What is Civic Friendship?

Civic friendship, or political friendship, is a connection between two or more parties promising reciprocal goodwill between citizens.

Civic friendship, or political friendship, is a connection between two or more parties promising reciprocal goodwill between citizens. Residents express this goodwill through civic behavior. Some examples of civic behavior include:

  • Recognizing the equality of the parties
  • Defending and supporting one another
  • Concern for each other’s well-being

People often argue about what political unity means and what a civic friendship entails, and these arguments date back to Ancient Greece.

Definitions of Civic Friendship

Plato felt that the strongest cities had a familial relationship with every citizen. A person would view everyone younger than them as their child, those of the same age as siblings, and everyone older as parents or grandparents. Plato believed that this relationship, coined a “communism of women and children,” would create political unity.

Aristotle disagreed, believing that people cannot care for thousands of others at once and that these relationships would get neglected. He believes that people can only become close character friends with a handful of individuals at once because they cannot devote equal energy to that many individuals. 

Terence Irwin views civic friendship as a form of utility that includes aspects of character friendship, like treating others as one would like to be treated. Julia Annas finds civic friendship to be between two parties who share activities of civic involvement. The parties bond over their mutual support for a public measure.

Most philosophers would agree that civic friendship involves feeling goodwill toward each citizen, everyone recognizing this feeling, and everyone benefitting from each other’s kindness.

Civic friendship can occur within a political body (e.g., country, city, state), or between two or more political bodies. All citizens view each other as equal and live in concord, sharing each other’s social, economic, moral, and political beliefs. Any dissent from these beliefs disrupts harmony and hinders civic friendship.

While it is unrealistic for every citizen to share all of their beliefs, they can possess some degree of acknowledgment, respect, and understanding while still living in civic friendship.

Uses of Civic Friendship

Society-wide, or mass civic friendship, involves citizens esteeming each other because they assume a level of patriotism and shared ideologies. These citizens love their country for their benefits, security, and promised lifestyle. Countries with mass civic friendship tend to produce citizens who resemble each other to outsiders in behavior and attitude.

Civic friendship creates a sense of unity towards our neighbors. We will feel more connected to those around us because they share things in common, making us more likely to support and champion one another. Civic friendship creates a confraternity between residents of a political body that reduces disputes and encourages connections.

Those with civic friendship are more likely to desire just wages for the work completed. Since they support one another, they would want their civic friend to receive compensation for the amount they contributed.

Civic friendship is strongest in smaller groups and organizations that choose each other based on a core cause. This associational civic friendship encourages people to exist for themselves and fight for their beliefs. With time, these groups’ beliefs can expand into common thought and become a society-wide belief if they gain enough traction.

Associational civic friendship leads its members to make changes that improve their immediate community. These may trickle out into the rest of the country, but the improvements begin on a smaller scale.

Developed countries tend to show the most civic engagement, where residents will donate money, volunteer time, and help strangers. The United States and Ireland have the highest Civic Engagement Index scores, with both having the majority of citizens donate money (65% and 75% for US and Ireland, respectively) and help strangers (73% and 65%).

Cultivating civic friendship makes citizens desire to live and work together, get married, reproduce, participate in activities, donate to charity, and volunteer for the good of our neighbors.


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