Perspectives on Politics

A Defense of Party Spirit

Russell  Muirhead  a1
a1 Department of Government, The University of Texas at Austin (E-mail:

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Amid the resurgence of party spirit in the U.S., partisanship retains its bad name. Often branded an expression of inherited prejudice, narrow interest, or dogmatic commitment, it seems at odds with good citizenship. In what form, if any, is partisanship something admirable? This question has been neglected by political theorists, whose ideals of democracy, justice, and citizen virtue rarely depict the proper place of partisanship. I offer an account of the ethics of partisanship that shows how party spirit is defensible, even admirable—and how it is troubling, even pathological. a


a Russell Muirhead is Associate Professor in the Department of Government, The University of Texas at Austin ( I would like to thank Sam Beer, Sharon Krause, Joseph Lambert, Glyn Morgan, Nancy Rosenblum, Mark Somos, Dennis Thompson, Jeremy Waldron, and the three anonymous reviewers for their very helpful written comments on drafts of this paper. I would also like to thank the participants of the Yale Political Theory workshop for their comments.