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Pabst, Adrian (2013) Fraternity. In: Bruni, Luigino and Zamagni, Stefano, eds. Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise. Edward Elgar, pp. 153-162. ISBN 978-1-84980-463-9. (doi:10.1080/0969725x.2013.834669) (KAR id:37674)


The word ‘fraternity’ derives from the Latin word ‘frater’ or brother. Broadly speaking, ‘fraternity’ refers to some group or association that is constituted by a sense of brotherhood, governed by the ties of friendship and bound together by the mutual aid among its members. In contrast with solidarity which is impersonal and refers to an abstract community based on identity, fraternity is inter-personal and emphasises the diversity between equals based on differentiation (Bruni and Zamagni 2004). As such, it depends on the principle of reciprocity linked to mutual obligations. Fraternity so configured is like an ‘artificial family’ that differentiates itself from other social or civic arrangements on account of a distinct ethos that is binding upon its members (Le Bras 1940–41; Michaud-Quantin 1970; Black 2003).

Far from being confined to the fellowship of small groups, fraternities are part of a wider set of reciprocal relationships in the realm of civil society that are marked by a shared sense of mutual assistance (Bruni and Sugden 2008). Fraternity – as a communal intentionality and also as set of institutions and practices – can embed the economic and the political in the social. Thus, the practice of fraternity can give rise to a genuine commonwealth whose bonds of reciprocity are not based on blood ties or professional links (e.g. Le Roy Ladurie 1982).

Linked to this the Christian idea of a universal body of believers and of charity for all in need, an idea that translates into parishes and guilds organised as ‘confraternities’. In short, the idea and reality of a fraternity blends the civic with the religious, a fusion wherein the secular is not a separate, discrete space that is synonymous with the fallen world of ‘pure nature’, sinfulness, evil and violence. Much rather, the saeculum is a temporality that for catholic orthodox Christianity is ultimately structured by the liturgical cycle of praise and thanksgiving: it mediates the supernatural Good in God, offering intimations of peace and human perfectibility first fully revealed in the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

By contrast, the dominant traditions of modernity instituted the secular as the primary locus of society that restricts the remit of the sacred and redefines religion in terms of abstract belief to which people give asset based on their private consciousness – rather than the communal practice of a shared, embodied faith. As such, the notion of fraternity has roots in Greco-Roman Antiquity whose models of association were transformed by patristic and medieval Christianity that sought to overcome the opposition between the secular and the religious on which much of modernity rests.

Item Type: Book section
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/0969725x.2013.834669
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Adrian Pabst
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2013 13:55 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2023 11:33 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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