Too Many Benedicts Spoil the Totalitarianism


“You keep using that word…”

If this is any indication, “the Benedict Option” now means so many different things it effectively means nothing at all, and has nothing further to do but die out. There’s nothing I hate more than Alasdair MacIntyre’s implicit (and sometimes explicit) totalitarianism, so I’m delighted!

8 Thoughts.

  1. I always permit Rod Dreher the privilege (the right, the liberty even!) of defining the term–but, yes, the main phase of that discussion was over by the time I felt I had to pay attention to it, at least enough to determine whether some advice from Benedict XVI, or some teaching of St. Benedict’s, or some actual practice of Benedictines, or…what….was in view. Imagine my disappointment when it turned out to be mostly Wendell-Berry flavored quietism, especially as I had just given up on my own quietism! But I do think a lot of the *secondary* emphases in some of Dreher’s work (and many like him) are what most find attractive, and those could be mined out and placed in more perfect settings. But what, we must ask, would such settings look like?

    • But a large portion of the case against MacIntyre is precisely that no one has sole or exclusive power (in either the positive or normative sense of “power”) to set definitions of terms authoritatively. The social nature of human beings, created in the image of a triune God who is one and many at the same time, is such that the meaning of terms is irreducibly public and shared. Thus there has never been and can never be a social world such as he imagines the ancient and medieval social worlds to have been. And this is why followers of MacIntyre span the whole wide and varied spectrum from cheerful but totally impotent to resentful and totally impotent. They insist on living in a dream world and can do nothing with the actual one. Hence Dreher’s “quietism,” which is a nice word for despair.

      Of course you’re right that a lot of their secondary stuff is attractive; that’s another way of saying that they could potentially be drawn upon as a resource (or recruited as useful idiots) by others whose overarching vision is closer to reality than theirs.

  2. I have never been interested enough in the details of MacIntyre’s work that I can follow precisely what makes him such a figure of opposition for you. He’s always seemed just one of a very large number of talented folks who are sometimes right, sometimes wrong, very much not messianic, and very much not possessed of ecclesial authority. I would not want to join his cult, if I ever met it, but the same should be said for your cult, or my own, if we had them. I’m more of a Chesterton, Tolkien, Newman, Aquinas fellow, these days; and never much cared to follow living pop icons, anyway. (slightly tongue in cheek: I was constantly embarrassed to love Benedict XVI so much, and in that respect am more comfortable with Francis, who I get to be pleasantly surprised with on a regular basis.)

    I would really like to see a post with a simple explication of “totalitarian” in terms of his major publications. I’m not sure how you’re applying this criticism.

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