Civic Friendship, Justice, and Political Stability

2012-12-10T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Cullen P. Padgett Walsh
Philosophers have extensively considered how principles of justice shape institutions and policies, yet they have neglected to examine the extent to which conceptions of justice are also reflected in the political relationship between citizens. Civic friendship, the relationship between members of a political community, both shapes the prevailing conception of justice, and is shaped by that conception. It further evokes the value of community and social solidarity. Consequently, civic friendship provides as useful as a way framework for understanding discussions of political stability. Institutions and policies also have consequences for the civic relationship. So described, the civic relationship seems to be a product the principles of justice as embodied in a particular institutional context. Yet, we can also regard civic friendship as developing in interaction with the conception of justice. We need not, in other words, treat fraternity as unconnected with liberty and equality. When we treat justice as a kind of relationship among citizens, then we can better consider what sorts of policies and duties are appropriate to that relationship. Rather than attempting to derive all the content of justice from abstract principles, we can then use those principles in conjunction with a concordant view of civic relationships, both of which are grounded in the conception of justice. Rawls’s claim that justice is a fair system of social cooperation among free and equal members of society is as much a statement about the relationship between citizens as it is a way to determine principles of justice. Such an approach, I argue, provides a more complete and more natural grounding for the duties of citizenship. Moreover, it helps to clarify the connection between political ideals and the actual relationships of citizens.