9780312204327 / 0312204329

A Short History of Rudeness: Manners, Morals, and Misbehavior in Modern America


3.08 avg rating101 ratings by GoodReads

Publisher:Picador USA, 1999



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About the book:

On the floor of the House, a U.S. representative urges Congress to "tell the President to shove his veto pen up his deficit." Angry Americans routinely spew abuse and obscenities in internet chatrooms. And a student in Massachusetts provokes an outcry when he shows up to class wearing a t-shirt that reads "Coed Naked Band: Do It to the Rhythm." What accounts for this apparent epidemic of toward incivility? And why do so many of us care about it?

In his thought provoking new book, literary/social critic Mark Caldwell gives us a history of the demise of manners and charts the triumphant progress of rudeness in America. The perceived breakdown of civility has in recent years become a national obsession, and our modern climate of boorishness has cultivated a host of etiquette watchdogs, like Miss Manners and Martha Stewart, who defend us against an onslaught of nastiness. Meanwhile, New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani embarks on a personal crusade to improve the manners of the city's civil servants, pedestrians, motorists, taxi drivers, and delivery men, and Tipper Gore leads a nationwide campaign to label music albums that contain potentially brutish lyrics.

Caldwell demonstrates that the foundations of etiquette actually began to erode several centuries ago with the blurring of class lines and the emergence of a new middle-class. Touching on aspects of both our public and private lives, including work, family, and sex, he examines how the rules of behavior inevitably change and explains why, no matter how hard we try, we can never return to a golden era of civilized manners and mores.

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