Civility: Introductory Notes on the History and Systematic Analysis of a Concept

TitleCivility: Introductory Notes on the History and Systematic Analysis of a Concept
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsBaumgarten, Britta, Dieter Gosewinkel, and Dieter Rucht
JournalEuropean Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire
Date Published06/2011

This introductory text has several goals. First, it sets the stage for the topic. Why give thought to civility? Second, it discusses various concepts of civility including their paradigmatic backgrounds. Third, the authors suggest a definition of civil society for future research. In operational terms, the authors subdivide civility into five fields of research: the history of the concept (‘Begriffsgeschichte’), and the four analytic dimensions of human rights, political rights, social rights and basic norms of everyday interaction. Fourth, from a historical point of view, this chapter roughly outlines the history of the concept "Zivilität" as compared to ‘civility’ and "civilité" to examine the analytic usefulness of the concept "civility" with regard to critical periods in the European history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Further, civility as a concept of Western origin should be applied with caution to non-Western cultures to avoid an ethnocentric bias. Though the authors abide by the idea of civility as a universal norm, it can be legitimized only to the extent that is submitted to critical public debate from which no groups and cultures can be excluded a priori.

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