The Etiquette of Democracy
IN THE END, of course, the student of civility wants to know what can be done. In the first six chapters of the book, I presented a set of rules to govern the sacrificial civility that the ethic of neighbor-love requires. From chapter 7 onward, I have tried to offer concrete suggestions for the reconstruction of civility. The time has come to look back over what we have learned . . . and to see where it leads. I said at the outset that the book is a kind of prayer. Let us now be very clear about what the prayer is for.
At the beginning of the book, the reader will recall, we examined briefly the work of Norbert Elias, the Swiss sociologist who did the first important scholarship on the history of civility. As we reach the end, it is useful to go back and reconsider his ideas, now from a slightly different angle.
Rules of civility, we know from Elias's research, began to develop in Europe at the same time that the church began to yield its authority to the nation-state, and they served the important function of teaching the importance of gaining control over our instincts. People could no longer kill others with whom they had grudges, and they could no longer urinate where they chose; the relationship between the two is that both are natural urges, and both had to be cabined, if only for the society to survive. But there