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A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? Charles de Coux and the dream of a Christian Political Economy

  • Université Panthéon-Assas, Paris, France


During the first decades of the nineteenth century, the emergence of “économie politique chrétienne”, with the aim of founding a new school of political economy, marked the French intellectual landscape. The name of J.-P. A. de Villeneuve-Bargemont is usually cited in this context. But, before Villeneuve-Bargemont, Charles de Coux had launched this approach powerfully. The present paper first states the circumstances of Coux’s writings and their specific intellectual context. His project is then analysed, and his critique of political economy, his fundamental idea for an alternative approach and his description of the logic of an industrial economy are discussed. Finally, the solutions he proposed to eradicate pauperism are examined. A brief statement of the significance of his work and legacy concludes.
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People?
Charles de Coux and the dream of a
Christian Political Economy
Gilbert Faccarello
During the first decades of the nineteenth century, the emergence of
“économie politique chrétienne”, with the aim of founding a new school of
political economy, marked the French intellectual landscape. The name
of J.-P. A. de Villeneuve-Bargemont is usually cited in this context. But,
before Villeneuve-Bargemont, Charles de Coux had launched this ap-
proach powerfully. The present paper first states the circumstances of
Coux’s writings and their specific intellectual context. His project is then
analysed, and his critique of political economy, his fundamental idea for
an alternative approach and his description of the logic of an industrial
economy are discussed. Finally, the solutions he proposed to eradicate
pauperism are examined. A brief statement of the significance of his work
and legacy concludes.
Panthéon-Assas University, Paris. Email: Homepages: and To be
published in The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 24(4), 2017.
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 2
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 3
I would deeply regret it if your work for the journals induced you to
stop or even simply suspend your course of political economy, which you
could, more rightly than Vico, entitle The New Science. (Lamennais to
Coux, 19 October 1833, in Dudon 1911: 85-86)
According to Zoroaster, ancient magi believed that the spirit of the seas
would severely punish the least stain on his waters; they consequently
detested navigation and, in the interest of their eternal happiness, they
relinquished the incalculable advantages they could have drawn from it.
With such a doctrine, trade could not flourish; a moral obstacle opposed
its development and .. . Say and Sismondi, had they lived among the
fire worshippers, would have been as useful to them as a dance teacher
for paralysed people. (Coux 1830-31: 104)
1Setting the stage
In France like in other European countries, the question of poverty was of-
ten debated under the Ancien régime. During the French Revolution, it was
thought that the problem could be more or less easily settled, but the different
policies proved to be a failure. People may have thought for a while that the
persistence of the phenomenon was due to one decade of dramatic political
events. But at the beginning of the nineteenth century, after the fall of the
Empire, there was no more room for doubt: not only did poverty persist, but
the nature of the phenomenon seemed to have dramatically changed. Poverty
turned into pauperism: it was permanent, massive, and intimately connected
to economic growth and the new industrial society. Wealth and poverty devel-
oped at the same vertiginous rate.
The development of pauperism induced, from all quarters, an indictment
of political economy. Not only were liberal economists incapable of curing the
disease, but the evil seemed to be a direct consequence of the implementation
of the policies they proposed. From that moment, debates never ceased during
the century, first on pauperism, then on the “question sociale”. This was the
occasion for many currents of thought to emerge and develop. But while some
of them, like the Phalansterians and the Saint-Simonians, are well known,
others are relatively neglected today, despite the fact that they also played an
important part in French politics. Christian political economy is one of them.
This approach emerged during the first half of the 1830s, powerfully initi-
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 4
ated by Jean-Paul Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont1(1784-1850) and his three-
volume book: Économie politique chrétienne ou Recherche sur la nature et les
causes du paupérisme en France et en Europe et sur les moyens de le soulager
et de le prévenir (1834), but also, and before him, by Charles de Coux (1787-
1864). Both authors called for the emergence of a new, Christian school of
political economy, in opposition to both liberal political economy and social-
This current of thought developed in various directions — liberal Catholi-
cism and social Catholicism in particular — during the following decades.
Different associations were created, which played an important role in French
economic and political life, and new political forces emerged, like the first
“Démocratie chrétienne” in 1848. Popes Gregory XVI, Pius IX and Leo XIII
also intervened in the debates, especially through the publication of encycli-
cal letters. They usually condemned the liberal tendencies of the movement
but also retained some of the ideas being debated. It could thus be said that
the theories put forth at the beginning of the 1830s in France later gener-
ated — through French and European debates among Catholics — what has
been called the social doctrine of the Church, officially expressed in Leo XIII’s
encyclical Rerum Novarum published in 1891.
The analysis of what happened in France during the 1830s is thus of great
interest. However, the emergence of Christian political economy2is a bit more
complex than usually asserted. It is mainly the outcome of two different intel-
lectual traditions, which, moreover, developed in different directions. So far,
only the work of Villeneuve-Bargemont has attracted the attention of schol-
ars.3His 1834 book, in particular, created sensation because of its tone —
a denunciation of the evil of pauperism and its supposed causes: the policies
dictated by the political economy of the “English school” — and its length and
content: three well-documented volumes. The present paper focuses instead
1Also called “Monsieur de Villeneuve” in the literature of the time.
2It is to be noted that the phrase “Christian political economy” was used by the authors
themselves, with the explicit aim to define a new school of thought — also called the “charita-
ble” or “Catholic” school. For a different use of the expression “Christian political economy”
in the British context, inaugurated by Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population, see
Waterman (1991: chapter 1).
3See for example Théry (1911), Festy (1919), Moon (1921, chapter 1), Ring (1935),
Duroselle (1951, part I: chapter 1), Tiano (1993) and Tanaka (2001-2002).
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 5
on the writings of Charles de Coux, who also powerfully attacked the liberal
system, and whose ambition was more theoretical. Before going deeper into the
subject, however, three important remarks are required to explain the general
religious context of the debates.
The first regards a distinction within the Christian churches in France, that
is, between Catholic worship on the one hand, and Reformed worship — the
Protestants — on the other hand, with their multiple variants. France had a
very tragic religious past. During the sixteenth century, the Wars of Religion
between Catholics and Protestants devastated the country. The 1598 Edict
of Nantes, a treaty promulgated by King Henri IV — himself a Protestant
who converted to Catholicism to accede to the throne — put an end to the
wars and created a space for Protestants in the Catholic kingdom. However,
this Edict was repealed in 1685 by Louis XIV, provoking new persecution of
Protestants and the emigration of many of them. Protestant worship was later
officially accepted in France under the 1789 Revolution. Religious liberty was,
subsequently, redefined by Bonaparte in certain clauses he added to the Con-
cordat signed in 1801 with Pope Pius VII. At the beginning of the nineteenth
century, the Protestant Churches were still weak, and in the process of re-
construction. Moreover, under the Restoration, their action was hindered by
the authorities — especially as regards the right of association and publication.
This explains why, at that time, for the majority of the population, “Christian”
meant “Catholic”. While picking up some themes already put forth by such
Protestant authors as Germaine de Staël and Benjamin Constant,4Christian
political economy proper was developed by Catholic writers.
Second, one must be aware of the fact that, during the nineteenth cen-
tury, strong anti-Protestant feeling existed among many Catholic writers. The
Catholic Church, which saw its influence on the population greatly decline
during the eighteenth century with the development of atheism, deism and
pantheism, was just starting to reconquer public opinion — with works like
Génie du Christianisme, ou Beauté de la Religion Chrétienne (Chateaubriand,
1802) — and did not appreciate the return of Protestantism in the national
religious landscape. A strong anti-Protestant rhetoric developed, culminating
at the end of the century in a racist discourse, with arguments that were to be
4On these themes, see Faccarello and Steiner (2008: Section 2).
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 6
found later in anti-Semitism. The important point to note is that, from the
very beginning, Christian political economy — in various ways, depending on
the authors — was part and parcel of the anti-Protestant arsenal.5
Finally, a third remark is in order. Among the many topics that might di-
vide Catholics, an old question returned to the agenda: the opposition between
Gallicans and Ultramontanes. The controversy was of importance because it
involved the question of the relations between the spiritual power — the Church
— and the political power — the State. Supporters of Gallicanism were in
favour of the relative autonomy of the French Church vis-à-vis the Pope, and
of a certain intervention of the State in religious affairs, for example in the
nomination of bishops. On the contrary, Ultramontanes supported the idea
of the pre-eminence of the Pope over the French Church. At the beginning of
the nineteenth century, the largest part of the Catholic hierarchy was Gallican,
but things changed some decades later. In addition, under the Restoration,
most practising Catholics were also in favour of a strict monarchical politi-
cal regime. The two great philosophers of the Counter-Revolution, however,
Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) and Louis de Bonald (1754-1840), were Ultra-
montane, and their ideas played a part in the intellectual formation of those
who, in the 1830s, proposed a Christian political economy.
In the following pages, I first present the historical and intellectual circum-
stances of the intervention of Charles de Coux (Section 2). I then deal with his
project (Section 3) and with his critique of political economy, his fundamental
idea for an alternative approach and his description of the logic of an industrial
economy (Section 4). Finally, I examine the solutions he proposes to put an
end to pauperism (Section 5). A brief statement of the significance of his work
and legacy concludes (Section 6).
2Charles de Coux’s intellectual background
In strong contrast with Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont’s legitimist and con-
servative milieu scandalised by the new economic and social order, Charles de
5This important point is a part of a wider debate on the respective merits of the “nations
catholiques” and the “nations protestantes”. On Protestantism and anti-Protestantism in
France during the nineteenth century, see Leroy-Beaulieu (1902), Baubérot (1985), Encrevé
(1985), Sacquin (1998) and Baubérot and Zuber (2000).
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 7
Coux was a member of a group of Catholic activists who, at the turn of 1830,
gathered around the Abbé Hugues-Félicité Robert de Lamennais6(1782-1854)
and who, in various fields, remained influential during the following decades.
2.1 “God and Liberty”
Lamennais was well known at that time, especially since the end of the 1810s
when he published a series of writings that won him a reputation as a formidable
theologian and polemist. He was an activist of the Ultramontane cause and a
fierce critic of Gallicanism. He was also ultra-royalist, but during the 1820s,
like François-René de Chateaubriand, he became more and more disappointed
with the Restoration. He proposed an alliance between the Church and the
liberals, called for the institution of certain fundamental rights — freedom of
conscience, freedom of the press, freedom of teaching — and for the separation
of Church and State. He had with him some young disciples, like Philippe Ger-
bet (1798-1864) and Louis-Antoine de Salinis (1798-1861), both abbots (and
later bishops), with whom he published a periodical, Le Mémorial Catholique.
At the time of the July Revolution of 1830 that put an end to the Restora-
tion, they were joined by a young Dominican monk, Henri-Dominique Lacor-
daire (1802-1861) and by some laymen — Charles de Coux and the young
Charles Forbes de Montalembert (1810-1870). Together they founded a daily
newspaper, L’Avenir — the motto of which was “God and Liberty”7— and
the Agence générale pour la défense de la liberté religieuse (General Agency for
Religious Freedom), the aim of which was to fight for the freedom of teaching
and to serve as a publishing house.
L’Avenir was first published on 16 October 1830, and the publication
stopped on 15 November 1831. Its life was short, but the ideas it campaigned
for resonated strongly, especially among the younger members of the clergy.
6Robert was the family name. His father added “de Lamennais” — at that time also
spelled “de La Mennais”. I follow the (now) common spelling of “Lamennais” that the author
adopted in the 1830s, and the usage of calling the author Lamennais instead of Robert de
7L’Avenir was founded .. . just after a revolution, which had made evident the falseness
of the way followed by the power, for the restoration of the society. When God strikes in this
way, men’s duty is to think about their faults, and to seek an understanding of what can save
them” (Lamennais et alii 1831: i). On the approach followed by L’Avenir, see Lamennais
(1830a, 1830b, 1831a, 1831b).
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 8
However, they frightened conservative Catholics and most of the Catholic hier-
archy. In the end, the progressive ideas of L’Avenir were condemned by Pope
Gregory XVI in the encyclical Mirari Vos (15 August 1832). The Lamennais
group accepted the judgment. However, Lamennais’ submission did not last
long and, after the publication of his celebrated Paroles d’un croyant (1834),
he broke with the Church and moved towards socialism.
