Incivility in Australia: challenges and opportunities

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Civility is an important public virtue in liberal democracies and facilitates social and political interaction in spite of disagreement. However, many scholars and public commentators argue that we are facing a crisis of civility in liberal democracies, a phenomenon that can lead to deterioration in the quality of public debate and exacerbate political polarisation. In this chapter, we examine and address these challenges by focusing on two Australian case studies: the 2022 Australian federal election and public debate concerning access closure at the Uluru monolith, a site sacred to the Aṉangu people. Through the analysis of these two cases, we illustrate the multifaceted ways in which civility and incivility can manifest in the demos along three dimensions, i.e. what we term ‘(in)civility as politeness’, ‘moral (in)civility’, and ‘justificatory (in)civility’. We argue, first, that civility can sometimes be employed by powerful actors to control and oppress marginalised groups and that therefore, in such cases, responding with incivility can be desirable and can advance civility itself in the long term; second, that being civil often depends on the context and requires the ability to judge whether, when and how to be (un)civil, especially where, there are disagreements regarding civility norms; and, finally, that education and schooling should play a greater role in helping students to understand the value of civility in Australian public life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralian Politics at a Crossroads
Subtitle of host publicationProspects for Change
EditorsMatteo Bonotti, Narelle Miragliotta
Place of PublicationAbingdon UK
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781003394686
ISBN (Print)9781032496245, 9781032496252
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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