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Ethical loyalties, civic virtue and the circumstances of politics

By Daniel Owen and Russell Bentley


This article addresses the question of how, if at all, citizens can sustain an effective sense of political belonging without sacrificing other sources of ethical identity. We begin with a critical analysis of Rousseau's classic considerations of politics and religion, which concludes that membership of a sub-political ethical community is incompatible with an effective sense of political belonging. This critique leads us to a consideration of the basic character of contemporary constitutional-democratic polities (drawing on the work of James Tully) and of Waldron's account of the circumstances of politics. These considerations are developed into the claim that we can identify two sources of political belonging: recognition and acknowledgement – which correspond to two aspects of democratic citizenship: as status and as mode of being. On the basis of this claim, we argue that an effective sense of political belonging can be compatible with membership of sub-political ethical communities iff members of the political community are characterised by the majoritarian virtue of civic responsiveness and the minoritarian virtue of civic endurance. We sketch the character of these virtues and the relationship to one another in arguing that only the widespread presence of both kinds of virtue is sufficient to secure citizens’ confidence in the polity and hence its stability

Topics: BJ, JC
Year: 2001
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Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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