Realism, Democratic Accountability, and Neo-Aristotelianism: Reading Macintyre as a Political Realist
Keywords:Political realism, Virtue ethics, Democratic Accountability, Neo-Aristotelianism, Common good
MacIntyre’s criticisms of liberalism are well known but his constructive political philosophy is less widely appreciated. In this article, I outline MacIntyre’s neo-Aristotelian political theory by situating it in relationship to both Jeremy Waldron’s account of democratic accountability and the political realism of Bernard Williams and Raymond Geuss. MacIntyre shares Waldron’s concern that political institutions be accountable to ordinary political agents but he avoids the latter’s moralism by viewing democratic accountability as a structural feature of the relationship between practices and institutions. Likewise, MacIntyre’s critique of liberalism has much in common with that of Williams but MacIntyre differs from Williams in rejecting the latter’s view of political legitimacy as centered upon provisions of societal order and security. In contrast, MacIntyre’s approach is similar to Geuss’s account of political realism except that MacIntyre gives a much greater role to virtues and moral norms generated within locally delineated practices as key factors facilitating political action. In this sense, MacIntyre’s theory of political can be called a virtue realism.