December 14th, 2009 at 9:04 am
In “A Failure of Civic Friendship,” Schwarzenbach argues that the United States and its political culture lacks a sense of “civic friendship.” This failure is reflected by the fact that “our awareness — let alone positive concern — for our fellow citizens and the rest of the world is shockingly low.”
Civic friendship, Schwarzenbach explains extends to those who might be our personal or ideological enemies but necessitates that individuals “grant them the respect and rights due any American.” She continuse, “clearly, the state plays a critical role in regulating our awareness of the facts of other citizens’ lives (through education and other institutions) as well as in stipulating the minimal duties we have towards them.”
In articulating the importance of civic friendship, Schwarzenbach writes:
“A state in which there is no civic friendship can never be a just one. If there is no institutionalized background of good will in a society, citizens can and inevitably will perceive themselves to be unfairly treated. Again, in a generalized context of enmity and ill will, or in one of pure competition and indifference, given our natural and often unreasonable propensities to favor ourselves, citizens will be unable to accept in practice the “burdens of justice”; the poor will have little motive to follow the laws and the well to do will refuse to yield their unfair advantages. Only a sham justice of the powerful can reign.”
The role of women is also central to Schwarzenbach’s idea of civic friendship and imaging a transformed modern political state. She writes in Rorotoko:
Central to my argument is that women, throughout history and across the globe, have continued to perform the vast majority of reproductive labor and praxis in society—that form of ethical activity that reproduces not merely biological beings but educated, reasoning, and mature persons.