Manual [Article] The Politics of Friendship

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Friendship is the Form of Politics

Previous studies shed no light on the implications of the friendship formed between the novel's two protagonists in its political context, focusing instead on the novel's treatment of the subject of homosexuality. The novel is written against the backdrop of the nightmarish atmosphere that haunted Argentine politics in the s, particularly the horrors that took place during the period of President Juan Peron's return in , the brief presidency of Isabel Peron who took charge in , and the rule of the military junta that came to power in and began what is historically known as the "Dirty War," a "period of government violence and repression" Teorey 4 during which thousands of Argentine citizens were unjustly arrested, tortured, and disappeared.

The novel revolves around the exceptional friendship between Molina, an effeminate homosexual window-dresser, and Valentin, a heterosexual Marxist revolutionary, two prisoners in a small cell of the notorious Villa Devoto Detention Institute in Buenos Aires, "the darkest penal hellhole in all Argentina" "Argentina" n. Kiss of the Spider Woman is a novel with no narration in which filmic sketches--or "intertexts" Hutcheon, "Historiographic Metafiction" 25 --are skillfully interwoven into the literary text to produce the novel's powerful impact.

It establishes Puig's reputation as the first Latin American novelist who "reinvented literature out of the nonliterary, living culture of his times" Levine xv and "a bold innovator within the rich tradition of Argentine writers" Levine An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.

Contemporary Political Theory.

Friendship and Positive Peace: Conceptualising Friendship in Politics and International Relations

Contemporary scholars have taken up the gauntlet thrown down at them by C. Indeed, Lewis would hopefully look favourable upon contemporary attempts to make sense of friendship, whether in history Caine, , in Politics Smith, , in International Relations Koschut and Oelsner, , or in Foreign Policy Analysis Berenskoetter and Van Hoef, While these works debate the essence of friendship, other works focus on the narratives of friendships between political actors Reid-Henry, ; Meacham, In the media as well, friendships between politicians can count upon heightened scrutiny, best illustrated by the attention newspapers give to the joint walks on the beach of French Presidents and German Chancellors.

Because of the renewed interest in friendship, the first critical question must be whether Von Heyking has anything to add to previous interpretations such as: Smith Pangle, ; Vlastos, Because friendship pervaded both Greek personal and political culture, it is no wonder that the Greeks made friendship the centre of their political theory. Like Frisbee C. Sheffield, Von Heyking draws upon Plato to provide a complete picture of political friendship, which is possible because Plato, in contrast to Aristotle, does not offer an account where friendship focuses solely on the other as an individual Sheffield, , p.

To new students of friendship, The form of politics is a great introductory work to Plato and Aristotle, aided considerably by the fact that Von Heyking does not assume any prior knowledge of the reader, and therefore also consistently offers both the original Greek and the English translations of important concepts side by side. Students are either introduced or reacquainted with terms such as virtue—friendship sunaisthesis: the joint perception of the good , utility, and pleasure—friendship.

To the contemporary debate on friendship, Von Heyking offers a very important reconceptualization by bringing our attention to an oft-overlooked aspect of the ancient concept of political friendship: that of festivity. It is here that I have a minor gripe with the work. The beautiful, but very safe cover, offers the familiar School of Athens with Plato and Aristotle singled out. While an image would never convey the entirety and complexity of what a city or a political community engaging in festivity would entail, an illustration that comes partway is sorely lacking.

Friendship is the Form of Politics | Convivium Magazine

This is noticeable too in the final chapter where the Calgary Stampede is dealt with in-depth as an illustration of a political community engaging in festivity. Lewis too would look favourable upon The Form of Politics , and perhaps it even would have convinced him to add festivity as the Fifth Love. Skip to main content.

