Civic virtue as a sociological concept: Definition and social extension

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This paper attempts to offer a number of basic lines for what endeavours to be a sociological definition of civic virtue. Civic virtue is defined as a motivation for public-spirited action. The paper argues that civic virtue is constituted by motivations, which cause specific actions, not by behaviours or character dispositions. In the same way, it is also claimed that virtuous motivations can consist either on motivations to cooperate and to punish free-riders or on supportive and altruistic ones. However, it is remarked that moral motivations and, particularly, altruistic motivations, are not always virtuous. Finally, the social extension of civic virtue consists in the emergence of a publicly spirited body of moral and social norms. This fact, and others that we will see throughout the paper, offer reasons in favour of conceiving the correct articulation between civic virtue and institutional design as a social optimum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-575
JournalRevista Internacional de Sociologia
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010


  • Altruism
  • Cooperation
  • Moral and Social Norms
  • Motivation
  • Selfishness
  • Solidarity

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