The other members of the group went on fighting in favour of Catholi-
cism and progressively formed an important network of influence, with peri-
odicals like Le Correspondant,8Revue Européenne9(1831-1835) and the daily
L’Univers (1833-1919). Moreover, in 1836, Gerbet, Salinis, and Casimir de
Scorbiac (1796-1846) started an intellectually ambitious periodical, L’Univer-
sité catholique. Recueil religieux, philosophique, scientifique et littéraire.10 Its
aim was to foreshadow, in 20 volumes, what could have been the teaching in
a Catholic university in France, if only such an institution were allowed. The
lobby also had international connections: with the newly independent Belgium
of course — the attitude of the Belgian clergy and its alliance with the liberals
in order to obtain the independence had been a model for Lamennais — but
also with the Irish and Polish Catholics fighting for their recognition.
The Lamennais group exerted a lasting influence on French intellectual
life. The positions of its members, however, were not homogeneous, and they
evolved over time in favour of, roughly speaking, either liberal political or
conservative but social Catholicism. While the Catholic hierarchy progressively
8First published weekly (1829-1831), then monthly (1843-1868) after a long interruption,
and then fortnightly (1869-1937).
9Initially published with this mention: “Par les rédacteurs du Correspondant”.
10 As L’Université catholique played an important part in the emergence of Christian
political economy, it is interesting to note that, after the lively controversies over L’Avenir
and Lamennais’ ideas, the editors tried to calm things down. In 1836, the “Avertissement”
to the first volume stated: “In religion, the editors are united in the same faith, the same
and entire submission to the teaching of the Church and the judgments of the Holy See — in
particular, the most recent ones — to which they subject all their works, either religious, or
scientific: in necessariis unitas” (L’Université catholique 1836, 1: Avertissement). At the end
of the same volume, a “Circulaire aux souscripteurs de L’Université catholique” emphasised
this state of mind: “Some people . . . initially had doubts about the line we follow. Their
fears soon vanished. They saw that neither the Holy See nor the Episcopate would have
cause for complaint about our works . . . . They also saw that nobody was more far removed
than we are from this spirit of rivalry and quarrel that might sow dissension among Catholic
journals and disrupt their efforts for the defence of religion” (L’Université catholique 1836,
1: 571).
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 9
adopted the principles of the latter, the former was always condemned.11 It
is in this ferment of ideas that the origin of Christian political economy is to
be found, four years before the publication of Villeneuve-Bargemont’s book.
This origin remained relatively unnoticed at that time, except by Villeneuve-
Bargemont himself, probably because the other theological and political ideas
of the group and the debates they generated eclipsed this topic.
2.2 Toward a Christian political economy
The economist of the group was Charles de Coux.12 His career had been event-
ful. He was three years old when, at the beginning of the French Revolution,
he emigrated to Great Britain with his mother and was brought up there — his
father joining the counter-revolutionary Armée des Princes in Germany (Périn
1864, 1865; Thibeaud 1864). He came back to France in 1803, but he resumed
travelling abroad: in particular, he worked for some years as an interpreter
at the Legislature of Louisiana in the United States.13 He settled in Paris in
1823 and on 20 February 1830, in a long letter to Lamennais, he proposed
some critical reflections on political economy from a Christian perspective, for
possible publication in Le Mémorial catholique (Coux 1830a). The same year,
he took part in the foundation of L’Avenir, in which he published articles,14
especially on politics, including two incisive papers entitled “Économie poli-
11 The liberal ideas expressed by Montalembert in L’Église libre dans l’État libre (1863)
were vigorously condemned in 1864 by Pope Pius IX in his restatement of the conservative
principles of the Catholic Church (encyclical letter Quanta cura and its companion Syllabus
— a list of eighty propositions condemned by the Church). The economic field was not
spared either. Pius IX condemned Coquelin and Guillaumin’s Dictionnaire de l’économie
politique, which was put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1856. The Dictionnaire
was in good company: in the same year, J. S. Mill’s Principles of political economy was also
12 “[A] writer who had since a long time meditated on the subject [pauperism and political
economy], and who can use a vast set of carefully gathered and verified facts, intends to deal
with it in L’Avenir, to the extent it deserves.” (Lamennais 1831b: 84)
13 He sided with the Americans during the Anglo-American war of 1815, and took part in
the defence of the city of New Orleans (Thibeaud 1864: 235). He also spent some time in
14 In L’Avenir, many papers were not signed. Sometimes, those by Coux are indicated by
“C. de C.”. However, after the journal ceased publication, the editors re-published what they
regarded as the main articles in a series of two volumes entitled Mélanges catholiques extraits
de L’Avenir (Lamennais et alii 1831), in which the identity of the authors was disclosed (see
Coux 1830b to 1831n).
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 10
tique” (Coux 1830-1831), probably those he first intended to publish in Le
Mémorial catholique. In 1832, at the request of the young Antoine-Frédéric
Ozanam (1813-1853) and his group of friends, the Lamennais group organised
a series of lectures entitled “Conférences de philosophie catholique”.15 In this
context, Coux started lecturing on political economy (8 March 1832), a course
that was, it seems, appreciated by Catholic activists:
M. de Coux started his course of political economy, so profound
and interesting. I advise you to subscribe. His lessons are crowded,
because in them, there is truth and life, a great knowledge of the
wound that is eating away at society, and the only remedy that can
cure it. (Ozanam to Ernest Falconnet, 25 March 1832, in Ozanam
1873: 59)
Coux soon had to stop teaching because of sickness (cholera was raging
in Paris), but, from some allusions to be found in a letter by Lamennais (19
October 1833, quoted above as an epigraph to this paper), it seems that he
resumed teaching after he recovered. While the whole course was supposed to
be published in both Paris and Louvain (Belgium), only the first two lessons
were published in 1832 by the Agence pour la défense de la liberté religieuse,
entitled Essais d’économie politique.16 The syllabus of the course (Appendix 1
below), published by the Belgian publisher as an advertisement to subscribe,
was sent with the instalments of Gerbet’s Introduction à la philosophie de
l’histoire — also a part of the Conférences de philosophie catholique. Some
echoes in the press brought Coux’s ideas to the attention of a broader audience
than the circle close to L’Avenir, and in this respect, two reactions are of
interest. One is a critical review of the Essais, published by François de Corcelle
in Revue des Deux Mondes (Corcelle 1833). The other is a paper by François
Lallier published in Revue Européenne (Lallier 1835), which was of course
very positive — Lallier was a friend of Ozanam,17 and the Revue Européenne
belonged to the Catholic lobby.
Coux’s lectures played an important part in the formation of young intel-
15 Eighty to a hundred people attended these lectures (Lallier 1835: 133).
16 An edition of the Essais, with the same title, only concerns the first lesson.
17 Lallier later published papers in L’Université catholique and took an active part in the
Christian critique of political economy.
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 11
lectuals like Ozanam and Lallier.18 Probably also thanks to Coux, Lamennais
was starting to take an interest in political economy.19 He encouraged Coux
to develop his ideas. Referring to the Essais, he wrote:
I cannot express how pleased I am. There is here a new thinking
that contains the seed of the sole possible way to regenerate society.
The whole set of your lectures will form one of the most beautiful
books, and one of the most useful, that can be published in our
time; and all sensible discourse on political economy in the future
will only be an application or a development of it. (Lamennais to
Coux, 27 April 1832, in Dudon 1911: 80)
An opportunity presented itself when the Belgian episcopate created a
Catholic university, first located in Malines in 1834 and then, a year later,
in Louvain. The chair of political economy was offered to Coux. He accepted
it and, in his first lecture, praised “the glorious constancy of the Belgian epis-
copate who . . . opens this refuge to the Catholic science in order to preserve
us . . . against the barbarism of false knowledge” (Coux 1836b, I: 90).
In Malines and Louvain, Coux’s lectures on political economy — broadly
understood as “social and political economy” (Coux 1835: 7) — involved
two courses: one on social economics (“économie sociale”), and the other on
“political economy in its strict sense” (Coux 1838b: 148)20 sometimes also
called “économie réglementaire” (regulatory economics) (Coux 1836a: 57). But
some of his lectures reached a wider public, thanks to the above-mentioned
L’Université catholique. This periodical, produced in Paris, published lectures
in all fields, and one section, entitled “Sciences sociales”, included political
economy. From 1836 until 1840, some of Coux’s lectures — the syllabus of his
“Cours d’économie politique” (Appendix 2 below) and a great part of his “Cours
d’économie sociale” — were published there (Coux 1836a, 1836b, 1837a, 1838a,
1839b, 1840a). Their publication stopped in 1840 without any explanation.
18 “In spite of the fact that we could listen to him [Coux] only during a short time, these
lessons much impressed our minds, we young Christian men, still tired and hurt by being
reproached for such a long time for failing to understand part of human nature, denying
industry and destroying . . . the worldly civilisation” (Lallier 1835: 133).
19 He himself published a paper on credit some years later (Lamennais 1838), a paper
praised by Villeneuve-Bargemont (1841, II: 375).
20 On these distinctions, see below, Section 3.3 and Appendix 2.
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 12
At the same time, L’Université catholique also published another course
in economics: Gerbet and Salinis requested the collaboration of Villeneuve-
Bargemont who, from 1836 to 1838, gave to the journal a “Cours sur l’histoire
de l’économie politique”21 (Lectures on the history of political economy). A
third series of lectures in political economy was published in the journal be-
tween 1839 and 1842:22 that of Louis Rousseau, a former Phalansterian, cer-
tainly as a complement to Coux’s lectures. This new course23 was introduced
by the editors in the following way:
Some of our subscribers have complained that in our works on
political and social economy, we have not sought to inform our
readers about the works of renowned modern economists like the
Fourierists and the Phalansterians. They have expressed the wish
that, in stating their doctrines, we should let them know their
useful and commendable elements, and refute what is contrary to
Catholic beliefs. This is precisely what M. Rousseau is going to
do in the lectures we start today. (L’Université catholique 1840, 9:
95n, italics in the original)
We must finally insist on an important but neglected point: during this
period, Coux also wrote four long papers published in English. Some well-
known Irish Catholics (Michael Joseph Quin, Daniel O’Connell and Cardi-
nal Nicholas Wiseman) founded a new and successful periodical, The Dublin
Review, published from 1836 onwards. There were connections between the
French and Irish Catholic activists, and Coux immediately contributed some
21 Like many “lectures” published in L’Université catholique (Coux’s being an exception)
Villeneuve’s lessons (1836, 1837, 1838) had never been read in front of a public. They
were a simple series of papers, announced as being “the summary of a more extended book”
(Villeneuve-Bargemont 1836, 1: 83n). They were later collected and published in Bel-
gium under the title Histoire de l’économie politique, par Alban de Villeneuve (Villeneuve-
Bargemont 1839) but this was done without Villeneuve-Bargemont’s consent: at that time,
he had in fact temporarily abandoned the idea of a book because of the publication in 1837
of Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui’s Histoire de l’économie politique en Europe, depuis les anciens
jusqu’à nos jours. The existence of an unauthorised edition of his own lectures prompted
him to revise and enlarge the text and to publish it in Paris through Guillaumin (Villeneuve-
Bargemont 1841).
22 It seems that after 1842, political economy was no longer of interest to the editors of
the journal.
23 The substance of Rousseau’s lectures was taken up in his book, Croisade du XIXe siècle.
Appel à la piété catholique à l’effet de reconstituer la science sociale sur une base chrétienne.
Suivi de l’exposition critique des théories phalanstériennes (Rousseau 1841).
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 13
papers,24 the most important ones, for our purpose, being “Christian political
economy” (1837b), on Villeneuve-Bargemont, and “Saint-Simonism” (1838b),
on Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon and the Saint-Simonians — a paper also pub-
lished in French some months later in Revue de Bruxelles (Coux 1839d), with
the addition of a short introduction (Coux 1839c).25
In Belgium, Coux stayed in office 11 years, until 1845 when he came back
to Paris as the director of the Catholic daily newspaper L’Univers (his disciple
Charles Périn (1815-1905) succeeded him in the chair). He left this post in
January 1848, disagreeing with the pro-Jesuit line of the editor, Louis Veuil-
lot. During the February Revolution, together with Lacordaire, Ozanam and
Henry Maret (1805-1884, a theologian and a former supporter of L’Avenir),
he participated in the foundation and editing of a new daily, L’Ère nouvelle,
the organ of the first “Démocratie chrétienne”, intended to support the new
Republican regime.26
The mission of L’Avenir, first, and then of L’Univers, was to prove
in a practical way that we could be orthodox Catholics and stop
being Legitimists. That of L’Ère nouvelle was to show in the same
way .. . that the Church is not alarmed by the most advanced
political doctrines. (Coux to Maret, 5 April 1849, in Bressolette
1977: 466, n. 36)
Coux, however, left L’Ère Nouvelle in September 184827 and withdrew from
24 Coux, like Montalembert, had a mother of English origin. Montalembert was born in
London, and, as noted before, Coux spend his childhood in Great Britain during the French
Revolution. Both spoke English and had connections with the English-speaking world.
