While people often acknowledge that they have responsibilities, as parents and children, as friends or neighbours, the idea of civic virtue, of an extensive responsibility to the larger political community, does not chime easily with contemporary ways of thinking. The very word ‘civic virtue’ connotes, if not authoritarian Jacobin austerity, then nineteenth-century municipal preoccupations with tidy parks and street furniture. ‘Public spirit’ is a little less alien. ‘Civility’ is more acceptable, perhaps because it sounds less demanding. Likewise the term ‘the common good’ is no longer popular, because it has been used to justify overbearing power over individuals, and can be invoked to promote thinly veiled self-interest.