This article suggests a sensitising definition of political friendship with the view of using the concept in empirical research. I begin by identifying three tendencies in the recent literature on political friendship: (1) the tendency to ignore historical developments that rendered modern friendship an intimate relationship; (2) the construction of modern friendship as hermetically sealed in the private sphere; and (3) the conceptual conflation of relationship types. Consequently, friendship is emptied of substantive relational content, while political ‘friendship’ is promoted from metaphor to denotative concept. I critique that approach by drawing on Maria Márkus’s account of friendship, which emphasises its historically contingent, ambiguous position between the private and the public spheres whence friendship offers vital utopian potentials in respect of public life: friendship instantiates mutual self-determination and gives experiential substance to ‘decency’. Combining Márkus’s with a differentiating approach to friendship that takes its lead from Siegfried Kracauer, I go on to propose a preliminary redefinition of political friendship as a personal relationship, as well as the substitution of political friendship by democratic solidarity with ‘decency’ its guiding orientation.
- Maria Márkus
- political friendship