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Jean-Baptiste de Foucauld

The 3 Cultures of Human Development Resistance, Regulation, Utopia

In A Society in Search of Meaning, Jean-Baptiste de Foucauld and Denis Piveteau contributed significantly to a new awareness, both among politicians and the general public, of issues related to social exclusion. Their appraisal of the state of society was severe: they regarded unemployment as partially responsible for the crisis in the social fabric and for the feeling that our society had lost its “meaning”. Since then the situation has changed. In 1995, France and Europe were struggling with an economic crisis, rising unemployment, growing social exclusion, and a generally morose atmosphere. Today, economic growth has taken off again, creating jobs and making full employment a feasible goal. And yet, at a time when we seem to be at the brink of a new recession, nothing seems to have really changed. Modernisation may exclude fewer members of our society than had been previously feared, but, if we are not careful, their exclusion will be all the greater. The easiest tasks have been accomplished; the hardest ones are still to be tackled. And we must not forget that our solidarity with developing countries remains indispensable. Globalisation continues at a fast pace. The machines that aid communications have made individuals more autonomous, but also less closely linked to their peers. The biological revolution will give humans the capacity to change themselves and, even, to destroy themselves against their own wishes. We cannot allow these processes to be governed either by the market, which is subject to the interplay of interests and profits, nor by technology, the handmaiden of the market and of the will to power. Humankind must recover the mastery of what it has created. Haphazard protests against globalisation are not enough. Practitioners, as well as many theorists, have long believed that democracies with market economies have the means to address these problems, either by trial and error or through dialogue with the public. But it is no longer possible to retain this “soft” procedural approach to democracy. Democracy needs to return to its origins; it must be given a goal, based on a strong vision of humanity and of humanity as part of society.

Jean-Baptiste de Foucauld is a senior official in the French Treasury. Until 1995 he was a commissioner of France’s economic plan. He is active in numerous think-tanks and associations that struggle against social exclusion and unemployment, such as New Solidarities in the Face of Unemployment, Convictions, and Democracy and Spirituality. He is the co-author, with Alain Minc, of France of the Year 2000 and, with Denis Piveteau, of A Society in Search of Meaning.