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Fraternity, solidarity and civic friendship

Sibyl A. Schwarzenbach

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Schwarzenbach, Sibyl A. (2015) Fraternity, solidarity and civic friendship. AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies, 3:1, pp. 3-18. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/14


Justice requires a form of ‘fraternity’ (Rawls), ‘solidarity’ (Marxists) or ‘civic friendship’ (Aristotle), among the central justifications being to place limits on socio-economic inequalities that can undermine just political institutions. Fraternity has been associated with the community of “male citizens”, however, and often usurped by a totalitarian fringe (e.g. the Bruderschaft of the Nazi elite). Less noted, however, is that notions of solidarity – ‘a standingtogether’ in opposition to exploitative practices – have also been modelled on historically male forms of activity: on marching, demonstrating, fighting at the barricades (military activity) or labor strikes (economic production).

The significance of the notion of civic friendship today is its grounding in a third model of ethical action or praxis: in all those activities that further the reproduction of flourishing relations for their own sake (here called friendship) whether personal or civic. This model of activity has been eclipsed in the modern period by the reigning model of production, yet it includes a host of practices traditionally (but by no means exclusively) performed by women outside the market: feeding and caring for the young, for the old and sick, furthering another’s abilities, educating them, simple play, etc. Once this alternative model is developed – and its practices thoroughly adapted to modern principles of universal right and respect for personhood – the ideal of civic friendship may just be the most appropriate notion of community for today’s democratic and pluralist society.

Keywords: Fraternity, solidarity, civic friendship, ethical reproductive praxis, Rawls, Marx, Aristotle, Justice

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