Chapter

The Retrieval of Civic Virtue: A Critical Appreciation of Sandel's Democracy's Discontent

Thomas L. Pangle

in Debating Democracy's Discontent

Published in print October 1998 | ISBN: 9780198294962
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598708 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198294964.003.0002
 The Retrieval of Civic Virtue: A Critical Appreciation of Sandel's Democracy's Discontent

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The civic republican public philosophy is rooted in Aristotle and Machiavelli. It stresses the civic virtues deliberative self-government requires in the citizenry, and makes the formation of character–that is, the fostering of the capacities for active citizenship–a chief and direct aim of legislation and public policy. There are severe unexplored tensions among some of the virtues that Sandel’s narrative evokes, and he appeals to Jeffersonian republicanism while hiding the aristocratic cornerstone of authentic Jeffersonianism in embarrassment. If Sandel were to reconsider Aristotle attentively, he would be forced to enlarge his conception of virtue, and of what Aristotle–and the entire classical tradition through Jonathan Swift–means by “virtue.”

Keywords: aristocracy; Aristotle; capacities; character; citizenship; Jefferson; Machiavelli; republican; tensions; virtues

Chapter.  7262 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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