which have been restated compellingly in the 20th century by the sociologist Edward Shils and the philoso- pher Michael Oakeshott. I want to concentrate on this particular conceptualisation of civility because it seems to me most congenial to making the case for civility’s ‘value’ for con- temporary social and political theory. Along the way, however, I hope to point out how...
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This note was uploaded on 09/20/2009 for the course INI INI235Y1 taught by Professor Brail during the Spring '09 term at University of Toronto.

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Boyd - Civility - http/ Urban Studies DOI...

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