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Louis Joseph Lebret . For a Human-Centred Economy. A Mariner Economist. Brittany 1897-1966 Paris Naval school & Naval Office – traffic manager at port of Beirut Entered the Order aged 26 Studied at Rijckholt, Netherlands Founded ‘Movement of St Malo’ for fishermen

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louis joseph lebret

Louis Joseph Lebret

For a Human-Centred Economy

a mariner economist
A Mariner Economist
  • Brittany 1897-1966 Paris
  • Naval school & Naval Office – traffic manager at port of Beirut
  • Entered the Order aged 26
  • Studied at Rijckholt, Netherlands
  • Founded ‘Movement of St Malo’ for fishermen
  • Founded Économie et Humanisme
  • Worked for the Vatican at the UN
movement of st malo
Movement of St Malo
  • 1929, Lebret fell ill & sent to St Malo convent to convelesce
  • Faced with the poverty of the fishermen, he began to develop his concept of human economy
  • With friend Ernst Lamort, helped them:
    • 1931 Secrétariat Social Maritime
    • unions
    • Journal La Voix du Marin
    • 1930 Jeunesse Maritime Chrétienne
a dream fulfilled
A Dream Fulfilled
  • 1930s studying social & economic theory
    • including fisheries for early Vichy government
  • 1941 created Économie et Humanisme
    • realising his dream of a study centre on ‘complex socio-economic realities’
    • ‘human economy’ approach of methodology & intervention
    • seeking to expose the economic mechanisms behind poverty
    • experimenting with new social relationships
human economy
Human Economy
  • Two fundemental principles:
    • respect for human person: Mournier’s Personalist Manifesto
    • establishment of the common good: Aquinas on community of the Trinity, relation of creation & Creator, political good
  • Catholic Church slow to see modern economic realities:
    • ‘Social Catholic’ palliative approach not enough
    • Lebret’s reading of Marx countered this by engaging with materialistic capitalism
    • not Marxist: class struggle incompatible with common good
    • worker-priests suspended 1954: ended his dialogue + Marxism
  • Social sciences for global development
    • multidisciplinary: links between sociology & economics, development & psychology
    • involvement of researchers in their subject: solidarity with active agents of transformation
  • Montée humaine: goal of improving life for all people
conomie et humanisme
Économie et Humanisme
  • Journal established Lyon 1942
    • to inform & provoke debate in society
    • with study & training sessions at the centre
  • Scientific studies for public authorities
    • e.g. on housing, migration, disabled children
    • role in post-war reconstruction of France & Europe
    • competence in regional development, social action & housing
  • Influential on decision-makers of 1950s & 60s
  • Still published today
human development
Human Development

“Development is a continuous harmonious growth aimed at valuing the human person”

  • Lectures at São Paolo 1947:
    • found misery of shanty towns & people’s capacity to engage
    • raised awareness of Latin America’s needs in Europe
  • Centres of Human Economy set up worldwide
    • influence on OP in Brazil
    • 1955+ travel to Asia & West Africa
    • Journal Développement et Civilisations
  • 1958 IRFED institute for research on development
    • problems of urban economy e.g. shanty towns
    • macro-economic studies e.g. Vietnam, Rwanda
  • Lebret Centre in Paris:
    • continues development work today, links with Latin America
vatican ii
Vatican II
  • Became friends with future Paul VI
    • their discussions led to Populorum Progressio, which Lebret drafted
  • Called as expert counsel to Vatican II
    • aided Dom Helder Camara, bishop of Recife, Brazil
    • helped draft material for Gaudium et Spes
  • 1964 Vatican spokesperson for UNCTAD
    • UN Conference on Trade & Development
  • Member of Pontifical Secretariat for Social Justice & Development
    • future Council for Justice & Peace
socio economic change
Socio-Economic Change
  • Context of socio-economic change & reconstruction after WWII
  • Believed people are free & responsible, so able to transform their situations
    • awareness of unjust economic mechanisms needed
    • the aware ‘militants’ are catalysts for change
    • first study causes, then act as a team
    • group solidarity thus brings about the common good

“The greatest evil in the world is not the poverty of those without, but the lack of awareness of the well-to-do”

fundamental needs
Fundamental Needs
  • A whole person is both body & spirit
  • Hierarchy of needs (1943 article)
    • primary are essential for life e.g. food, housing, peace, trust – society in balance
    • secondary are useful e.g. travel, radio – prosperous society
    • tertiary are rare e.g. works of art – cultivated society
  • A controversial system (economists cannot quantify)
  • Yet socio-politically essential: the economy as a tool for attaining social objectives

“We want with all our might an economy of the human order, where a mass of goods, spread as widely as possible, is distributed according to how urgent are the needs of all, and not according to a hierarchy of ability to pay.”