25 The other papers are “The Archbishop of Cologne” (Coux 1838c), “Belgium and Holland”
(1838d) and finally, and most probably, “Trade with France” (1839a). In The Dublin Review,
the articles were published anonymously. However, research in archives could disclose the
name of many contributors (see Russell 1893).
26 This daily newspaper was an event, even if its life was short: the prospectus was
published on 1 March 1848, the first issue on 15 April 1848, and the last on 1 April 1849.
27 Coux left in September, at the same time as Lacordaire, because he did not agree with
some of the articles published in the journal. Contemporaries explained this departure in
various ways. According to Falloux (1856: 457), Lacordaire and Coux left because of the
democratic inclination of the journal. According to Périn, (1864: 120; 1865: 372), they
left because of the Gallican opinions expressed by the journal. Falloux is probably right for
Lacordaire, but not for Coux. “There were enough disagreements between us [the editors]
for me to go on accepting, as a founding member, the responsibility for all the articles; but,
as long as your opinion prevailed . . . I usually agreed with you”, Coux wrote to Maret on
5 April 1849 (in Bressolette 1977: 466 n. 36) — and Maret’s democratic opinions were well
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 14
public life until his death in 1864.
3Coux’s project: “To give political economy what it
is lacking”
3.1 An enigma?
“M. de Coux was the first to propose a complete system of political economy
from a Christian point of view”, Charles Périn wrote when Coux died (Périn
1864: 119; 1865: 371). He was “the founder of Christian political economy”.
But are things really so straightforward? While it is true that Charles de
Coux pioneered a Christian conception of political economy before Villeneuve-
Bargemont and tried to develop a general Catholic framework in which the
principles of political economy could be embedded (see below, Sections 3.3 and
4.5), we cannot find in his writings a clear statement of a “complete system
of political economy from a Christian point of view”. In a way, Périn was
echoing Coux’s own assertions: in his letter-programme to Lamennais, Coux
had written that he “had the project to give political economy what it is lacking,
a foundation that could not be contested by anyone” (Coux 1830a: 85), and in
his 1832 Essais, he had stressed that “the practical consequences of Catholicism
form the most admirable system of social economics that ever existed on earth”
(Coux 1832: 4).
Compared with other writers of the same period, Coux published relatively
little. Unlike Villeneuve-Bargemont — or, later, Charles Périn himself — he
did not write any great treatise. Yet it seems that he was preparing for such a
task. In a letter to Coux, Lamennais mentioned the “book that you are prepar-
ing” (4 February 1835, in Dudon 1911: 87), but no such book was published. A
manuscript exists however: that of Coux’s Louvain lectures on political econ-
omy “in its strict sense”, which many friends encouraged him to publish. But
he always rejected this prospect. According to one of these friends, Hippolyte
affirmed. Périn’s opinion is probably correct as regards Coux, but it seems that the latter
also left because of the less liberal, and more interventionist, economic flavour of some papers
published in the journal.
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 15
He had composed a full treatise of political economy. To a friend
. . . , on several occasions, he read some pages of the highest interest.
Joint endeavours were made on more than one occasion to push
him to publish the manuscript. His modesty always led him to
refuse. In the end, he answered: “The person who replaced me in
Louvain knows all my ideas. He must publish a treatise on political
economy. They could be stated in a much better way than I could
do it myself.” (Thibeaud 1864: 241)
Charles Périn, to whom Coux alluded here, expressed the same regrets. Yet
he was the custodian of Coux’s papers and had in his possession the manuscript
of the lectures, a 475-page document that he bequeathed to the Catholic Uni-
versity of Lille, in France. But he asserted that he did not find anything
publishable in it (Périn 1881: 25). A first reason probably lies in the state
of the manuscript (Coux 1844-1845) — in fact an unfinished draft, sometimes
carelessly written, some chapters being moreover merely outlined and others
not developed at all —, which would have necessitated serious rewriting and
completion for publication. But there is perhaps a more fundamental rea-
son. The manuscript is presented by Coux as his “last words” — “Novissima
Verba!” is the epigraph on the cover page —, and if we refer to Coux’s project,
the statement of some new and path-breaking principles in economics, from
a Catholic perspective, could have been expected. However, on this point,
the content is disappointing: while including many interesting historical de-
velopments, for example on the evolution of the forms of labour from slavery
to wage-labour, and some pages on points already addressed in his published
lectures on social economics, it is basically an introductory course on political
economy in the Say tradition (see for example Appendix 3 below) — rejecting,
however, the law of markets. To understand this state of affairs, it is thus
necessary to analyse Coux’s project more precisely. What, then, was lacking
in political economy, and how could Catholicism provide it with indisputable
3.2 A moral dilemma
In his 1830 letter to Lamennais, in his 1832 Essais and in the lectures pub-
lished in L’Université catholique, Coux always told the same story. He wrote
that when he was in England and in the United States, he was struck by —
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 16
and suffered from — the contrast between these Protestant nations and many
Catholic countries, the best example of which being Spain. He saw how the
wealth of the former made such a strong contrast with the poverty of the latter,
and he was shocked by the link which apparently existed between the religion
prevailing in a country and the social and economic state of that country. All
this seemed to confirm what had been suggested since the eighteenth century:
that the Catholic faith and its institutions formed an obstacle to economic
development, while the Protestant faith favoured it.
I lived among Protestants, and you know that their financial and
industrial supremacy has always been their favourite argument.
When they compared, in my presence, England, so rich and anti-
Catholic, with Spain, so faithful and poor, I could only acknowledge
that a Church, the dogmas of which .. . had produced such dis-
astrous results was missing one of the essential features of truth.
(Coux 1830a: 81)
Coux’s faith was shaken because he could not understand why the true
religion — Catholicism, in his eyes — could put believers at such a disad-
vantage. It is true, he stressed, that the material consequences of a religion
cannot be a proof of its truth:28 it was the task of apologetics to develop this
truth, with totally different arguments. But he thought that God could not
have neglected these material aspects of worship, and that consequently the
true religion should also possess some principles to ensure the prosperity of the
Of course I knew that the aim of the true religion cannot and should
not be the temporal happiness of man, but I also understood that
it is obliged to ensure it . . . like an additional reward, granted
without being promised, because otherwise the society in possession
of the absolute truth would not be what it must be: the aristocracy
of mankind. (Coux 1830a: 81)
The important economic problems that first arose in England during the
first decades of the century were a kind of revelation to him, because they were
28 This point of view is restated again and again in his published lectures: see for example
1836b, 1: 278, 279; 1837a, 4: 82, 248, 254. See also 1837b: 188: “all [the Catholic writers]
lay down the principle, that the truth of no creed is to be tested by the effect it produces
upon the earthly happiness of its followers.”
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 17
not temporary, as was first thought, but structural, permanent, and intimately
linked to the economic regime. “Unfortunately, destitution deceived all expec-
tations and thwarted the calculations of the economists: it has grown according
to a geometric progression and will end in dreadful chaos.” (Coux 1830a: 81)
The arrogant prosperity of the Protestant countries was just a delusion, and it
became clear that the economic system at the origin of this delusion contained
seeds of self-destruction. Societies based on it were unavoidably condemned to
3.3 Towards a “social and political economy”
According to Coux, these events induced him to draw some conclusions. The
first was that the economists were responsible for this situation, despite the
fact that they tried to put the blame on the workers: “Philosophy itself admits
that there is no remedy to the evil because it blames the superabundance of
the population: it thus stresses a cause, the action of which cannot be changed
but by means of a permanent famine” (Coux 1830a: 81).
Malthus’s doctrine spread all the more easily as it pointed the finger
at the people, who were suffering, as the real authors of their own
destitution; and Malthus’s followers believed they did all in their
power in favour of the workers when they could tell them . . . :
“you would not be hungry, had you not been born”. (Coux 1832:
But the responsibility was that of political economy itself, because this
awful economic system was its doing. It provoked “the plague of pauperism”
through the implementation of its theories (Coux 1832: 56). “The language of
the economists reveals the depth of the social scourge; their teaching made this
scourge, since they govern the world. They are the priests of money” (Coux
1832: 50). In these conditions, economic theories can only be “deceptive”
(Coux 1832: 53).
How is it possible to refuse to acknowledge that the industrial
school, the school founded by Adam Smith, took a wrong turn-
ing . . . , when we look at the present state of England and France?
In both countries, amidst appalling distress . . . , there are huge
amounts of wealth; but all around a starving mob is rising up.
(Coux 1832: 55)
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 18
Such a society cannot last and revolution is imminent (Coux 1832: 54).
This is the reason why Coux tried to identify the conditions of a stable and
lasting social relation on which the prosperity of a country could be built. In
this perspective, he compared the material consequences of different kinds of
religious and social belief — or unbelief — and came to the conclusion that
Catholicism alone was able to generate such a desirable relation.
The earthly value of the various beliefs will be . . . appreciated in
money, since we will be able to evaluate them according to their
material results. This point of view, which has nothing in common
with theology, will allow us to compare them with each other . . . ,
and the one generating the greatest welfare on earth will be con-
sidered by its opponents themselves, if not as the truest, at least
as the most useful doctrine. (Coux 1836b, 1: 278, italics in the
Unfortunately, Catholics wrongly disregarded political economy and aban-
doned this field of study to their opponents. Their behaviour, Coux admits,
can of course be explained. They acted in this way primarily because political
economy “exclusively deals with human cupidity”. Political economy is in their
eyes the “theology of material interests” (Coux 1830-1831: 96): born outside
the Church, “its first words were words of blasphemy” (Coux 1836b, 1: 92). It
was thus in conflict with their ethics of sacrifice and charity. But they also ne-
glected political economy for another, less glorious, reason: discouraged, they
started to raise doubts about their own religion. They believed in the end that
its dogmas were unfavourable to any idea of material welfare and prosperity.
Political economy has a great influence on the religious destiny of
the people. Since it shows them all the wealth produced by indus-
try, since it continuously invites them to the feast of fortune, they
feel in the end tired of the resistance they oppose and they curse
the worship that deprives them of all these goods. This is the part
played by political economy, since its origin, vis-à-vis the Catholic
nations. It did not attack its dogmas directly, but it blamed these
dogmas for the alleged misery of their followers. (Coux 1830-1831:
105; see also 1836b, 1: 92)
It was thus high time to react. But did all this mean that the entire corpus
of political economy had to be rejected? It seems at first sight that this should
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 19
be the case, especially if we remember how very harsh Coux could be with
economists and economics.29 However, a pure and simple rejection was not
on his agenda. In his opinion, the prevailing economic theories could also be
scientifically accepted, and express some truth: for example, they “unveiled the
causes and the effects of credit, explored the maze of circulation, showed how
capital is formed and accumulated” (Coux 1836b, 1: 94), and Coux’s develop-
ments in his manuscript lectures on political economy are in fact systematically
based on the law of supply and demand. But these theories have to be put
in the right perspective. According to the letter to Lamennais quoted above,
one must “give political economy what it is lacking”. Coux’s idea was to in-
clude political economy “in its strict sense” — “which almost exclusively deals
with exchangeable wealth .. . and cannot encroach on the teachings of morals”
(Coux 1844-1845: 22) — within a larger set of theoretical propositions that
was supposed to give it its real meaning, and without which it would remain
partial and therefore dangerous.
The production of wealth supposes the existence of a society, and society
supposes sociability. “Social economics” studies this sociability and its object
is to determine which form of society is the most capable of securing this
sociability, that is, the most apt to favour the creation of wealth in a stable
and durable environment. It must thus come first. “Its main object is the
knowledge of the laws of society; it is . . . the necessary prelude to political
economy” (Coux 1836b, 1: 95). It is of a higher order than political economy
because it has something to do with the Law of God.
