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Freedom, Desire and Revolution: Alasdair Macintyre's Early Marxist Ethics

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This article examines the pre-history of Alasdair MacIntyre's contemporary moral philosophy. In the 1950s and 1960s MacIntyre was a leading member of the British New Left, from whence he gravitated towards a form of heterodox Trotskyism. During this period he began to formulate a Marxist ethics which both compares with and informs the thesis of his magnum opus After Virtue. As the conclusion of After Virtue is premised upon a dismissal of Marxism, it is of some interest to explore the exact route through which MacIntyre came to replace his earlier with his later framework. The article, after reconstructing MacIntyre's Marxist ethics, traces the trajectory through which he came to reject Marxism, and shows that while MacIntyre's mature critique of Marxism first took shape in the 1960s, his political pessimism was built upon two assumptions -- that Marx's economic theory was outdated and that a defensible theory of human nature did not exist -- which he has recently questioned. The conclusion is that MacIntyre's rethinking of these assumptions has opened a space for a renewed dialogue between himself and Marxists.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Social Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, LS1 3HE, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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