Uncivil Society in Digital China: Incivility, Fragmentation, and Political Stability

Jiang, M. & Esarey, A. (Eds.). (2018). Uncivil Society in Digital China: Incivility, Fragmentation, and Political Stability. International Journal of Communication, 12, 1928–1944.

17 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2018

See all articles by Min Jiang

Min Jiang

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte

Ashley Esarey

Whitman College; Harvard University

Date Written: May 1, 2018

Abstract

Once believed to empower a range of Chinese social actors, the Internet is increasingly linked to expressions of extreme incivility that violate the etiquette and norms of interpersonal and online communication. Moving beyond definitions of civility (or incivility) based on democratic norms of deliberation and reciprocity, this article argues that civility should be reconceptualized as respect for others’ communicative rights, including the right to self-expression in pursuit of social justice. This theoretical modification affirms that civility differs from politeness and allows for contextualized and comparative studies of civility and incivility across regions and polities. In China’s authoritarian online spaces, the state tacitly encourages incivility as a divide-and-rule strategy while masking its uncivil purposes with “civil” appeals for rationality and order in a society characterized by pluralism, fragmentation, and visceral conflict. The result, as contributions to this Special Section illustrate, is a toxic uncivil society in which the space for respectful civil debate is narrowed, the influence of social groups and regime critics is diminished, and state power becomes more concentrated and resilient.

Keywords: civility, incivility, uncivil society, China, social justice, politeness

Suggested Citation

Jiang, Min and Esarey, Ashley, Uncivil Society in Digital China: Incivility, Fragmentation, and Political Stability (May 1, 2018). Jiang, M. & Esarey, A. (Eds.). (2018). Uncivil Society in Digital China: Incivility, Fragmentation, and Political Stability. International Journal of Communication, 12, 1928–1944., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3231474

Min Jiang (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte ( email )

9201 University City Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28223
United States

Ashley Esarey

Whitman College ( email )

345 Boyer Avenue
Walla Walla, WA 99362
United States

Harvard University ( email )

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