Alasdair MacIntyre's engagement with Marxism : selected by Alasdair MacIntyre

By Alasdair MacIntyre

Even if Alasdair MacIntyre is better recognized at the present time because the writer of "After advantage" (1981), he used to be, within the Fifties and Sixties, probably the most erudite participants of Britain's Marxist Left: being a militant inside of, first, the Communist social gathering, after which the recent Left

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71 To label MacIntyre’s wager dogmatic is thus to miss the point: one way or another, we all make the wager, and those who do not bet on the proletariat are compelled to retreat back to the tragic vision: if we reject Marx, then we are doomed, therefore, to fall back into one form or another of the incommensurable ethical perspectives dominant within bourgeois society. To fully comprehend MacIntyre’s later break with Marxism we must consequently ask not what made him drop the dogma, but rather what made him change his bet?

The style was at once magisterial and provocative, deadpan but destructive. . Like Nietzsche and Sartre, MacIntyre saw ‘the death of God’ as a cataclysmic event in the history of moral systems which had, since the Enlightenment, become a series of failed attempts to attain the objectivity of theism without the embarrassment of theistic doctrines, an objective moral code without God as the author. In the heady 1960s MacIntyre was content to leave us with this deconstructed ruin of history. He viewed the situation with a cheerful irony and ended his lectures with a nod towards the Marxism then propounded by Sartre, which allowed us to seek the ephemeral community of the ‘group in fusion’, while keeping our distance from the supposed errors of historical materialism.

Read in this context, MacIntyre’s shift from the SLL to the IS is best conceptualised as a moment in the process through which he deepened his understanding of the concrete implications of his radicalism: first, after his break with the CPGB he moved to the New Left, then towards a form of Trotskyism, and then towards a more vibrant interpretation of Marxism. 66 MacIntyre made explicit his heterodox interpretation of Trotskyism in a review, first published in 1963, of the third volume of Isaac Deutscher’s biography of Trotsky.

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