Loyalty

Loyalty is seen as a virtue. It is a faithfulness to one’s duty which may include family, friendship, organization, profession, religion or country. The motivation for loyalty may be sentimental where the commitment to duty may remain despite a cost or a disadvantage or practical where the commitment to duty is rational and deliberate1.

Relevant work on Loyalty
Aside from Plato and Aristotle, significant contributors to the study of loyalty are 19th century philosopher, Josiah Royce who wrote The Philosophy of Loyalty (1908) and 20th century economist, Albert Hirschman author of //Exit, Voice, and Loyalty//: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States (1970).

Royce believed that in order to live a morally significant life, individuals must devote themselves to a cause. In his early work on loyalty, Royce does not define worthy and unworthy causes but suggests the act of loyalty, in itself, is good for the individual because it provides meaning and purpose in life. Royce termed this a “loyalty to loyalty”. He thought that loyalty was a condition for validating morality, but also understood that loyalty to an unworthy cause can deliver devastating results. He distinguished loyalties by defining “true loyalty” as devotion to a good cause that would benefit the community and “predatory” loyalty as one that devotes itself to an “evil cause”. 2

Hirschman proposed that loyalty is primary reason for economic decline in an organization. If a stakeholder (employee, customer, shareholder) exits an organization at the first signs of trouble and they have not verbally expressed their concerns prior to departure, “exit without voice” occurs. 3“Voice” is employed when customers or employees verbally express their concern with the hope of being heard and addressed. Hirschman defined loyalty as “the degree to which members will trade the certainty of exit for the uncertainties of some future improvement in the organization”. 4

Ethical loyalties
Morally strong loyalties are shown to causes that do not undermine the loyalties of others. They are given freely “with sacrifice and without the expectation of receiving something equal in return”. 5 Ethics are questioned when “loyalty to loyalty” is blindly exercised without regard for the cause (whether true or predatory). In these cases loyalty has deteriorated and it is replaced with blind obedience which leads to submission. 6

Criticisms
Loyalty is criticized as being inherently “exclusionary”. “A” can only be loyal to “B” at the discriminationof “C”. 7 This is evident in political arenas but is not consistent with all loyalties, a devotion to one does not always involve harm or discrimination to another.

Loyalty is also criticized as being inherent and not freely chosen. The loyalties we develop to family, country or religion are nurtured and may be practiced without question to the cause.



[1] Kleinig, John, "Loyalty", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/loyalty/>.
[2] Parker, Kelly A., "Josiah Royce", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/royce/>.
[3] Stoker, K. (2005). Loyalty in Public Relations: When does it cross the line between virtue and vice?. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 20(4), 269-287.
[4] Stoker, K. (2005). p.271.
[5] Stoker, K. (2005). Loyalty in Public Relations: When does it cross the line between virtue and vice?. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 20(4), p.274.
[6] Stoker, K. (2005). Loyalty in Public Relations: When does it cross the line between virtue and vice?. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 20(4), 269-287.
[7] Kleinig, John, "Loyalty", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/loyalty/>.