Civic Friendship

  • Mark Vernon


The first four chapters of this book have examined the pressures that utility, sexuality, dissimulation and post-Christian ethics exert on friendship. In each case, friendship finds itself confronting a threat and seeking out an opportunity. With utility, the threat to friendship comes from the suspicion of being used. In a utilitarian culture, such as obtains in the workplace, this is compounded by the diminishment of excellence for excellence’s sake. People are valued for outcomes, they tend to be thought of as means to ends, and when treated as such become, in Adam Smith’s word, unlovely. Alternatively, when people do things together, share a common project or strive for goals a great opportunity exists for friendship. The key is to get to know those concerned for whom they are so that when the work or utility disappears the friendship does not.


Civil Society Seventeenth Century Social Standing Physical Intimacy Civic Friendship 
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Further Reading and References

  1. David Konstan’s Friendship in the Classical World (Cambridge University Press, 1997) discusses everything you could want to know about the matter and more.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. G. Herman in Ritualised Friendship and the Greek City (Cambridge University Press, 1987) is anthropological.Google Scholar
  3. Paul Cartledge’s The Greeks: a Portrait of Self and Others (Oxford University Press, 1993) paints the broader picture.Google Scholar
  4. The Aristotle references are from his Nicomachean Ethics Chapter VIII and his civic friendship is discussed by Richard Mulgan in his article ‘The Role of Friendship in Aristotle’s Political Theory’, in The Challenge to Friendship in Modernity, edited by Preston King and Heather Devere. David Cohen in Law, Sexuality and Society: the Enforcement of Morals in Classical Athens (Cambridge University Press, 1991) is fascinating on the place of the household in political friendships.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alan Bray’s The Friend is published by University of Chicago Press (2003).Google Scholar
  6. Diarmuid MacCulloch’s Reformation: Europe’s House Divided (Penguin, 2004) discusses changing attitudes to love, family and marriage.Google Scholar
  7. John Bossy’s Christianity in the West 1400–1700 (Oxford University Press, 1985) captures the essence and function of the medieval notion of charity.Google Scholar
  8. John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (Vintage, 1995) offers an alternative, and to my mind slightly less convincing, account of sworn friendship.Google Scholar
  9. There is an interesting discussion of Anselm on friendship in an article entitled ‘Friendship’, by David Moss, in Radical Orthodoxy, edited by John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward (Routledge, 1998).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mark Vernon 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Vernon

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