Mounier, Emmanuel

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Founder of a philosophy of personalism; b. Grenoble, April 1, 1905; d. Paris, March 22, 1950. Mounier began his active career as a professor of philosophy at St. Omer. In October 1932 he founded the journal Esprit, in which he applied his philosophy of personalism to the contemporary social, political, and cultural problems of the France of his day. During World War II he was a member of the Lyons resistance; was arrested (1941) but later released as a result of a hunger strike; and spent the occupation near Beauvillon, where he was a member of the dromois maquis. He resumed the editorship of Esprit after the war. Three of his works that have appeared in English translation are A Personalist Manifesto (New York 1938), Personalism (London 1952), and Be Not Afraid: Studies in Personalist Sociology (New York 1954).

Mounier's personalism was based on belief in the person as a spiritual being, maintaining his existence by adhering to a hierarchy of values freely adopted and assimilated. The person lives by his own responsible activity and interior development, unifies all his activity in freedom, and by creative acts develops his individuality and vocation. The person freely involves himself in the world while maintaining a spiritual detachment from, and transcendence over, the material aspects of civilization. Personalism means "engagement in action" in contemporary civilization. Real communion is also a demand of the person; the need for it leads to neither individualism nor communism, but to a personalist communitarian society in which each person would achieve his vocation in the totality, and in which the communion of the totality would be the result of the efforts of each person.

Mounier applied this philosophy to contemporary society. For him, the capitalist economic order subordinated the person to a system of production because of the profit motive. A personalist economic order would regulate the economy according to service rendered to the members of society. This would mean in practice a type of socialism involving elimination of the primacy of the profit motive, socialization of certain sectors of industry, development of cooperative life, the priority of labor over capital, the abolition of class distinctions based on division of labor or wealth, and the priority of personal responsibility over organizations.

In Mounier's thought, a personalist political order would be based upon a pluralistic society. The resulting democracy would be limited by the spiritual person and the rights of the natural societies that compose the nation. Such a democracy would be based upon autonomous societies exercising authority in their own spheres of influence and freely cooperating for national projects; it would result in a decentralization of authority and the personalization of the political order.

Bibliography: Emmanuel Mounier: 19051950 (Paris 1950), also in Esprit 18 (1950): 7211080. c. moix, La Pensée d'Emmanuel Mounier (Paris 1960). d. wolf, "Emmanuel Mounier: A Catholic of the Left," Review of Politics 22 (1960): 324344.

[d. wolf]

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Mounier, Emmanuel

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