Aristotelian realism: Political friendship and the problem of stability

Eric Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper argues that the pursuit of stability is the primary concern of Aristotle’s understanding of political friendship. Specifically, I argue that Aristotle chooses to understand political friendship to be a “special sort” of utility/advantage friendship, applicable to multiple regime types of varying degrees of (in)equality, because he fears what might happen when citizens in any polity develop mutual animosity. Turning to the contemporary liberal democratic context, I note that Aristotle provides us with a strong positive argument for why we ought to take political friendship seriously. However, I stipulate that contemporary liberal democracies present obstacles to the realization of classical political friendship. I thereby conclude by suggesting that citizens can potentially be political friends when they understand politics and their social relations through the “metaphor” of political friendship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-571
Number of pages23
JournalReview of Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Sep 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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