Building your life around close friendships rather than family or romance is a joyful and necessary act of rebellion, and governments should put in place “friendship ministries” to radically rethink the way society is organized, a key French philosopher has argued.
Geoffroy de Lagasnerie this week publishes a manifesto for friendship, 3 Une Aspiration au Dehors, detailing his close friendship with two other writers, Didier Eribon and Édouard Louis. The three friends eat together in the evening, speak many times daily, wish each other goodnight and good morning every day and synch their schedules to make sure they prioritize friendship moments, namely meeting up for long chats. He described the friendship as the center of their lives, “one long discussion that never ends”.
Presented as a kind of radical blueprint for investing in good friendships, De Lagasnerie questions society’s “authoritarian” insistence on prioritizing family structures and romantic relationships.
He describes in the book how the three men always spend their birthdays and special occasions together, including Christmas Eve. “When we send other people our Christmas photos or post them on social media, we get a vast number of messages from people who say they envy the chance to spend the festive season with friends … This raises the question: why does friendship as a way of life seems so inaccessible, even to those who aspire to it?”
He said pure friendship – not just interactions with neighbors or work colleagues – must be constantly nurtured and invested in, but there was no model or institutional support for that from governments. He said people didn’t tend to stay in friendships with people they didn’t like, but many people did stay in a miserable romantic relationship long after feelings had died. Centering your life around friendship rather than family or a romantic relationship appealed to many, whether gay or straight, he said.
De Lagasnerie, who is gay and has decided not to have children, told France Inter radio: “The book stemmed from a form of sadness and melancholy at how life is organized socially … the idea that life should happen in cycles: youth, study, form a relationship, move in together, sleep in the same bed, have children… Those are institutional roles but a lot of people feel at odds with that type of life and have other aspirations. My idea was to instead write an account of a life organized around friendship … to make friendship a space of counterculture against the institutional norms dominating our society.”
He said if friendship was better prioritized by society and governments, it would also end what he called the “horror” and “tyranny” of early morning culture. “I can’t get up early because I’ve been out with friends until 3am” would be seen as just a valid position as “I have to leave early to collect the kids”.
The arts magazine Les Inrocks said the book made any solitary reader long to reach out and contact old friends.