Although baptised a Presbyterian, from his early twenties MacIntyre abandoned religion for a quarter of a century. He appears to have shared for a time AJ Ayer’s assertion that the only significant propositions are those that can be empirically or scientifically verified. MacIntyre’s conversion to Catholicism in his fifties, he tells me, occurred as a result of being convinced of Thomism while attempting to disabuse his students of its authenticity. Aquinas combined Aristotle’s account of a universe knowable through observation with Christian philosophy, arguing that such a world still required God’s existence as its sustaining creator. An Aristotelian-Thomistic view of society and the world, as set out in After Virtue, offered the best philosophical underpinning for human flourishing, and the only alternative to the fragmentation of modern moral philosophy.
MacIntyre argues that those committed to the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition of the common good must begin again. This involves “capturing the double aspect of the globalising economy and its financial sector, so that we understand it both as an engine of growth and as such a source of benefits, but equally as a perpetrator of great harms and continuing injustices.” Apologists for globalisation, he argues, treat it as a source of benefits, and only accidentally and incidentally a source of harms. Hence, the view that “to be for or against globalisation is in some ways like being for or against the weather.”
MacIntyre maintains, however, that the system must be understood in terms of its vices””in particular debt. The owners and managers of capital always want to keep wages and other costs as low as possible. “But, insofar as they succeed, they create a recurrent problem for themselves. For workers are also consumers and capitalism requires consumers with the purchasing power to buy its products. So there is tension between the need to keep wages low and the need to keep consumption high.” Capitalism has solved this dilemma, MacIntyre says, by bringing future consumption into the present by dramatic extensions of credit.
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