Advertisement Hide. Moreover, whereas the ancient literature is able to theorize political forms of friendship without reference to enmity, Schmitt appears unable or unwilling to do so. The definitions of enemy and friend are tied together and linked to the possibility of killing and being killed Schmitt, , pp. Although Schmitt maintains that we cannot determine in advance who is friend or enemy, these categories remain permanent features of his political thought, seemingly incapable of transformation.

The fundamental importance of friendship can nonetheless be seen to have remained, albeit in a new guise. These Maoist terms captured the terrain of friendship for the communist cause, and realigned it from emphasizing harmony to a more confrontational polemicization. It no longer focused on mutually constituting elements in a harmoniously transforming relationship as in Confucianism , but based its dialectic on dichotomized units that clashed in painful revolutions to push history forwards.

As Mao posed the question:. Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution … To ensure that we will definitely achieve success in our revolution and will not lead the masses astray, we must pay attention to uniting with our real friends in order to attack our real enemies Mao, , p.

In summary, this sketch of friendship in ancient and modern state-centric thought illustrates a displacement of friendship and what it originally represented: profound relationality and co-constitution of Self and Other. The effects of this displacement are reflected in contemporary thought about politics and IR. In ancient thought friendship had a structuring role for individuals and political systems.

Connected to virtue, it was a means by which political life could be stabilized and made harmonious. In modern politics, where the modern state has become dominant, the purview of friendship has been bifurcated. Along one branch, personal and individual friendships based around the emotions are now allowed to flourish — but strictly in the private sphere. Along the other, friendship is abstracted and put to work by the state in relations of group-belonging such as comradeship and nationality.

Friendship is formulated as an Us in opposition to a Them; a Self opposed to Others. This suggests a profound shift in thinking about politics, which turns attention away from the possibility of relational production, reconciliation and even combination of distinctive and contrasting components. Instead, this shift emphasizes the assertion and preservation or annihilation of distinct and antagonistically opposed things. This latter view characterizes the ontology of much IR scholarship. If it is the case that the state system has marginalized friendship as a concern with co-constitutive Self—Other relations from the political, how is this more broadly reflected in IR?

Surprisingly, not only is this true of Realism and Liberalism, but also of Wendtian Constructivism where discussions of friendship explicitly appear. The fuller meaning of relational ontologies and the contribution of friendship to IR is explored in the next part. Common stories about the development of IR depict a Eurocentric discipline shaped by two related concerns.

The first of these is an attempt to understand states as elements of a systematic whole Waltz, The second is a focus on the establishment and maintenance of peace, or at least the avoidance of unnecessary conflict between states Jervis, , p. Of these, Realism is habitually said to be dominant. One reason for this is that Realism emerged near the conception of the discipline of IR, as it is commonly rehearsed, and so other theories are in some way a response to Realism. More importantly, Realism set the tone for both the ontological assumptions of IR and its lexicon.

Ontologically speaking, Realism set the rules of the game by setting the first lexicon of the discipline as it came to imagine itself. From its inception, then, IR was infused with an ontology of things. The state was taken as the object of IR, and assumed to be a self-contained, independent, and unchanging unit. Realism has adapted, transformed, and has been remarkably influential. As a result, even theories that offer an alternative approach or methodology for understanding the international system have tended to do so by positing themselves as critiques of, or alternatives to, Realism.

Moreover, they have tended to accept the lexicon of Realism and its ontology of things. For example, most Liberals accept the basic Realist assumptions concerning the state and the basic rules of the game, in terms of the wider ontology Milner, , p. Of course, Liberals differ from Realists by pointing to the role of norms and actors other than the state.

However, by doing so they merely stress an additional consideration to that of the state; they do not seriously challenge its importance. As Robert Jervis , p. Liberals and Realists have conducted a lively debate, but they have been able to do so precisely because they share a lexicon and an ontology.

Having identified their objects of study, they are only then concerned to theorize their interaction. In the words of Erik Ringmar , p. States are treated as pre-constituted calculating machines much in the same way that Hobbes theorizes human beings Ringmar, , p. Factored out of IR is precisely the idea that the units in question can be transformed — moreover, constituted — through their interaction. If Realism and Liberalism share a core set of assumptions and ontology of things , Constructivism appears to offer something new.