It is difficult to believe that . . . no voice ever arose to prove to
the economists that all their most central theories .. . are impli-
citly contained in Catholicism. Even a superficial study of their
doctrines could have been sufficient to realise that they are but a
collection . . . of the consequences that naturally ensue from the
application of the revealed truths. (Coux 1830-1831: 106)
Despite the fluctuations in Coux’s use of the terms in his different writings,
this approach remained unchanged. Lamennais accepted it, and expressed the
idea in a striking way.30 In the first issue of L’Université catholique, it is
29 The theories of political economy are false and misleading. Smith, Say and Ricardo had
“their reason polluted, first by Protestantism, and then by philosophy” (Coux 1836b, 1: 93).
30 “It seems to me that political economy gains everyday a greater importance . . . . This
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 20
also clearly stated in Philippe Gerbet’s “Discours préliminaire”.31 And accord-
ing to Coux, it is precisely the correct division of the science between “social
economics” and “political economy” proper that the Saint-Simonians could be
credited with:
In their hands, political economy became divided into two distinct
branches. To the first they gave the name of “social economy”,
because it is the science of all these institutions by the help of which
societies subsist, beginning from the family and mounting up to the
State; and because we learn from this science what should be the
nature of those institutions, in order to secure the greatest possible
quantity of general prosperity. The second branch, moving in a
humbler sphere, was the science of Smith and Ricardo — political
economy in its strict sense, — or, in other words, the science of the
elements of the wealth of nations, and the means of increasing it,
when a nation is constituted. This division, which at first seemed
imperfect and obscure, but which was in fact a correct one, tended
much to promote the birth of St Simonism. (Coux 1838b: 148)
4The mistakes of political economy and the logic of
While the principles of political economy are thus not to be rejected, some of
them have nevertheless to be criticised, amended or dropped in the perspective
of social economics. Coux raised five major points.
science leads to all others, because, in the end, there is only one science. One usually deals
with it like Medea with her father. She wanted to gather his limbs back together and make
them younger. But I do not even see the cauldron in which our scientists could proceed in this
operation with this science, out of which it could become one and alive again” (Lamennais,
letter to Coux, 4 February 1835, in Dudon 1911: 87).
31 “Political economy .. . states the laws of production, distribution and consumption of all
that serves the material well-being. It deals in particular with the facts gathered by statistical
history. It thus entails in the first place calculation devices: it establishes a kind of balance,
of social equation, between needs and resources, and presents the mathematical theory of
society. . . . Social science, in its more elevated part, links .. . all the facts to something
superior to the idea of usefulness . .. it starts from the law of justice and charity, which is the
soul of society, and is itself linked to the religious dogmas. Science then does not proceed by
way of calculation, as political economy does, it does not rely only on simple experience to
find out, through induction, the conditions of the political body: it deduces from religion the
fundamental and absolute laws of human society” (Gerbet 1836: 32). A similar statement
was made by the first rector of the Université Catholique of Malines/Louvain (De Ram 1840:
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 21
4.1 Against the principle of population
The first critique concerns Malthus’s principle of population — “Malthus the
Protestant”, the “married priest” and his “merciless” logic (Coux 1836b, 1: 95)
— so quickly adopted by the economists. “The existence of a superabundant
population, when compared with the quantity of provisions we can command,
is as great a fallacy as ever gained credit among mankind” (Coux 1837b: 169).
The population of a country is never in the position of a crew on a boat, lacking
food and not knowing when it will be possible to stock up again: “we deny most
absolutely that there is in Europe one single country, which, with the land
already under cultivation, and by the assistance of the means of traffic which
it derives from its industry, might not subsist a more numerous population than
that which it now contains.” (Coux 1837b: 168) Moreover, before discussing
Malthus’s views, both followers and critics should have checked whether or not
a state of overpopulation really existed, which they never did.32
Finally, the principle of population is a real attack on divine wisdom be-
cause, were it true, it would mean that God, when he commanded “be fruitful
and multiply”, wished to punish men for a transgression they had not yet
. . . one might be tempted to believe, that it was to punish Adam
for the fault he had not yet committed, that God imposed on him
the command to increase and multiply. Economists of both sexes
combined their efforts in this crusade against marriage, — and
certainly if the propagation of our species could be stopped by
subtlety and talent, the works of Miss Martineau would entitle her
to the especial gratitude of that posterity — whose existence she
would have prevented. (Coux 1837b: 168; see also 1836b, 1: 95)
Faced with their belief in an excess of population, moreover, economists
propose absurd solutions, for example when they assert that a powerful check to
procreation can come from the will of the workers themselves when they realise
32 “Yet this was the point at which they should have commenced . . . . If we are not
mistaken, the disputants followed too closely the example of the learned men of the sixteenth
century, who expended so much ink in proving on the one side, that men might be born with
teeth of gold, and on the other, that such a phenomenon was impossible; they would have
done better, in the first place, to open the mouth of the child who occasioned the dispute,
and at once ascertain the fact.” (Coux 1837b: 168)
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 22
that a larger family would deteriorate their welfare. This kind of assertion,
Coux stresses, could be adapted to those who already have some comfort in
life, and who are afraid of losing it. But it is wrong when it is supposed to
apply to poor people. They do not have anything to lose, and a family life
constitutes the sole happiness they can hope for in this world (Coux 1837b:
No doubt this perspective is a real check upon a young man whose
personal situation would be made much worse by the necessity of
providing for a young family; but then his situation must be one
which is capable of becoming worse; that is to say, he must be in
possession of some comforts which he must give up when he gives
up celibacy. If, like the Irish peasant, he has reached the last pitch
of human misery, what has he to fear? (Coux 1837b: 171)
Finally, “Malthus hardly deals with the question of the price of labour” — a
central point for Coux (see below, Sections 4.6 and 5.2) and “this is the radical
flaw of his essay” (Coux 1844-1845: 339).
4.2 The neglect of the laws of the distribution of income and
Hence a second critique. While there is no overpopulation with respect to
food, it cannot be denied that there is one with respect to available jobs: “The
superabundance of the population that eat must not be confounded with the
superabundance of the population that work” (Coux 1837b: 168). The problem
takes us back to the logic of the industrial society. But it also takes us back
to the question of the distribution of income, since pauperism also concerns,
for a great part, the population that works but whose wages are too low. It is
therefore not enough to study the laws of the production of wealth, as political
economy does, but it is also necessary to study the laws of its distribution —
Villeneuve-Bargemont subsequently stressed the same point.
Economists only dealt with the first of these two conditions .. . .
They were only busy with one question: to determine the laws
that most favour the production of material wealth, and these laws
. . . became the aim . . . of the science. Exclusively devoted to this
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 23
research, economists were careful not to ask whether the distribu-
tion of public wealth does not have at least the same importance
as its increase. (Coux 1830-31: 107)
4.3 A wrong concept of wealth
Hence also a third critique of political economy: economists “misunderstand”
(1830-1831) the notion of wealth. Their concept is erroneous because it is
unduly restrictive. As a matter of fact, most of them, following Smith, equate
the elements of wealth with the material goods exchanged in markets and
therefore having a price. But such a restrictive notion is wrong, for two main
First of all, wealth should normally refer to the well-being of a society, to
the quantity of utility that can be derived from the goods it produces. The
price is by no means a good indication of this utility. It depends on fluctuations
in demand and supply, and varies more than proportionally to the imbalance
between them (Coux 1832: 70). When the wealth of a country is only conceived
in monetary terms, as economists do, then “a famine is a means to fortune,
and the destitution of the people a proof of opulence” (Coux 1832: 71). One
should distinguish, Coux stresses, between the price and the intrinsic utility of
a good, between its exchangeable value and its value in utility.
The latter exists by itself, it is, so to speak, the substantive of the
public wealth, while the former, a simple adjective, only indicates
the relations between two exchangeable goods in so far as they are
exchangeable. (Coux 1832: 74, italics in the original)
Secondly, limiting the elements of wealth to goods that have a price un-
fortunately neglects a whole set of other elements that contribute in the same
way, and to an even greater extent, to national prosperity. These non-tradable
elements form the social wealth par excellence, the most important being the
moral ideas and the virtue33 they generate. In a given society, the entire set
of beliefs underpinning the ideas of good and evil, just and unjust, and even
33 “Virtue is nothing other than the preference given to the just over the unjust, whatever
the cost of this preference may be, and this is precisely why it is the principle that generates
all human transactions.” (Coux 1832: 85)
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 24
its institutions, plays a decisive role in economic life and in the prosperity
of the country. It cannot be excluded from political economy: “viewed in this
way, any religion, any philosophical system falls within the province of political
economy” (Coux 1832: 62).
If the price is no longer considered as the sole measure of the pros-
perity of nations, everything that contributes to increase this pros-
perity — whether or not it is liable to have a monetary evaluation
— must be viewed as an element of wealth. Then the wealth of na-
tions will be estimated as much on their moral virtues as on their
skills in banking activities — at least those virtues or vices that
have an influence on agriculture and industry. (Coux 1832: 71,
italics in the original)
What would be the future of the wine-growing activity, if religion were
to prohibit the consumption of alcohol? Or the future of agriculture, or sea
trade, were religion to forbid eating meat or seafaring (Coux 1832: 61)? Eco-
nomic activities could not have developed properly in such contexts. Political
economy would have been a useless science, and Say and Sismondi would have
been no more useful to the population “than a dance teacher for paralysed peo-
ple” (Coux 1830-1831: 104). Moral ideas and beliefs are themselves wealth,
negative or positive, and a moral system that favours trade and industry, ge-
nerating respect for others and a feeling of safety and liberty, would form, at
the material level, an invaluable collective wealth.34
4.4 The wage question
Charles de Coux also tackled a fourth theme that he placed at the centre of
his analysis of pauperism: the wage question. At first sight, his critique seems
odd. As he wrote in his letter-programme to Lamennais:
. . . while I was endeavouring to discover the causes of the distress
that devastates the countries dominated by industrialism, a fact
voluntarily neglected by the economists struck me as the alpha and
omega of the question; the labour of the poor man is his commodity,
the only one he has to sell, and . . . the conditions that rule the
34 The liberal economist Charles Dunoyer developed similar ideas (see Faccarello 2010a:
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 25
value of all other commodities also apply in this case. (Coux 1830a:
The fact that labour, or its services, is a commodity had certainly not been
“voluntarily neglected” by the economists. The point Coux stressed is rather
the inverse relation that exists between wages and profits — an important
element of his analysis, on which the future of society depends.
[N]one of them [the economists] realised that labour is an instru-
ment for the person who buys it, and a commodity for the one who
sells it; and that consequently there are here two interests that can-
not be opposed without threatening the very existence of society.
(Coux 1832: 39)
Economists neglected the fact that labour is the sole source of revenue
for the workers, and focused instead on labour as a means of production,
as a cost: “economists, led by the desire to increase production indefinitely,
took sides with the merchants of labour [those who demand labour, that is,
the entrepreneurs]. All their theories . . . evidently aim to reduce the price
of wages” (Coux 1830-1831: 109). Moreover, labour is also the commodity
subjected to the greatest instability: “Of all marketable commodities, that
which is least sure of a demand, most variable in its price, and which makes to
the producer the most unfavourable return, is unquestionably manual labour”
(Coux 1837b: 169-70). For all these reasons, the state of society that ensues
can be worse than slavery: while the owners of slaves had the obvious interest
and duty to feed them, the entrepreneurs, for their greatest benefit, do not
have this worry with workers (Coux 1830a: 83; 1844-1845: 317-322).
4.5 Against the “outburst of all cupidities”: how to found a
Christian political economy?
Last but not least, Coux’s fifth critique is directed at the fact that political
economy essentially deals with the “outburst of all cupidities” for earthly goods
(Coux 1836b, 1: 93), and takes this as its central behavioural hypothesis. Pu-
blic prosperity is considered to result directly from the wealth of each member
of the community: but the outburst of the passion to grow rich only generates
calamities. “Instead of considering, with Catholicism, that the wealth of eve-
rybody lies in the wealth of all, they saw the wealth of all in the wealth of each
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 26
of them. Instead of growing poorer to the benefit of one’s neighbour, they
wanted to grow rich at his expense” (Coux 1836b, 1: 93). Human beings who
are solely led by their self-interest can only join together “as wolves do when
they are chasing the same prey” (Coux 1832: 84). Society cannot but fall into
a state of anarchy.
