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An ethical defense of citizenship

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In many parts of the Western world, we have reached a low point in public confidence in the moral value and relevance of citizenship, in the integrity of our political institutions, and in the nobility of public office. Consequently, if we are to secure the political field for those among us virtuous enough to serve the common good, we need to restore public confidence in the ethical value of citizenship and public service. One small step in this direction would be to allay understandable moral qualms about the practice of citizenship. And that is precisely what I aim to do here. By deflating some serious ethical objections against citizenship, I aim to pave the way for the larger task of developing an ethical ideal of citizenship that can inspire citizens to put their talents at the service of the common good. The three objections I address here are rooted in (i) the alleged complicity of ordinary citizens in a range of collective and institutional evils, (ii) the alleged necessity of ruthless utilitarian reasoning in political life, and (iii) the alleged incompatibility of modern citizenship with the Christian way of life. I show that each of these objections can be answered, or at least significantly deflated.




Thunder, D. (2017). An ethical defense of citizenship. In The Ethics of Citizenship in the 21st Century (pp. 85–102). Springer International Publishing.

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