The 15th century motto declares: ‘Manners maketh the man’. But politeness is not the important trait it once was. From social media to parliament, our discourse has become angry, harsh and inconsiderate.  But is our abandonment of manners more than a superficial error? Critics argue politeness is the foundation of a civil society, and enables dialogue between those with different, and sometimes opposite views. Polarisation, division and breakdown in communication is the price they claim we are paying for our bad manners and these threats have the potential to undermine culture as a whole.

Should we renew our attachment to politeness and reinstate it as one of our core values? Should our institutions enforce certain rules of politeness? And if so, what might these look like, and would they help create a more cohesive and collaborative society? Or is politeness an archaic value, designed to re-enforce the authority of the dominant whilst at the same time controlling dissent?

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