Books in the series

Amicable Collisions: Civility and Honor in Early Modern Political Thought (forthcoming)
Douglas Casson (Political Science, St. Olaf College)

This book-length project will be divided into three major sections, each consisting of two or three chapters. The first section will focus on the transformation of honorable civility. In the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke writes that the “philosophical law” consists of “approbation or dislike, praise or blame.” Although he later renamed it the “law of opinion and reputation,” he clearly associated respect or honor with the ancient philosophers such as Cicero who he thought “most busied themselves to enquire after it” (Locke 1975). Like many before him, Locke believed that respect and disrespect was just as effective as any other sanction. In this section I will trace the way in which military glory and religious devotion were transformed into a new honor code, a “law of opinion and reputation,” that shaped the behavior of experimental scientists, religious apologists, and even political actors.

The second section will consider the transmission of honorable civility in the work of Shaftesbury, Addison and Steele, and Jonathan Swift. In his Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Shaftesbury sought to entertain, flatter, and ultimately convert his readers to a type of restrained self-possession. In a series of coffeehouse periodicals, the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian, Addison and Steele instruct their readers concerning honorable behavior in the context of religious and political controversy. Through their many fictitious characters, including the celebrated “Mr. Spectator,” they attacked what they saw to be the excesses of their day and promoted a vision of society characterized by polite conversation and restrained sociability. In a series of essays on civility, Jonathan Swift cleverly instructs his readers on the perils of self-deception and the inevitability of conflict.

The final section will focus on the achievement of honorable civility through the work of Mandeville, Rousseau, and Adam Smith. I argue that Smith recognizes and assimilates some of the most important arguments animating contemporary debates over civility. His account of our propensity to persuade others into relationships of mutual sympathy helps to explain the emergence of norms of civility, yet it also shows how these norms generate a range of moral and social dependencies. It is this same propensity to persuade, Smith argues, that helps individuals cultivate the capacity to transcend these dependencies. In this section, I argue that Smith, following Mandeville and Rousseau, recognizes that this culture of politeness can encourage a type of dependency that breeds duplicity and alienation. Yet he ultimately insists that restrained sociability can nonetheless be maintained by individuals who develop the capacity to transform their base desire for approbation into a refined desire for self-approbation. This refined capacity, which Smith calls self-command or independence, paradoxically emerges out of the very persuasive exchange that encourages dependency. Smith’s faith that commercial society can sustain social trust rests ultimately on his belief that an individual can achieve independence from social norms without rejecting them.

Edited by David Edward Tabachnik (Political Science, Nipissing University)
and Leah Bradshaw (Political Science, Brock University)

This edited collection is designed to explore the tension between multiculturalism and older ideas of citizenship and civic virtue. A core theme of each of the chapters in this volume will be how philosophies and policies of multiculturalism enhance and/or erode our sense of belonging to the modern state. Overall, the effort will be to provide a needed new assessment of the “multicultural experiment” in an attempt to provide theoretical ballast for students, academics and policy-makers as they attempt to understand and explain what it means to be a good citizen in the twenty-first century. Rather than a study of the specific policies, programs, structures, and institutions associated with multiculturalism, this book will consider how the development and application of multiculturalism participates in conceptions and practices of civic obligation and citizenship identity.  

Edited by Laurie Johnson (Political Science, Kansas State University) 
Dan Demetriou (Philosophy, University of Minnesota, Morris)

Honor is, for many, an outdated concept that clashes with modern, liberal, priorities. Honor is associated with medieval chivalry, the warlike virtues, and in our own times such reprehensible acts as terrorist attacks and honor killings. None of this is very attractive in a world in which women have made great gains towards full equality, where war can be total, and where terrorism beleaguers Western societies. Even early modern and Enlightenment thinkers often rejected honor (or re-defined it) as an irrational human motivation which leads nations and individuals to fight over religious and ethnic rivalry or trivial matters, such as insults. Thomas Hobbes, for instance, rejected aristocratic honor as a major cause of quarrel, and sought to control its power by placing it in the hands of an absolute sovereign. John Locke attempted to replace the quest for honor as a motivation with the pursuit of enlightened self-interest and commodious living. And yet, there is a growing interest in reviving honor and making it “safe” for modern liberal society. This concern recognizes that members of liberal democratic societies are finding it increasingly difficult to find common ground, or to foster any agreement about expectations for private and public conduct. Honor is a concept that can be interpreted in a secular manner, which gives it an edge over purely religion-based attempts at creating a code of conduct in societies with great religious diversity and a separation of church and state. A growing body of literature is addressing these benefits of honor, as well as the challenges to developing honor codes in liberal societies, but authors define honor in a variety of ways and take different approaches to how to operationalize honor in modern liberal societies. This groundbreaking volume will be the first to engage scholars representing various disciplines in a dialogue about what honor means and role it should play in liberal societies. For the table of contents, see the subpage at the bottom of this page.

Laurie Johnson (Political Science, Kansas State University)

Alexis de Tocqueville is well known for having one foot in the aristocratic world, and one foot both reluctantly and eagerly in the democratic world. This book will look at Tocqueville's comparison of aristocratic and democratic honor. Tocqueville's formulation of democratic honor is interesting because, in some ways, it is the exact opposite of the aristocratic version, most strikingly in his assertion that there is such a thing as commercial honor, and honor hard work and in the pioneering spirit. Tocqueville's analysis of American honor explores the relationship between morality and honor, and looks with a critical eye on white American's treatment of Indians  and African slaves. Tocqueville's treatment of these two groups, and his analysis of the position of white women in American society, yield more information about how he saw American honor, and what he thought of the survivability of honor in a liberal, democratic republic.