Alain Peyrefitte

The Confident Society Publication date : October 13, 2005

What does development mean? What are the factors that favour modernity, progress and growth? From Adam Smith, Karl Marx and Max Weber to Fernand Braudel, economists and sociologists have tried to explain “the wealth of nations” — or their poverty. Most thinkers have focused on material explanations such as capital, work, natural resources and climate. Alain Peyrefitte suggests another explanation: that mental attitudes and behaviour are the main causes of development — and of underdevelopment.
In order to examine the viability of his hypothesis, Peyrefitte reviews the history of western Christianity from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. He demonstrates that development in Europe was the result of an “ethos of confidence”, which he defines as a questioning mind that overturned traditional taboos while favouring innovation, mobility, competition, as well as responsible, rational initiative.

“Alain Peyrefitte has employed his passion and his talent in an attempt to convince us. He has succeeded.” Le Monde

“A remarkable work, worthy of a philosopher of history.” Le Figaro littéraire

Alain Peyrefitte, a member of the Académie Française and of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, is a former French Minister of Justice.