In political theory, the word virtue usually refers to the disposition or character traits appropriate to a citizen. Someone who takes the responsibilities of citizenship seriously, to the point of putting the common good ahead of his or her personal interests, is thus said to display civic virtue. Political theorists have frequently warned that such virtue cannot be taken for granted, however, and many of them have urged that steps be taken to promote or foster civic virtue. This concern for the fragility of civic virtue is a clear theme in ancient (or classical) political thought, but it has also played an important part in modern and contemporary political theory.
Copyright © 2010 Sage Publications. This article first appeared in Encyclopedia of Political Theory.
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Dagger, Richard. "Virtue." In Encyclopedia of Political Theory, edited by Mark Bevir, 1404-407. Vol. 3. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2010.