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In short, friendship puts the humaneness of abstract democratic ideals on the spot.One obvious point of tension is between the egalitarian principles of democracy and the individual partiality of friendship.
They understood that it could be corrosive of civic life. Rather than putting all their efforts into upholding universal ideals that tend to sideline and undermine friendship, they sought to promote ideals for friendship too. For Aristotle, friendship schools the greatest virtues. Is it not time for us to do likewise and re-establish a high place for friendship?
US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade – boosting the far right.
However, that they are valued because they are impersonal is double-edged.
The great paradox for democracies espousing these universal ideals is that unless their sovereignty is tempered they become dehumanising and tyrannical.
In a democracy, however, justice is an absolute good: it must be done and be seen to be done.
Again, therefore, democracy can nurture a suspicion of friendship, thinking that it is a way of doing things characterised by questionable commitments and opaque affections, not the transparent, transcendent fairness of justice.It is fine in private but deeply suspect if and when it is seen to play a part in public life.Then politicians are accused of nepotism, which in a way is counterproductive since so-called "cronies" are likely to give much to public life by virtue of their loyalty.One would do something for a friend that one would never dream of doing for someone else; friends act for each other out of preference and loyalty not disinterest.Democracies, therefore, have an ambivalent attitude towards friendship.Mark Vernon is the author of (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).His website is here However, friendship is a more interesting test because some of democracy's highest values are actually at odds with it.And friendship, without which the good life is simply impossible according to Aristotle, suffers.For ancient philosophers friendship was a political problem too.Friendship cuts across this because it is not universal but is defined by its particularity.To say "you are my friend" is meaningless if it does not imply that I regard you above the rest.