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Ciceronian Friendship and Popular Deliberation

Democracy
Political Participation
Political Theory
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Abstract

I argue that the Ciceronian model of friendship is relevant for popular deliberation today. According to Cicero, conversation presupposes friendship, and friendship, as Cicero develops the concept in De amicitia, involves like-mindedness and agreement on values. Popular deliberation fails in the absence of shared values, as is suggested by the futility of political discussion across political lines in our own times. I further contend that deliberative democracy envisions a type of popular deliberation that ignores the ideological divisions within society and that would be enriched, as a political theory, by taking note of Ciceronian friendship. Thus, deliberative democrats demand that popular deliberation be sincere, rational, inclusive, non-strategic, and directed toward attaining consensus. These demands, however, are unrealistic especially because popular deliberation as conceived by deliberative democrats is between citizens-at-large without attention paid to the political views of these citizens. By incorporating Cicero’s model of conversation between friends, deliberative democracy may become a more plausible theory by acknowledging that popular deliberation is most successful when conducted primarily within groups or associations of individuals with common ideological assumptions, i.e., between friends, not strangers.