Friendship and the State: Friendship as an analogy for Political Obligation

Ruairidh J. Brown

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Brown, R.J. (2020) AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies (2020) 6:1, 3-30. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/29

Abstract

This article investigates the possibility of understanding the citizen-State
relationship through an analogy with friendship. It seeks to achieve this by putting the notion
of friendship into conversation with debates pertaining to Political Obligation. Although a link
between Political Obligation and friendship has been teased historically, most notably by
Nineteenth Century British Idealist T.H. Green, there has yet to be a thorough consideration of
the possibility of an analogous link between the two concepts and the potential interpretative
promise such an inquiry could yield. This article seeks to address this lack of consideration by
offering plausible means of interpreting Political Obligation through a model of friendship. The
article first considers the debate surrounding Political Obligation. Section two then addresses
the analogy frequently deployed in interpreting citizen-State relations, the ‘family’.
Highlighting the limitations of this familial analogy, the article will then proceed to introduce
the more fruitful interpretative analogy of friendship. The possibility of friendship between
citizen and State is conceptualized in section three before section four considers how such an
analogy may be utilized to interpret Political Obligation. Finally, the article will conclude by
discussing the benefits of such an analogy for understanding citizen-State relations.

Keywords Friendship; the state; political obligation; family.

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