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The state and civility: a crucial nexus

Wickham, G., Evers, A.L.B. and Goodie, J-A (2017) The state and civility: a crucial nexus. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 4 (2). pp. 135-155.

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The study of civility is branching out. A wide range of new studies have been published in the last twenty years. While the increase in the diversity of approaches usefully expands the scope of the concept, it is also a cause for concern. Much of the new work pays little attention to civility’s complex history as a practice and simply assumes its fundamental capacity to lead interaction between human beings in a peaceful direction, leaving this body of work in no position to fully appreciate the crucial role of the state. Our main argument here is that civility emerged alongside the modern state in early-modern Europe to form an ongoing state–civility nexus, a nexus by which the state produces and maintains conditions that allow civility to flourish, in turn allowing civility to help the state maintain itself, particularly by restraining the state’s raw power. We pursue this argument by exploring two sets of writings. One set is composed of work by early-modern writers, especially Thomas Hobbes, with some attention paid to four others: Justus Lipsius, Jean Bodin, Samuel Pufendorf, and Christian Thomasius. The second set is composed of work by twentieth-century writers, especially Norbert Elias, with some attention paid to two others: Max Weber and Edward Shils.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Law
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: © 2017 European Sociological Association
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