Moral Reciprocity

“What once made relationships constitutive of personal identity and self-respect is precisely the fact that they stood outside the world of contracts and market exchange. Family, friends, neighbours, mentors, were people to whom you were bound by moral reciprocity. What was important is that they were there in bad times as well as good; when you needed them, not when you could pay for them. They told you things you didn’t want to hear as well as the things you did. Compare that to the marketisation of friendship in the form of the advertisement for a ‘personal coach’ quoted by Robert Reich: ‘Best friends are wonderful to have. But is your best friend a professional who you will trust to work with you on the most important aspects of your life?’ The answer to this rhetorical question is Yes: you trust a friend precisely because you do not pay for his or her friendship.”

The Dignity of Difference, p. 77