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Everyday incivility: towards a benchmark

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 14:08 authored by Phillips, T, Smith, P
Commonplace incivility is a topic of longstanding interest within social theory, perhaps best exemplified by Goffman's studies of the interaction order. Nevertheless we know very little about its distribution and expression in everyday life. Current empirical work is dominated by criminological agendas. These tend to focus on more serious and illegal activities rather than minor deviant acts that are simply inconsiderate or rude. The paper reports findings from a focus group study conducted in Melbourne, Australia that set out to benchmark everyday incivilities. The results suggest that perpetrators of incivility have a surprisingly broad social distribution as does the range of locales that might be characterised as 'high risk'. Turning to the work of Putnam and Wolfe, we call for a research focus on low-level incivilities as key symptoms of the state of civic virtue and the strength of moral ties within civil society. Drawing on Virilio, Bauman and Durkheim, it is suggested that the experience of incivility is underpinned by the growth of freedom and movement in contemporary urban settings, and has ambivalent implications that not only invoke boundary maintenance and retreatism, but also offer the possibility for boundary expansion and tolerance of difference.


Publication title

The Sociological Review








School of Social Sciences


Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

Oxford, UK

Rights statement

The definitive published version is available online at:

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Pacific Peoples community services not elsewhere classified

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