Indeed, at first blush Constructivism appears to move away from the assumptions that underpin debate between Realists and Liberals, and to offer an alternative ontology. In this book, Constructivism is not a theory of IR, but a way of approaching ontology that is applied to a subject matter or field of enquiry Wendt, , p. Wendt then uses the tools of Constructivism to intervene in the debate between Realists and Liberals.

Wendt accepts that there are relations within the state, but this is not his concern Wendt, , p. Instead he attempts to show how states are to be considered persons. Wendt focuses on three roles that he says states cast for themselves and each other: enmity, rivalry, and friendship. State behaviour is determined by how states identify themselves and others. This identity formation is relational.

As Wendt writes:. What this means is that in initially forming shared ideas about Self and Other through a learning process, and then in subsequently reinforcing those ideas casually through repeated interaction, Ego and Alter are at each stage jointly defining who each of them is Wendt, , p. In these traditions, ideas of Self and Other are drawn from a wider philosophical debate focused on the alterity of Self and Other.

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These traditions also point to the fluid and even contradictory meaning of the Self. Indeed, whilst Wendt makes the rather strong claim that the state is a kind of person, he does not spend much time thinking about the tensions inherent in the notion of personhood itself. Whilst real persons can have a range of relationships and roles, Wendt limits these to three in his cultures of anarchy: enmity, rivalry, and friendship.

Wendt has a rather limited and static view of the relationship of friendship. Indeed, as Wendt claims, it is not a relationship but a role. It is worth thinking here about what roles mean. Wendt uses the example of the role of the president of the USA as an illustration Wendt, , pp. This is instructive as the powers of the president are famously defined and limited by the constitution of the USA.


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Irrespective of the person who fills this role, qua president that person can only act in certain prescribed ways. This is peculiar when we consider the rich variety of friendships individual persons conduct. Although the roles that states adopt can change their interests, the roles themselves are fixed.

The consequences of this identity fixing becomes especially evident when Wendt conflates Self and Other with Ego and Alter. These terms carry different connotations. Whilst self and other and especially Self and Other can indicate radical difference or alterity, Ego and Alter are, in fact, a linked pair. Thus the idiom alter ego : the other, which is linked to the first I and has identity with it. Thus, although Wendt talks about a constitutive relation between Self and Other, we might question how serious he is about this.

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The other encountered in this relationship is really a form of self. By using this encounter to illustrate the claim that culture needs to be shared, Wendt betrays the fact that such shared culture depends on a relation of self—self, not Self—Other. What is transformed is not the self or the state the ontologically pre-existing things but the identity, intentions, and behaviour of those units. Identity is central and possible precisely because in others the self sees not alterity and difference, but an Alter Ego.

From this discussion of Realists, Liberals and Constructivists it is clear that even accounts that have tried to theorize the relationships of IR, including friendship, have tended to fall back on an ontology of things.


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In doing so, they have failed to account for states as embroiled in complex processes of becoming with others. In this way, much IR literature fails to adequately engage with the central questions raised by friendship, questions concerned with the co-constitution of Self and Other. Nevertheless, friendship persists in IR as an intellectual space or question in need of theorization. The first of the previous two parts outlined the bifurcation of friendship in much modern political thought. This ontology theorizes the existence of discrete entities as prior to any relations that they might have.

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We are now in a position to consider the contribution of Chinese scholarship to these debates about ontology and Self—Other relations in IR. The focus on relational ontologies in recent Chinese thought provides a platform to reintroduce friendship to the IR discipline.


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  4. Such a reintroduction does not only refocus on relations, but on the very possibilities of thinking Self with Other. Such a dialectic denies dichotomy and suggests mutual structuring. Such a relation accepts, but reconciles, difference.