Civility as Political Constraint
William A. Edmundson
Georgia State University College of Law
Res Publica, Vol. 8, pp. 217-229, 2002
The everyday virtue of civility functions as a constraint upon informal social pressures. Can civility also be understood, as John Rawls proposed, as a distinctively political constraint? This article contrasts Rawls's project of constraining the political with Mill's project of constraining both the social and the political, and explores Rawls's account of the relation between the social and the political. The article shows how Rawls's political duty of civility rests on the assumption that the political is peculiarly coercive, ignores the social enforcement of morality, and implausibly has civility apply to motives in acting rather than to actions themselves.
Keywords: civility, coercion, Rawls, Mill, liberal principle of legitimacy
JEL Classification: K00Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: June 18, 2008
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