Hanging Together: A Liberal Democratic Theory of Political Friendship for Troubled Times

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2019

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Abstract

This book addresses the polarization and the erosion of liberal democratic norms and institutions that increasingly define contemporary liberal democratic politics. More specifically, it aims to address the question of how pluralistic liberal democracies ought to secure stability in a manner that both conforms to the normative contours of liberal democracy and facilitates the rectification and identification of injustices.

My broad argument is that liberal democracies can only hold themselves together and become the best possible versions of themselves when their citizens are political friends. First, I advance ‘the basic’ case for why we should appeal to political friendship. I pursue an interpretation of Aristotle’s articulation of the concept to demonstrate that the central concern of political friendship is the cultivation of a political sense of togetherness among citizens who adhere to a plurality of interests and conceptions of justice. I supplement this argument by demonstrating why alternative solutions to the problem are insufficient. Second, I think seriously about how to reinforce political friendship in conditions of modern pluralism. Specifically, I develop an understanding of political friendship that can ensure that citizens who share political sense of togetherness will be able to express their differences and disagreements manageably and equitably. This sort of political friendship draws on multiple notions of political friendship: citizens are political friends by virtue of the cognitive lens or metaphor(s) through which they consider politics and their social relations, of their common civic-national identity, and of the subset of the citizenry with whom they personally practice political friendship – a subset that can plausibly be described as representative of the citizenry as a whole.

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Cheng, Eric (2019). Hanging Together: A Liberal Democratic Theory of Political Friendship for Troubled Times. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18760.

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