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Sunday, April 21, 2019

MacIntyre’s Critique of Liberalism

I am reading Alasdair MacIntyre’s 1981 book After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. In his Prologue titled “After Virtue after a Quarter of a Century,” he offers a critique of liberalism:
My own critique of liberalism derives from a judgment that the best type of human life, that in which the tradition of the virtues is most adequately embodied, is lived by those engaged in constructing and sustaining forms of community directed towards the shared achievement of those common goods without which the ultimate human good cannot be achieved. Liberal political societies are characteristically committed to denying any place for a determinate conception of the human good in their public discourse, let alone allowing that their common life should be grounded in such a conception. On the dominant liberal view, government is to be neutral as between rival conceptions of the human good, yet in fact what liberalism promotes is a kind of institutional order that is inimical to the construction and sustaining of the types of communal relationship required for the best kind of human life. 
But in the following paragraph, he notes that his critique of liberalism should not be interpreted as a sign of any sympathy on his part for contemporary conservatism. He writes: “That conservatism is in too many ways a mirror image of the liberalism that it professedly opposes. Its commitment to a way of life structured by a free market economy is a commitment to an individualism as corrosive as that of liberalism. And, where liberalism by permissive legal enactments has tried to use the power of the modem state to transform social relationships, conservatism by prohibitive legal enactments now tries to use that same power for its own coercive purposes.”

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