Co-Sponsored Event: The Dilemmas of Civility

Ideas Matter Club 5-8 The Sanctuary London, England SW1P 3JS United Kingdom
April 17, 2024
7:00PM-8:30PM GMT

We live in times where many believe that Western liberal democracies are undergoing a ‘crisis of civility’. From culture wars strife to social-media animosity, student enmity to boorish politicians, many take the view that civic norms are eroding, to be replaced by a rancorous culture that undermines the possibility of a productive public life.

Yet beyond obvious concerns over standards of behaviour and lack of basic regard to fellow participants in public life, few people stop to ask what we mean by ‘civility’. In fact, ‘civility’ is an idea with a long history and has formed a necessary buttress for a free, democratic age and promotes greater social and political freedom. Today, however, calls for greater civility in the face of offence culture, blasphemers and ill-mannered conduct are used to justify new behavioural norms and speech codes that curtail precious freedoms and free speech. In responding to the demand for civility, are we in danger of undermining rather than supporting toleration and other long-standing freedoms?

In this special Living Freedom forum, the writer Alexandra Hudson, author of the recently published The Soul of Civility, will outline why the historic notion of civility is central to freedom, democracy and human flourishing. She will assess how, in an age of polarisation and intolerance, understanding and pursuing this age-old idea can help us navigate an age of profound cultural and political differences.