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McTernan, Emily. How to Make Citizens Behave: Social Psychology, Liberal Virtues, and Social Norms
2014, Journal of Political Philosophy 22(1): 84-104.
Added by: Carl Fox
Abstract: It is widely conceded by liberals that institutions alone are insufficient to ensure that citizens behave in the ways required for a liberal state to flourish, be stable, or function at all. A popular solution proposes cultivating virtues in order to secure the desired behaviours of citizens, where institutions alone would not suffice. A range of virtues are proposed to fill a variety of purported gaps in the liberal political order. Some appeal to virtues in order to secure state stability; Rawls, for instance, claims that ‘citizens must have a sense of justice and the political virtues that support political and social institutions’ in order to ensure an ‘enduring society’. For Galston, citizens must possess a range of virtues in order for the state to function, including the virtues of courage, independence, tolerance, willingness to engage in public discourse, and law-abidingness.

Comment: Challenges the relevance of debates about virtue for liberals concerned with stability and argues that they would be better advised to look to social norms for assistance. Raises some interesting questions for proponents of liberalism and does a nice job of envisioning the instrumental potential of social norms for political theorists. Very useful further reading for anyone interested in (or writing on) either stability or social norms.

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