Liberal Divisions

by Caleb Roberts

The bourgeois society of the nineteenth century articulated itself in terms of concepts and beliefs, which, although they took on differing theoretical forms, were all apart of the apparatus of secular liberalism.  Liberalism is the theoretical mirror in which the nineteenth century was able to see its own face; and just as the social structures of the nineteenth century depend upon division and compartmentalization, so liberal theory similarly develops a view of the world as divided and compartmentalized.  The most fundamental of the distinctions inherent in liberalism is that between the political and the economic.  Just as in its actual social practice the bourgeoisie’s goal is that of a purely negative, non-interventionist relationship between the state — conceived narrowly as a device for protecting the citizen from foreign invasion and internal disorder and for upholding the sanctity of contract — and the economy of the free market, so in liberal political theory it is thought possible to divorce a man’s political status from this economic status.  Thus liberalism can combine within itself a drive towards ideals of political equality with an actual fostering of economic inequality.  And just as the political is separated from the economic, so morality, too, tends to become a realm apart, a realm concerned with private relationships. (132-133)

Alasdair MacIntyre | Marxism and Christianity

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