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The Importance of Being Civil by John A. Hall

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CHAPTER 4

Entry and Exit

Praise of civility can be dreadfully “wet,” as noted, offering little more than the injunction to be nice. That has not been the case so far in this book: the origins of civility lay in viciousness, while its maintenance largely rests on competitive emulation and depoliticization. Beyond all this, however, stands the serious but less obvious weakness identified by John Murray Cuddihy in The Ordeal of Civility.1 This brilliant book casts a searching light on “civility” by analyzing how outsiders experienced its standards, with concentration in his case on the Jewish experience in the modern era.

Let me proceed inductively, by means of an example that will lead to more general reflections.2 One of the greatest intellects ...

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