Friendship Reconsidered: What it Means and How It Matters to Politics.

Author:Quest, Linda
Position:Book review

Digeser, P. E. Friendship Reconsidered: What it Means and How It Matters to Politics. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016. xxi + 361 pages. Hardcover, $65.00.

This book is captivating reading. It appeared in print while a respected legislator was being prosecuted for corruption. Basically, he and a friend had chosen different careers, succeeded, and remained friends. One career yielded wealth, one led to contacts and influence. P. E. Digeser is a political scientist, and the book is a broadly comparative work in value-normative political analysis. Digeser could not have known about the legislator's predicament when she wrote Friendship Reconsidered, but I was hoping for fresh understanding from the book. In providing that, regardless of the eventual court decision, Digeser succeeded in her purpose--"if, at best, this work has increased our understanding of friendship it will have also increased a sense of what we do not fully understand" (p. xxi). Her stated goal was to "carve out a position between whole-hearted endorsement and complete rejection of friendship as a political concern" (p. xiii). She did that.

Here is how she did those things and simultaneously made a significant contribution to social-science scholarship:

Digeser dissects the well-known classics and extensively augments them with more recent publications, chiefly but not exclusively Western and all authentically scholarly. They all define their terms and adhere to their respective definitions. Collectively, they generate, in Digeser's words, kaleidoscopic diversity and mutability apropos friendship. The classics yielded ambivalence on friendship. Given that classics were by men and about men--excluding women, slaves, and most foreigners--it improves the database that abundant women authors and other up-to-date political scientists, sociologists, psychologists, historians, and philosophers are found among Digeser's sources. She goes far beyond the classics on friendship and how friendship might matter to politics. Does this thereby produce more precision in defining friendship or detailing how friendship matters to politics than the formulations that left Socrates unsatisfied? No. It keeps confirming kaleidoscopic diversity and mutability. Collaterally, it shows that friendship and politics are similar up to the point where politics can legally involve state power to punish.

Emphatically, the book itself satisfies. It is masterfully crafted. The who, what, where, when...

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