- Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen
Davidson romps through the eighteenth century as if it were her own private preserve. Her vast command of its literature and history, itself a source of pleasure to this reader, is put to use in demonstrating that politeness and manners served hypocritical aims, principally the subjugation of servants and women. Davidson places greater emphasis on dissimulation than on breach of trust in her definition of hypocrisy, and she seems to follow Machiavelli's view that in power (dependency) relationships honesty is not to be found on either side. This premise leads her to interesting perspectives on manners and to complex illustrations of the way society develops language to deal with the problem that telling the truth can be uncivil. Point counter point, Davidson pits one text against another to display the eighteenth-century arguments, with Mary Wollstonecraft's shining so brightly that it illuminates gender discrimination even today. This book does not shed any light on hypocrisy itself, however, or why, despite its long-standing bad reputation, it has proven to be so durable and so necessary.
Anton O. Kris, MD, clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard University and training and supervising analyst at the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute, is the author of Free Association: Method and Process. His article "The Lure of Hypocrisy" appeared recently in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association.