Each member of the large human family being endowed with bound-
less cupidity, his desires cannot be concentrated in the finite with-
out an insatiable ambition, an ambition that inflates as his posses-
sions grow. The uncontrollable strength of his lust will put him in
a state of endless war against all his fellows. (Coux 1836b, 2: 162)
It is, however, to be noted — and this is an essential point — that Coux
never questioned the fact that political economy assumes the selfish behaviour
of people as an axiom. After Original Sin and the Fall of Man, this kind of
behaviour is unfortunately normal: “cupidity .. . is a passion inherent to the
fallen man” (Coux 1836b, 1: 96; see also 1830a: 85).
We agree on this point with the Utilitarian school, and we start
from the fact that self-interest is the strength that leads the will
because, except in some very rare and exceptional cases, necessarily
unknown outside the Catholic Church, man brings everything back
to himself and only takes decisions with a view to his welfare as he
understands it. (Coux 1836b, 2: 161; see also 1: 280)
As in Boisguilbert more than a century before (Faccarello 1986, 2014), this
basic behaviour is explained by theology. As it is impossible to change it, Coux
aimed at neutralising its effects. This neutralisation is the foundation of social
economics or Christian political economy, and is based on the uncovering of the
sole stable social relation capable of generating real prosperity. This relation
is indicated by religion, and only by Catholicism. It is based on a fundamen-
tal ethical value: sacrifice. It is this point “that distinguishes fundamentally
Christian political economy from anti-Christian political economy. The former
considers sacrifice as the principle which generates wealth, but for the latter it
[the principle] is cupidity.” (Coux 1836b, 2: 161; see also 1: 280)
How should we understand this sacrifice? It is the Christian virtue, that
is, the attitude which puts love for one’s neighbour, charity, at the centre
of action, and which makes men adopt a virtuous conduct — the respect of
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 27
justice — even if this must have a detrimental effect on them. In such a way,
a lasting social relation is created that excludes any hostility against others.
Moreover, Coux’s argument stresses the fact that this virtuous behaviour is
not only compatible with the material prosperity of a nation, but is in fact
the only way to attain it. Any sacrifice for the benefit of others — or for the
general interest — certainly at first impoverishes the person who makes it. But
this person in turn receives the benefit of the sacrifices made by others, and
Coux was convinced that this generalised attitude, far from being a zero-sum
game, ultimately increases the general welfare.
If the sacrifices of the Catholic were lost for society, if the hardships
he endures, his unselfishness, his charity, his good faith, the purity
of his mores, did not turn to the benefit of anybody, we would not
have anything to answer to the anti-Catholic economists. But is
it really so? . . . The Christian sacrifice, while finding its princi-
ple in the love for God, always . . . turns to the benefit of others,
and if it impoverishes those who make it, it enriches others. But
we are all the others of others, and, consequently, each member of
a Catholic society finds in the sacrifices of the other members a
great compensation for his own sacrifices. Nay, he is a hundredfold
rewarded since, on the one hand, there is no lasting society with-
out a reciprocal devotion of its members and, on the other hand,
the more vigorous the spirit of sacrifice, the greater are the social
advantages that are divided between all. (Coux 1836b, 1: 93)
But what obliges the members of a community to adopt such a behaviour,
so opposed to the nature of man after the Fall? It is, Coux states, not only
the belief in a God, but in a “rewarding and vengeful God” who inevitably
and infallibly rewards and punishes men during their eternal life. In a kind of
Pascal’s wager, men compare their immediate and temporal interest, which is
always uncertain, with their eternal interest, which is certain. They are still led
by cupidity, but by “the cupidity for the goods of another life, the craving for an
imperishable wealth” (1836b, 1: 96). Self-interest is still the prime mover, but
“an enlarged, inflated self-interest, extended beyond the grave” (Coux 1836b,
1: 280). This is obviously an essential point: “the most naive religions were
never so stupid as to ask the believers for devotion without reward” (Coux
1836b, 1: 280; see also 1832: 57). Sociability is based on this fact.
Sociability is nothing other than this essential association of the
individual with the Divinity .. . whom he obeys at the expense,
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 28
if necessary, of his immediate interest, because his well-understood
interest demands it .. . . As a result, the belief in a rewarding and
vengeful God does not unite directly men together, or in other
words the association of the believer with his like is only a conse-
quence . . . of his association with the Divinity. (Coux 1836b, 2:
There is no state of nature, and no social compact. Only religion matters,
and moreover a religion based on a Revelation, because what is just or unjust,
good or evil, must be clearly stated from the outset and independent of the
actions of men.
The lectures published by Coux in L’Université catholique develop this
point of view extensively and propose a typology of societies — “unitary”,
“Catholic” and “transactional” societies — based on the possible combinations
of two elements: what he calls the legitimate order (based on religious beliefs)
and the legal order (based on political structures). Suffice it here to stress that
the aim of these developments is to show that Catholicism is the only religion
that can generate genuine and lasting prosperity. As an example, note how
Coux denies Deists and Pantheists, on the one hand, and Protestants, on the
other hand, the notion of a “rewarding and vengeful God” which is so essential
to the social relation:
Socially speaking, there is no difference between the absolute nega-
tion of a Supreme Being, and the affirmation of a deity indifferent
to his creatures or crushing them under the weight of a rule that
they cannot change, through either their submission or their dis-
obedience. Self-interest does not care about the carefree greatness
of a God who leaves man to himself, who does not ask him any-
thing, who does not establish any link between this life and the
future life. If he accepts this doctrine . . . he will of course look
for his happiness in the sole region where his efforts can have any
success in his world, and his interest will be exclusively temporal,
destructive of all society, all safety, all work and all wealth. (Coux
1836b, 2: 162)
4.6 The logic of the industrial society: pauperism
What are the economic and social consequences of the behaviour imposed by
anti-Christian political economy, and why is the phenomenon of pauperism
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 29
unavoidable in this context?
Competition is the war of all against all. Coux describes it and stresses
its negative effects. The maximisation of profits, he writes, is damaging not
only because it is necessarily excessive, but also because it generates dishonesty
(Coux 1836b, 1: 93). In his analysis, the central variable is wages — the wages
that he accuses economists of neglecting.
In the struggle for markets, Coux admits, competition can for a time be
favourable to the entire society. Any State possesses what he calls “latent
wealth”,35 and a first stage of the process of growth consists in its progressive
exploitation: in this situation, the demand for labour increases with the pro-
duction, and the wage remains at a certain level or even increases. From the
context, we understand that the exploitation of latent wealth corresponds to
the realisation of the potentially most profitable investments of the moment.
However, this exploitation is limited in time. The dynamics of investments
weakens, profits erode under the effect of competition. To maintain the pro-
fitability of their activities, entrepreneurs must reduce their costs, and there-
fore wages. The reduction of the wage rate in turn increases the profitability
of some investments that can now be made (Coux 1832: 108). This is how
pauperism starts, with the dangers it entails.
The Gods flee, chased away by the roaring of the worker. . . . He
no longer receives his daily bread, and while hunger kills him, who
can hope that, in his agony, he will not interrupt the peace of
everybody? (Coux 1832: 109)
This process is intensified by other remarkable phenomena, the first of
which is a growing exposure to risk for the entrepreneurs. To increase their
profits, they think up and realise ever more risky projects, the outcome of
which is usually highly uncertain. They are encouraged by two important
factors (Coux 1832: 87-88). In the first place, there is the development of
35 Latent wealth is formed of the common wealth not yet made fruitful by the labour of
men, of industrial wealth that has not yet the shape of exchangeable goods, and generally of
all the improvements still possible in science and legislation, in agriculture and in industry.
. . . The clumsy worker made skilful, the forces of nature harnessed to increase the produce
of his labour days, new ways will one day hasten the progress of the national wealth, and
the working force needed by the development of these resources will give some affluence to
the working class, at least for a time” (Coux 1832: 108, italics in the original).
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 30
the capital market, which allows them to finance their projects thanks to the
credit — the confidence — they inspire in lenders. In the second place, and
even more important, there is a deep modification in mentalities, in public
opinion, which gradually comes to consider failures and bankruptcies not as
ignominious actions, but as normal events in economic life. This change of
opinion in turn increases the willingness of the entrepreneur to realise risky
projects, and the economy is transformed into a casino — “trade became a
gaming table. Then came the disasters” (Coux 1832: 87). In this way, badly
conceived productions are explained, together with the resulting gluts and
crises, the negative consequences of which always fall on the workers. Even
bankruptcies can be profitable: “when it was no longer shameful to suffer
the reverses of fortune, some started to take advantage of this. Profitable
bankruptcies succeeded ruinous bankruptcies. People went into liquidation in
the same way as they might set up a factory” (Coux 1832: 88). The same logic
also explains why a growing amount of capital leaves the sectors of production
and commerce: “it concentrates in the stock exchange, and the capitalists
speculate instead of making commerce” (Coux 1832: 86).
A second remarkable phenomenon is the mechanisation of production pro-
cesses. Again with a view to reducing the costs of production under the pres-
sure of competition, the massive and quick introduction of machines generates
an important reduction in the level of employment, together with a simplifi-
cation of the tasks and a general deskilling of labour. Hence an increase in
the jobless, a reduction in the wages of those who are still employed, and an
extension of pauperism.
These wonderful machines .. . provoked a complete revolution in
society, a revolution which could have been happy, had their intro-
duction been slow and progressive: the wages of the poor would
not have been taken away. . . . When, with the aid of machines, it
became possible to obtain from a single man the quantity of pro-
duct that was formerly made by one hundred and fifty craftsmen,
the least interruption in the sale of the products caused a fall in
the price of wages. From this moment the worker lost all security
in life. (Coux 1832: 44-45)
The other negative consequences of the introduction of machines make
the situation even worse. In the first place, because of the simplification of
the tasks performed, entrepreneurs could resort to the massive employment of
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 31
women and children: the supply of labour was considerably increased, wages
decreased, and the number of paupers increased (Coux 1837b: 172-173). In
the second place, the working conditions considerably deteriorated, exhausting
the workers and damaging their health.
The employment of very young children, the vast workshops where
men and women live together during sixteen hours per day, the
lack of air, a temperature similar to that of the torrid regions, the
corruption of the mores provoked by all these causes, the destitution
which ensues, all concurs to destroy the body and deaden the mind
of the worker. (Coux 1832: 80-81)
Finally, two other points should be noted. First, greediness everywhere
generates dishonesty, which destroys the confidence that is so necessary to
economic activities — either the confidence of the entrepreneur in his collabo-
rators (Coux 1832: 85-86) or the confidence of the customers in the quality of
the products they buy (Coux 1832: 89-90) — and reduces profits: “the genius
of the engineer does not produce enough to cover the embezzlements of the
administrator” (Coux 1832: 86). Second, foreign competition intensifies the
downward pressure on wages. In their struggle for markets, countries can only
efficiently deal with costs, that is, with wages, since technology is disseminated
more or less quickly among competitors. The country which gets the upper
hand is the one where the workers can most tolerate a reduction in wages and
endure hunger. “Competition between countries that have an equal abundance
of capital and equally skilful workers is only competition between the stomachs
of these workers” (Coux 1832: 72).36
The situation of the workers is thus desperate. They endure a double
penalty: not only can they no longer satisfy their essential needs, but because
of the industrial society, their needs increase in number — “what all others
possess is lacking for each of us, and therefore each of us is just as poor because
of the wealth of others as because of his own destitution” (Coux 1836b, 1: 528).
[T]hanks to the decay of religious feeling, and to the desire for
the comforts of life . . . , the workman has contracted habits and
36 “In the struggle that would then take place in every market in the world between her
merchants and ours, supposing all else to be equal, success must depend upon the low price
of labour ; or, in other words, that country whose workmen could longest and most patiently
endure hunger must in the end carry off the victory.” (Coux 1837b: 181)
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 32
acquired tastes which were formerly unknown to him. And thus he
is doubly a sufferer, since his condition is worse, and his anxiety
for its improvement greater. This is the wound which is so deeply
seated in commercial countries, and which, if not healed, must in
the end prove mortal. (Coux 1837b: 170)
Poor people must give up all prospect of improvement. The owners of
capital form a new aristocracy, and it is impossible for anyone to grow rich
solely with his or her labour. Hence the widening gap between the rich and
poor, and the hate of the latter for the former (Coux 1832: 88-89).
5How to eradicate pauperism?
