Alasdair MacIntyre and the Hope for a Politics of Virtuous Acknowledged Dependence

Contemporary Political Theory 1 (2):181-201 (2002)
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This paper seeks to evaluate the political dimensions to Alasdair MacIntyre's thought. It does so by examining his virtue ethics in light of the political vision set out in Dependent Rational Animals and elsewhere. Key to MacIntyre's project is a form of local community that challenges the modern market and nation-state. This challenge and its philosophical underpinnings situate him as a distinctive figure within contemporary democratic thought. Against his critics, a central claim is that MacIntyre does not fall foul either of a nostalgic anti-pluralism or an unreflective conservatism. In fact, his theory is amenable to the idea of a non-subjectivist pluralism and displays a highly sophisticated understanding of the processes of change and critique. There are, however, significant problems. These spring from MacIntyre's excessive hostility to modern liberal realities. A near totalising critique, it threatens not only to undercut his Aristotelian philosophy of practice, but also leads him to an insupportable bifurcation of state and community. As regards the state, civil liberty, and distributive justice, MacIntyre can avoid self-contradiction and a despairing purism only if he takes a more moderate stance



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Keith Breen
Queen's University, Belfast

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