Alasdair MacIntyre’s Political Liberalism


Alasdair MacIntyre is known as one of the foremost critics ofliberalism, both liberal theory and liberal practice. As analternative to the utilitarianism and relativism of liberal moraltheory, MacIntyre has proposed virtue-ethics and "traditionconstitutedrationality." As an alternative to the individualism andbureaucratization of liberal moral practice, MacIntyre has proposedthe practices and politics of local community. MacIntyrehas presented his anti-liberal moral and political vision in histrilogy, After Virtue, Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, and Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, in later works such asDependent Rational Animals, and in numerous articles, lectures,and interviews; and he has done so with a brilliance, erudition, andsophistication unmatched by his liberal opponents. Yet, as I shallattempt to show in this article, MacIntyre's moral theory containsinternal contradictions that render its practical application ofsmall-scale, tradition-constituted communities defective.MacIntyre's political prescription is built upon an incoherentnotion of the state, is insufficiently political, and fosters thepolitical liberalism he so vehemently opposes. Since MacIntyre'smagnificent trilogy, though rich in moral theory, does not containmuch in the way of sustained political theory, to substantiate mycritique of MacIntyre's political philosophy, I shall examine hislesser-known Dependent Rational Animals, as well as some of hislectures on politics.
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