5.1 The wrong solutions
Once pauperism has been explained in this way, the main question remains:
is it possible to eradicate it? How to put an end to the logic of industrialism,
Coux asks, without adopting one of the many solutions proposed by various
socialist writers, which all lead more or less directly to the abolition of private
property and liberty?37 The authors who belong, to one degree or another,
to the Christian approach reject these solutions, and Coux is no exception.
Private property takes its origin in present or past labour, it is a natural right
that secures liberty. No law can justify confiscation — even a modest one,
even through a simple tax — because any confiscation is simply bondage, “a
retroactive bondage” (Coux 1832: 96).
Neither is the solution proposed by certain economists acceptable. From
the writings of Say and Sismondi, Coux only retains a single idea: production
must be “accelerated”, one must always produce more in order to increase the
demand for labour, and thus reduce unemployment or increase wages.
According to Say and his immediate followers, the glut of manu-
factured produce which so frequently took place, and the almost
periodical suspensions of the labours of the mechanics, were occa-
sioned by there being still not a sufficiency produced. According
37 In his manuscript lectures, Coux criticised the Saint-Simonians and the Fourierists and
presented the communists as a kind of synthesis between the two (Coux 1844-1845: 112-117,
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 33
to Sismondi and many others, the increase of population was the
real cause of a distress which could no longer be disputed. All
demanded fresh markets. (Coux 1837b: 174)
But, according to Coux, it is evident that this headlong rush into produc-
tion cannot but worsen the situation in the long run, insofar as the search
for new markets inevitably leads to downward pressure on wages in order to
reduce costs. “This remedy . . . has until now only provoked new disasters”
(Coux 1832: 48).
Some proposals were also made by Villeneuve-Bargemont. Most of them
were probably acceptable to Coux, but he did not say anything about them
in his published lectures. However, in The Dublin Review, he criticised one of
them, central to Villeneuve’s approach: that which considers agriculture as a
priority sector, that is to say, which subordinates the development of industry
and trade to a growth process centred on land. This solution was obviously
linked, in Villeneuve-Bargemont, to his proposal for the limitation and reori-
entation of human needs. Coux was certainly not against this limitation, but
he thought that the model of development proposed by Villeneuve-Bargemont
was not feasible and could not, therefore, solve the question of pauperism.
He opposed the “blind antipathy to the factory system” (Coux 1837b: 179)
developed in the 1834 book: “the preference which the Catholic school gives
to agriculture, . . . to say the least, is carried greatly too far.” (Coux 1837b:
One reason for Villeneuve-Bargemont’s proposal was his acceptance of what
I have called the Montesquieu/Herrenschwand approach (Faccarello 2010b) —
later also developed by Alexis de Tocqueville —, that is to say, the idea that
the development of manufacturing makes the economy more vulnerable be-
cause the demand for manufactured products is subject to sudden and violent
variations, and those who work in this sector are disconnected from agriculture
and thus from food. Coux did not reject this hypothesis.39 However, it was his
38 However, at the end of his syllabus (Coux 1836a: 57), he noted rather elliptically
that, thanks to progress in industry, “the permanent decrease in the prices of .. . [industrial]
products will soon deprive industry of the main part of its influence on the wealth of peoples,
and agriculture will regain its own”.
39 “There is some difference between the wealth of a people which only produces what is
necessary and that of a people whose industry mainly produces what is superfluous. The
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 34
opinion that a country cannot avoid autonomous industrial development. His
ideas were extensively developed in his 1837 paper published in The Dublin
Review. An excess supply of labour can perfectly exist in agriculture as in
manufacturing, and the problem would remain unsolved. “Unhappy Ireland is
a living proof of the utility, nay more, of the necessity of commercial industry.”
(Coux 1837b: 166) The Montesquieu/Herrenschwand model of development is
here implicitly referred to:
Whether . . . the superabundance of labour exists in the fields, or
in the factories, the effects is the same as respects the profits of
the labourers . . . M. de Villeneuve admits this fact, and wishes
to encourage . . . what he calls national manufactories; that is to
say, manufactories that are chiefly employed in working up the in-
digenous raw material. But . . . that nation which has more hands
and more capital than it can employ in agriculture or in national
manufactures, must, upon pain of being exposed to a redundancy
of labour, extend the sphere of its industry, so as to take in the raw
material of foreign countries. Undoubtedly it will then find, that
the only means of keeping up the rate of wages is by an immense
exportation; and machinery will become indispensable: and then
follow those giant factories where millions of workmen are congre-
gated. In fact, it is impossible to command foreign markets, and
to sell in them, under the form of merchandize, their superabun-
dant labour of the country, without possessing the advantage of
cheapness. Now, the factory system, superior machinery, and un-
bounded capital, can alone insure the necessary degree of cheapness
to encounter the accumulated difficulties of freight, high duties, and
foreign competition. (Coux 1837b: 182-183)
A problem of coherence arises here because it seems that Coux is criticising
Villeneuve-Bargemont for his rejection of the solution proposed by economists,
which Coux had himself rejected. The context shows, however, that this con-
tradiction is only apparent: Coux seems to isolate the idea of an agriculture-
centred process of growth from the other proposals stated in Économie politique
chrétienne. It therefore comes as no surprise that, in a market economy based
on private property and competition, the idea he criticises is unrealistic and
cannot suppress pauperism.
revenue of the former possesses a fixity unknown by the latter, and while the agricultural
nation will last through centuries without fearing anything other than bad weather, the
manufacturing nation is exposed to all the dangers of competition.” (Coux 1832: 102-103)
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 35
5.2 Is there a remedy?
This apparent contradiction in Coux’s reasoning, however, shows the existence
of a dilemma in his own thought. For what are the solutions he himself pro-
posed to eradicate pauperism? While his analysis eloquently states the evil
that undermines modern societies, it seems that the remedies proposed prove
in the end to be either derisory or unattainable. That being the case, his ana-
lysis petered out and this is perhaps an additional reason why Charles Périn
did not discover anything publishable in the manuscript, of which he was the
For Coux, the problem of the distribution of income is undoubtedly cen-
tral. It is possible, of course, to invoke charity. However, even if charity is
abundant and well-managed, “it will never be sufficient to cover the ordinary
needs of the worker” (1844-1845: 321). A high enough wage is needed, at least
to allow those who have a job not to fall into destitution. But in a free market
society, the level of wages depends on the supply and demand of labour, and
the development of competition, machinery and modern industry structurally
produces an excess supply of labour. Some historical examples, Coux noted,
confirm this. During the Empire, wages were high because labour was in short
supply, owing to the needs for the army, conscription and high mortality on
the battlefields. During the Restoration and the July Monarchy, on the other
hand, war and conscription ceased, and the supply of labour became abundant:
wages decreased continuously in spite of the economic development of the time
(Coux 1837b: 173-174). Is there a remedy? How should we understand Coux’s
statement that “these machines, which at the same time have so prodigiously
enriched and impoverished society, would have produced entirely different re-
sults, had Catholicism retained its ancient social power” (Coux 1844-1845:
Coux believed that the solution consisted in acting on the labour supply to
reduce it and thus, all things being equal, increase wages. In this perspective,
he found nothing better than to refer to the institutions of the Catholic Church,
including the celibacy of the clergy (which avoids an increase in the population)
and the religious feast-days (which are public holidays), supplemented by an
ethics that holds luxury tastes and goods in contempt — thus reducing the
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 36
needs of the workers (Coux 1830-31: 106).40
Nor did the Church act less wisely with respect to the rate of wages.
The old Dutch East Indian Company, in order to keep up the price
of their spices, burned a part of those which they gathered in abun-
dant years. The Church did the same; she consumed a part of the
labour of the workmen by the multitude of her religious festivals;
and the labourer then sold his remaining working days more dearly
than he would have sold the whole year of labour, if he had con-
sented to work all the year: and in the pomp of these festivals were
held out to him unexpensive enjoyments, which turned his mind
from more costly pleasures. The Church had nicely calculated that
the labourer should gain the most and expend the least that was
possible. The Catholic economists assert, that the Reformation,
by suppressing ecclesiastical celibacy, has rendered powerless the
different clergy which it has created; and that, by suppressing festi-
vals, it has brought into the market that superabundance of labour
which is now mistaken for a redundancy of population. (Coux
1837b: 197, italics in the original)
These points are developed in the manuscript lectures (Coux 1844-1845,
part III: chapter 3), where Coux also made a case for the creation of workers’
associations: they would have been led by devoted non-workers, for example
priests, whose role would have been to discuss the level of wages with the
masters (Coux 1841845: 347). During the 1848 Revolution, in some papers
published in L’Ère nouvelle, this same approach led Coux to propose a reduc-
tion in the length of the working day, again with a view to diminishing the
supply of labour and increasing wages.
A similar approach can be found in a paper Coux published in 1844 in
Le Correspondant, “De l’économie politique nationale au point de vue de la
France”. There he supported a protectionist policy in favour of “national
labour”, avoiding the ordinary downward pressure on wages due to interna-
tional competition. There is of course nothing original in this proposal, except
for the ethical justification developed by the author, who refers to the values
of Catholicism as opposed to those of “philosophy” and “Protestantism”. In
substance, the Catholic ethic of charity — helping one’s neighbour — favours
personal relationships with those who are helped, and thus the immediate
40 Coux neglected the fact that contempt for luxury reduces the demand for this kind of
good, thereby reducing their production and hence the demand for labour.
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 37
neighbourhood of the believers. It is primarily an interpersonal relationship,
and a feeling that grows weaker with the distance between human beings. It
is the opposite of the ethic of philanthropy — the ethic of philosophy and
Protestantism. The latter promotes a love for humankind, an abstract and in-
tellectualised love which favours the masses and creates institutions that help
human beings indiscriminately and automatically — like the English Poor Laws
— and which can be counter-productive. It is Coux’s opinion that true and
efficient help comes from Catholic charity and its local institutions. It is this
same charity that obliges us to prefer our fellow citizens to foreigners: “in the
political sphere, one’s neighbour is evidently one’s country” (Coux 1844: 32).
“I am far . . . from having any hostile feelings towards foreigners . . . ; I do not
hate them, I simply prefer our fellow citizens. Let the foreigners be happy and
prosperous, as long as my fellow citizens do not suffer in consequence” (Coux
1844: 32). Hence the justification for the protection of “national labour”.
Considered as a pure theory, that is, disregarding the national con-
straints and the faits accomplis, the prohibitive system is eminently
bad. . . . But prohibitions and protective duties are henceforth . . .
a necessary evil; an evil however that entails some compensations
because, on the one hand, it places it [France] in the first rank
among those peoples who want freedom for national labour and,
on the other hand, it ensures the daily bread of its workers. (Coux
1844: 58)
“You see once more”, Coux told his students, “that absolute solutions are
impossible in political economy”: all depends on the circumstances (1844-1845:
157). In his unpublished lectures, the opposition between the ethic of philos-
ophy and Protestantism and that of charity and the justification for a pro-
tectionist policy are expressed, in a more neutral way, through the distinction
between a “humanitarian political economy”, which deals with the interests of
humanity as a whole, and a “national political economy”, which focuses on the
wealth of the country (Coux 1844-1845: 10-11, 422-26). Ideally, the interests of
humanity benefit from an unlimited domestic and international competition,
but with the emergence of machinery and modern industry “the negative ef-
fects of industrial competition start to be felt” (1844-1845: 423), the economies
and peoples of many countries suffer and their interests no longer converge: in
these circumstances, economic policy must protect the nation, and “national
political economy” is just “the science adapted to the needs of the fatherland”
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 38
(1844-1845: 426).
5.3 From hope to pessimism
Are these remedies efficient? Coux’s answer is not so clear-cut, and he proved
in the end to be rather pessimistic. For example, in the case of protectionism,
while noting its necessity, in his unpublished lectures he also stressed that
this policy, when (unavoidably) implemented by many countries, results in
increased domestic competition between the national producers no longer able
to sell on foreign markets, and ultimately increases pauperism. This is, he
admitted helplessly, “a very serious question”: “modern civilisation depends
on its solution, but this is an enigma, whose answer is known by Providence
only — as for me, I do not know it” (1844-1845: 426). The same is true for
a possible reinstitution of the Catholic festivals. This would be helpful if all
the countries did the same: but this is now unfortunately impossible, because
a unity of belief among nations no longer exists (1844-1845: 324).
Coux must have felt that his emphasis on the strategic character of the level
of wages, while accepting at the same time private property and free trade, was
a derisory statement in the face of such huge a problem as pauperism. In a
way, and in spite of the fact that he never abandoned this approach, he must
have been aware of this from the beginning:
As my ideas developed, political economy acquired, to my eyes, a
new nature . . . : linked with God, it became Catholic; it borrowed
something from the infinity of the religion that had just subjected
it, and the question of the wages, to which I first decided to stick
exclusively, seemed to me too narrow in the end. (Coux 1830a: 84)
This “something from the infinity” is what Coux developed later in his “so-
cial economics” and his apologetic attempt to prove that only a social relation
based on Catholicism can be lasting and advantageous. However, in real life,
this relation became looser and looser and the society ruled by Catholicism —
an idealisation of the Middle Ages — evolved under the attacks of philosophy
and Protestantism. Unbelief dominated and temporal interests gained the up-
per hand over eternal interests, provoking the situation that Coux had before
his eyes. In this perspective, the only way to eradicate pauperism would be to
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 39
restore the strength of the Catholic relation, that is, to provoke an authentic
cultural and social revolution. Villeneuve-Bargemont did not hesitate to pro-
pose such a programme.41 But was this restoration feasible? On this point,
Coux’s writings are ambiguous. Like Villeneuve, he sometimes dreamed of a
reform in people’s behaviour. As the problems are the result of the avidity for
earthly happiness, is not a limitation on human needs to be hoped for?
Happy those who know how to content themselves with exchange-
able goods that suit their position! Nations live the last days of
their material happiness when a senseless self-love presses them to
want more. The worker only suffers distress when he seeks after
goods that are not for him, and a reckless desire for luxuries lead
the middle classes to their ruin. But how to repel the invasion of
these artificial needs that arise from our pride? Has philosophy
some of these magical words that charm the human heart and stop
its aberrations? Religion alone speaks the language where these
words can be found, and here again . . . the usefulness of Catholi-
cism reveals itself in all its splendour. (Coux 1832: 106-107, italics
in the original)
But in the end, Coux’s discourse was pessimistic. He rarely broached the
subject in his publications and, on these occasions, the tone is negative. Ulti-
mately, the present state of society cannot be changed and must therefore be
This form of society, however, in spite of all the disadvantages it
entails .. . , is the only possible one today. This is the reason why
41 “How to make labour, industry, the production of wealth, the progress of the civilisation,
be in harmony with the welfare of the most numerous classes of society? The way exists . . .
but it requires . . . a complete change in social doctrines. Instead of . . . being only guided by
cupidity and the morals of material interests, one should consider all human beings — whose
destiny is not limited to a short passage on this earth — as brothers destined to share the
same legacy; one should demonstrate moderation, justice and charity in all enterprises; one
should love and seek progress in everything, but with wisdom, . . . without greed; one should
not neglect the acquisition of the commodities of life, but not get them at the expense of the
happiness of others; one should regulate needs, desires, profits, so that labour, wages and
the moral and physical betterment of the lower classes can go pari passu with the increase
in wealth . . . . One should thus protect agriculture because it leads more certainly to this
goal, encourage the machines which are useful to all but proscribe, by means of prohibitive
rights, those [that are] harmful to the working class: such is the solution to our problem.
Industrial selfishness will, no doubt, answer: Master, your words are harsh! . . . To you,
they may seem so. But they are clear and soft to hearts that are not closed to justice and
truth.” (Villeneuve-Bargemont 1834, I: 385-386, italics in the original)
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 40
our duty, as Catholics, is to frankly accept it because we owe it the
remnants of a more perfect sociability. (Coux 1839b, 8: 171)
As for the “social economics” that was supposed to place political economy
in the right perspective, Coux twice played down its importance, as if its virtue
could only be negative — in other words critical, but unfit for reconstruction.
We should not delude ourselves, Messieurs, qua the importance of
social or political economics. Dying societies can learn from its
teaching the real cause of their fears, but there stops its power.
The disease that kills them comes from above, and above lies the
remedy. (Coux 1836b, 1: 97)
They [the Catholic writers] acknowledge frankly that the remedies
they propose can scarcely by possibility be adopted in the present
state of the world; and they hardly attempt to conceal the sadness
of their forebodings as to the future destiny of society. (Coux
1837b: 198)
Coux felt powerless. That being the case, it is tempting to turn against
him the judgment he expressed on Say and Sismondi. He probably felt that
he himself was a “dance teacher for paralysed people”.
6Conclusion: a new school in political economy?
It would have been interesting to compare systematically Coux’s developments
with those of the main critical writers of his time, including Malthus, Sismondi,
the Saint-Simonians, the Phalansterians, and even Tocqueville. But this would
go beyond the scope of the present study, that is, a clear statement of his ap-
proach and analysis of his doctrine. To conclude, then, we must address a
pending question: to what extent, at that time, was Christian political econ-
omy a new school of thought — Coux’s dream — based on a corpus of specific
theoretical propositions?
At the turn of the 1830s, in reaction to the mass pauperism created by
the new industrial system and to the first modern economic crises, the project
of a Christian political economy emerged in France from different branches of
Catholicism, either politically liberal or conservative Legitimist. Charles de
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 41
Coux belonged to the former, Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont to the latter.
Their critiques of the prevailing economic system were similar, but they did
not necessarily agree on the remedies, except for the reaffirmation of Chris-
tian values, the role of charity and sacrifice, and the need to raise wages.
Villeneuve is by far the more famous of the two nowadays: but Coux, whose
intention was certainly more theoretical and ambitious, could claim priority. In
Économie politique chrétienne, Villeneuve referred to him, acknowledging that
he (Villeneuve) had “benefited from many of his observations” (1834, I: 83n).42
Towards the end of his Histoire de l’économie politique, he stated again the
convergence between his own preoccupations and those of Gerbet and Coux.
The similarity between our ideas and those of the authors whose
lectures today confer such great interest to L’Université catholique
was for us an important encouragement, and also a source of hope.
We are pleased to think that, thanks to the conscientious work
of these Catholic philosophers and many political economists who
go in the same direction . . . science will, sooner or later, become
Christian and Catholic, and will lead the human race towards a
better destiny. (Villeneuve-Bargemont 1838, 5: 335; see also 1841,
II: 360-361)
Both authors aimed explicitly at the creation of a new school in political
economy — Villeneuve had probably been inspired by Coux on this point.
Characterising such a school in his 1837 paper of The Dublin Review, Coux
Catholic in its faith, and catholic in its manner of conceiving sci-
ence, this school, little known in England, begins to develop its
principles in France; and its existence is the necessary consequence
of the entire contradiction which facts have given to the doctrines
and to the promises of Protestantism and of philosophy. (Coux
1837b: 175)
Villeneuve dreamt of some new theoretical developments on a Christian
basis — enrolling in the Christian school the “writers whose efforts tend to
42 In January 1829, when he was still the prefect of the Department of Nord, Villeneuve
sent an administrative report to the Minister of the Interior Jean-Baptiste Sylvère Gaye de
Martignac. In it, he stressed the permanent state of destitution of part of the population and
the necessity to find remedies, but without any notable developments (Villeneuve-Bargemont
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 42
restore the moral and religious element of the economic science” (1844: 240).
In a sense, Coux’s and Villeneuve’s attempts proved to be rather success-
ful, because, despite the fact that Villeneuve was sometimes seen more as an
“apostle” than “an economist or a statesman” (Blanqui 1837, II: 172), con-
temporaries who did not necessarily belong to this movement considered that
the new school was now part of the theoretical landscape. François-Félix de
Lafarelle-Rebourguil (1839, I: 21-72), for example, counted three schools of
thought in political economy: the “English or positive school” (Smith, Ricardo,
Say, Destutt de Tracy), the “moral school” (Malthus, Sismondi, Droz) and the
“charitable or Christian school”. Charles Louandre wrote along the same lines,
but proposing a slightly different classification:
Like philosophy, political economy is divided into three schools: the
Catholic school, the administrative school [the liberal economists],
and the revolutionary school [the associationists and socialists].
The leaders of the Catholic school . . . are MM. de Coux and de
Villeneuve-Bargemont. (Louandre 1847: 278)
But listing the members of the school precisely was not an easy task. From
the start, the delimitation of this current of thought was all the more vague
because, for some authors, it still lacked doctrinal unity. François Lallier, for
example, who had been greatly impressed by Coux’s lectures in Paris in 1832,
and whose paper in Revue Européenne was a eulogy of Villeneuve’s 1834 book,
recognised that the new school was, “if not de facto and really united, then at
least united in spirit, hope and heart” (Lallier 1835: 135). Lafarelle-Rebourguil
(1839) just mentioned a few names, and other writers could not clearly state
who belonged to the school — Villeneuve, rather arbitrarily, tried to include in
the movement certain authors who had written before him or approximately
at the same time. Obviously, in the 1830s and at the beginning of the 1840s,
the “école charitable ou chrétienne” was only a hope for those who felt close to
this sensibility.43 For Villeneuve himself, the constitution of a new current of
43 The topography of this sensibility remained vague for a long time. In the 1850s, the
names put forth by Alfred Nettement — a Conservative and Legitimist — in his Histoire de
la littérature française sous le gouvernement de Juillet (1854, II: 515 et seq.) still differs from
those mentioned by Félix Martin-Doisy in his voluminous Dictionnaire d’économie charitable
(1855-57, IV: col. 294 & sq.) where the list of the “économistes charitables” is excessively
long. In the recent literature (see for example Almodovar and Teixeira 2012), the boundaries
are again different.
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 43
thought was, in the end, a simple wish (1834, I: 83 n. 1, 89 n. 1; 1841, I: 360).
It is with this hope that, in L’Université catholique, he closed his lectures on
the history of political economy:
It is enough for our ambition to have shown in advance the extent of
their mission to the writers who would like to enter a noble and new
career: we would be happy if our works . . . could contribute to the
emergence . . . of new and Catholic Adam Smiths who could realise
what we have just foreseen and indicated. (Villeneuve-Bargemont
1838, 6: 17)
Coux also stressed the vague boundaries of the group44 and the embryonic
state of the theories.
But, like all things in their beginning, the Catholic school has as yet
not got beyond the first rudiments of its theories; and up to this
time has done little besides pointing out the fatal consequences,
that, with or without reason, it attributed to the prevailing doc-
trines, and seeking out means to ameliorate the fate of those poor
who are unable to work or to live on the fruits of their labour.
(Coux 1837b: 176)
The school only formed slightly later,45 but not according to Coux’s hopes.
While the dissemination of Catholic ideas on political economy benefited from
Coux’s teaching and publications, he did not have any faithful disciples. It is
true, in a sense, that his action was continued by one of his students, Charles
Périn, who succeeded him to the chair of political economy in Louvain in
1845. Périn started publishing a bit later, especially in reaction to the 1848
Revolution, and was quite prolific for decades. His importance can hardly be
overestimated: through his many writings — some of them translated in Ger-
man, Italian, and Spanish — he systematically developed a Christian approach
44 Coux also admits that certain authors sometimes included in the group do not have
a specific religious attitude. “Nay, they are not all Catholics; and, if MM. de Villeneuve,
Rubichon and Rainneville, profess the same faith with ourselves, MM. de Morogues, Huerne
[de] Pommeuse, and many other French economists, who agree with them in all respects,
and whose works have lately appeared, have no pretention to the title of orthodox believers.
Their agreement is, therefore, remarkable” (Coux 1837b: 188).
45For a detailed history of the post-1840 debates, Moon (1921) remains an unavoidable
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 44
and was one of the founders of what was to be called “social Catholicism”. But
social Catholicism was no longer Coux’s Christian economics.
Fundamentally, Coux remained a liberal and a theorist, and could not pre-
vent himself from thinking in terms of competition in markets — even if he was
highly critical of the economic and social outcomes of competition. For him,
for example, wages remained a price, determined by the supply and demand
for labour: hence his disappointing and derisory solutions to pauperism, noted
above, and the blind alley in which he must have felt trapped. After Coux, any
theoretical ambition to found an alternative political economy was practically
abandoned. Moreover, wages, most authors insisted, were not to be considered
as the price of a commodity, labour. Social Catholicism mainly focused on
important but practical goals — hence the quasi-disappearance of the phrase
“Christian political economy”. Authors aimed, for example, at changing the
legislation in favour of the working classes (limitation of child labour and the
working day, improvement of working conditions, decent housing, education,
insurance, charity and the role of religion, etc.), and, among other actions,
at the promotion of new forms of cooperation between workers, and between
capitalists and their employees (invention of new forms of guilds or corpora-
tions). In a sense, the pragmatic and policy-oriented line of Armand de Melun
(1807-1877), a friend of Villeneuve-Bargemont, and after him of Albert de Mun
(1841-1914) prevailed. Périn belonged to this approach.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Justin Fèvre (1829-1907), a prelate46
who constantly fought against liberal Catholicism, but was in favour of so-
cial Catholicism, published a book with the title Charles Périn, créateur de
l’économie politique chrétienne (1903).47 This was of course neither fair nor ex-
act. But the fact is that Coux was deliberately forgotten — probably because
of the liberal and democratic aspects of his thought — and his theoretical
ambition was no longer on the agenda. The dream of a Christian political
economy was over.
