A Liberal Theory of Civic Virtue

Social Philosophy and Policy 15 (01):149- (1998)
A democratic society cannot flourish if its citizens merely pursue their own narrow interests. If it is to do more than survive, at least a substantial proportion of its citizens must fulfill responsibilities that go beyond simply avoiding the violation of others' rights and occasionally casting a vote. The vitality and success of a democracy requires that many citizens — ideally all of them — contribute something to their communities and participate responsibly in the political process. The disposition to do these things is a large part of what constitutes civic virtue. But that virtue encompasses considerably more. My task here is to explore civic virtue. I first outline a conception of virtue in general and, with that set out, pursue the question of what makes a virtue civic. My special concern is to articulate what constitutes civic virtue in relation to an enduring problem for democratic societies and especially for the pluralistic democracies of the Western world: how to determine what constitutes a proper relation between religion and politics and, in the lives of religious citizens having civic virtue, an appropriate balance between religious and secular considerations.
Keywords Liberalism  Civic virtue  Political philosophy
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