The ideology of civic aristocracy that legitimated this political transaction depoliticized the guilds. Civic humanists theorized an anti-collectivist kind of republicanism, in which people could participate only as individuals and not as members or representatives of society’s functional parts. To act as a worker producing material goods was to act for the private good of oneself, one’s family or one’s client, and not for the common good. Any overtly sectional interest was condemned as a conspiracy against the harmonious public interest, an alleged source of corruption in the body politic. To be civically virtuous was to refrain from acting with one’s fellows and to await instruction from one’s rulers.
The modern state is supposedly separated from private capital and commerce so as to safeguard a public sphere from selfish interests. Republicanism’s ideal described that public sphere in terms of citizenship and virtue, as though it could be constituted by one aspect of individuals and compartmentalized from another, ‘private’ and amoral aspect of those same individuals. However, the story of the legitimation of the modern state involves the replacement of this republican ideology of civic virtue with a procedural norm of official impersonality. Republicanism’s real legacy is the freeing of capital and commerce from any ethic of political accountability or social justice. (63)
Kelvin Knight | Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre