Review: The Importance of Being Civil: The Struggle for Political Decency

Document Type

Book Review


The Importance of Being Civil defines civility basically as respect for diversity and traces its nuances through applications to society and governance. John A. Hall traces his argument largely through the classic texts of sociology and notably “the most high-powered theory, that of Adam Smith” (9). Consequently, he argues in favor of the ideological tradition of “liberal politics, capitalist economic organization, and the modes of thought of rational science” (10). This comes to mean a diminished role for the state in securing society’s “virtues.” The first part of the book establishes the ideal of civility in five chapters. The second part defends this definition through analyses of authenticity, intellectual life, communism, trust, and imperialism.

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