46 He was the editor of Revue du monde catholique.
47 Fèvre even tried to dismiss Coux’s person and integrity, writing (1903: 10) that Coux’s
papers in L’Avenir have some merits, but that, “having married a rich woman, he was lost
to science” (see also 1903: 224). It is true that, in his foreword to the book (1903: x),
he admitted that his judgment was a bit too harsh, but he nevertheless left the main text
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 45
Appendix 1. Syllabus of the 1832 Paris Lectures on
political economy
This syllabus is to be found in Gerbet (1832), on an advertisement
by the publisher, inserted between pp. 122 and 123. It shows how,
at that time, Coux’s system was not entirely formed.
First part
1st Lecture. Introduction.
2d — Of moral and material wealth.
3rd — Of Catholicism and philosophy as generators of wealth.
4th and 5th — Of legitimate and legal orders.
6th — Of property and inheritance.
7th — Of the Blessed Virgin as the type of the Christian woman.
8th — Of parties-priests (“Des Partis-Prêtres”).48
9th — Of religious and philosophical beliefs in relation with population.
Second part
10th lecture. Of exchange.
11th — Of domestic and foreign trades.
12th — Of real value and artificial values.
13th — Of credit and public debts.
14th — Of wages, machines and religious holidays.
15th — Of taxes in their relation with national wealth.
16th — Of luxury and alms considered in the same perspective.
17th — Of Catholicism as the only possible protection against a universal
48 The phrase “parti prêtre” was coined by François-Dominique de Montlosier in the 1820s
to refer to the propensity of the Catholic hierarchy to control everything in a state, including
the political power (see for example Montlosier 1826a, 1826b, 1827). Coux used it again later
in a paper on public instruction in Belgium (Coux 1840b).
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 46
Third part
18th lecture. Of the ancient era and the new era in political economy.
19th, 20th and 21st — Of the causes of the actual disease.
22d — Of Spain and Great Britain.
23rd, 24th and 26th — Of Catholic regeneration, as the only permanent means
of salvation for the society.
26th — Of a transitory system.
Appendix 2. Syllabus of the Malines and Louvain Lec-
tures on political economy
This syllabus (Coux 1836a) is in fact essentially a general presen-
tation of Coux’s lectures on social economics, which were to be
published in L’Université catholique. The table of contents of his
unpublished lectures on political economy proper is given below, in
Appendix 3.
Political economy is the science of the laws that govern the formation,
distribution and increase of the wealth of peoples. It was at first imperfect, and
considered only one part of its vast field, because it dealt exclusively with the
interests of the class of large industrialists. Wealth developed in consequence,
but it was wrongly distributed and the fundamental conditions of its existence
were disregarded. Thus, the wealth of some was made out of the destitution
of others, and society, awoken from its dreams of prosperity by the cries of
the poor, discovered that it had lost more in security than it had gained in
Science was thus obliged to find a new route, and the distribution of wealth,
that is, the wage question, became the main subject of its study. As this
question can only be solved through profound investigations into the initial
conditions of human sociability, political economy was split into two distinct
— while inseparable — parts, so that in the future, it will form a whole and
be a science only in so far as it brings together, in the same teaching, social
economics and this regulatory economics that was until recently treated as the
whole of political economy. The lessons offered to the readers of L’Université
Catholique will thus entail a course of social economics and a course of regula-
tory economics. The first will deal with the causes of wealth and the general
laws, which govern its distribution and increase. The following propositions
will be developed and proved:
1The existence of wealth implies the pre-existence of any particular so-
ciety, and the faith in a rewarding and vengeful God is the necessary condition
of human sociability.
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 47
2As this faith draws from each religion a special form, each religion gene-
rates a distinct society, a society, in which the development of wealth is limited
by the nature of the religion on which it lies.
3The philosophy of the non-believer — whatever the degree of perfection
it reached — cannot create a society, nor keep to the society it takes possession
of, the life it received from its primitive beliefs.
4As social beliefs weaken, public prosperity loses its stability; and while
a seeming progress can be brought by the invasion of incredulity, this progress
necessarily ends with the destruction of the entire wealth.
5The most favourable society to the development of wealth will be that
which establishes the most clear-cut distinction between the spiritual and tem-
poral powers, which ensures the greatest security of property, the greatest
liberty to the individual, the greatest stability to the family, the greatest pro-
tection to the woman, the greatest welfare to the poor — a society, finally, in
which men will have the greatest love for their fellow human beings and the
greatest confidence in their love.
6Each society will fulfil these various conditions to the degree allowed
by its religion, and this degree will always depend on the analogies that exist
between this religion and Catholicism.
7Catholicism alone, and in an absolute way, fulfils the conditions proper
to a cult of a perfect society. Alone, it liberates the worker by means of the
miraculous intervention of charity, and the woman, the son, the citizen through
the notion of duty — a notion grounded on love and by the help of which, in
his family and in the society, he always strengthens the order through liberty,
and liberty through order.
8All the institutions, all the discipline of Catholicism, from the ecclesias-
tical celibacy to the celebrations, result on the human level in the increase of
the wages and wellbeing of the poor.
9The first cause of the prosperity of the Protestant peoples was the re-
duction of wages: hence the industrial and even agricultural inferiority of the
Catholic nations — an inferiority that the latter will not deplore for a long
10The Catholic society being the one that entails the greatest number of
elements of wealth, these elements develop in their own proper form, with the
help of agriculture, industry and commerce.
11Agriculture produce raw products; industry gives them a shape, and
commerce make them exchangeable. Thus, agriculture and industry create di-
rect and real values, and commerce creates indirect and market values [valeurs
12There is a fundamental difference between these two kinds of values.
It comes mainly from the changes that the issuing of paper-money, on the one
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 48
hand, and the progresses in industry on the other hand, bring to the market
value [valeurs vénales] of industrial products. The permanent decrease in the
prices of these products will soon deprive industry of the main part of its
influence on the wealth of peoples, and agriculture will regain its own.
When this first part of our lessons will be finished, we shall give the pro-
gramme of our course of regulatory economics.
Appendix 3. Table of contents of the unpublished Lec-
tures on political economy (Coux 1844-1845)
Part I. On production, considered independently from con-
Chapter I. On the various kind of wealth.
Chapter II. On direct value and indirect value.
Chapter III. On exchange and sale.
Chapter IV. On the sign of value and credit.
Chapter V. On the different modes of production.
Chapter VI. On the different kinds of capitals.
Chapter VII. On workers.
Chapter VIII. On general income and its distribution.
Part II. On consumption, considered independently from pro-
Chapter I. On productive consumptions.
Chapter II. On unproductive consumption.
Part III. On the mutual relations between production and con-
Chapter I. On the law of demand and supply in relation with the price.
Chapter II. On the law of demand and supply in relation with the distribution
of the primitive and secondary incomes.
49 There are some discrepancies between this table of contents, at the beginning of Part
III, and the chapters that follow. This part is unfinished.
A Dance Teacher for Paralysed People? 49
Chapter III. On population and its laws.
Chapter IV. On taxation.
Chapter V. On home trade and foreign trade.
Chapter VI. On corn trade.
Chapter VII. On industrial competition.
Chapter VIII. On colonies and emigration.
Chapter IX. On banks.
Chapter X. On public debts.
Chapter XI. On foreign exchange.
Chapter XII. On industrial companies.
Chapter XIII. On the mercantile system, the prohibitive system and free trade.
Chapter XIV. On the progress of political economy.
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This text was presented at the third International Symposium on ‘Population, Poverty
and Welfare in the History of Economic Thought’, Tokyo, Waseda University, 12
September 2011, and at the first workshop of the research programme ‘The conflict-
ridden development of modernity: Theology and political economy’, Lyon, 19 Decem-
ber 2013. Useful discussions with Thierry Demals, Claire Silvant, Philippe Steiner,
Katsuyoshi ‘Vittorio’ Watarai and Anthony Waterman, and comments by two anony-
mous referees, are gratefully acknowledged. A special thank also to Mrs Marie
Vouters, from the Bibliothèque Universitaire Vauban of the Université Catholique
of Lille, who kindly gave me access to the manuscript of Coux’s lectures on political
... In the 1830s, Say, the last important member of this current of thought, was confronted to new and numerous opponents, who rejected the views according to which other spring of actions than self-interest and competition were unimportant for the smooth functioning of the new industrial society. Religious beliefs (Faccarello and Steiner 2008b;Faccarello 2017) or altruistic behaviours (Steiner 2017) were brought to the fore by liberal political philosophers (Germaine de Stael, Benjamin Constant) and various religious or socialist thinkers (Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont, Charles de Coux, Pierre Leroux), by those claiming that a new religion was required (Henri Saint-Simon) or by those endorsing the idea that another "new science" was necessary (Auguste Comte) to stabilise a society plagued with pauperism and crises. "Philoso-phie économique" faded away, but the centrality of the self-interested behaviour is still with us. ...
... In the 1830s, Say, the last important member of this current of thought, was confronted to new and numerous opponents, who rejected the views according to which other spring of actions than self-interest and competition were unimportant for the smooth functioning of the new industrial society. Religious beliefs (Faccarello and Steiner 2008b;Faccarello 2017) or altruistic behaviours (Steiner 2017) were brought to the fore by liberal political philosophers (Germaine de Stael, Benjamin Constant) and various religious or socialist thinkers (Alban de Villeneuve-Bargemont, Charles de Coux, Pierre Leroux), by those claiming that a new religion was required (Henri Saint-Simon) or by those endorsing the idea that another "new science" was necessary (Auguste Comte) to stabilise a society plagued with pauperism and crises. "Philoso-phie économique" faded away, but the centrality of the self-interested behaviour is still with us. ...
Full-text available
In this chapter, we focus on the French economists that, all along the eighteenth century, formed what we call “philosophie économique”. In Sect. 2, this current of thought is precisely defined: a review of the troops shows how its members (Boisguilbert, Quesnay, Turgot, Condorcet and Say) refer to a new view on the nature and role of self-interest, and why, in their opinion, self-interest is supposed to reach positive results, both at the individual and collective levels. Section 3 deals with how, in this approach, the Legislator is supposed to act in this new environment, trying to use self-interest as a means of government, and how it is supposed to make decisions. Section 4 concludes, stressing the fact that, parallel to the recognition of the positive role of self-interest, more and more critical voices arose to stress at the same time the limits of this approach and the essential role played by other important elements—religion, morals, altruism—neglected by “philosophie économique”.
Full-text available
In this chapter, we focus on the French economists that, all along the eighteenth century, formed what we call “philosophie économique”. In Section 2, this current of thought is precisely defined: a review of the troops shows how its members (Boisguilbert, Quesnay, Turgot, Condorcet and Say) refer to a new view on the nature and role of self-interest, and why, in their opinion, self-interest is supposed to reach positive results, both at the individual and collective levels. Section 3 deals with how, in this approach, the Legislator is supposed to act in this new environment, trying to use self-interest as a means of government, and how it is supposed to make decisions. Section 4 concludes, stressing the fact that, parallel to the recognition of the positive role of self-interest, more and more critical voices arose to stress at the same time the limits of this approach and the essential role played by other important elements—religion, morals, altruism—neglected by “philosophie économique”.
Full-text available
In nineteenth-century France, the nature and functions of the State were an almost constant subject of debate among liberal economists. The aim of this paper is to analyse and restate some hitherto neglected discussions and to discover some bold ideas that could form the hallmarks of a French approach to the question. The enquiry starts at the turn of the century with the seminal work of J.-B. Say and writings by A.L.C. Destutt de Tracy, who both shaped the liberal reflection on public economics during this period. But the works of these authors suffered from important ambiguities. It is shown how subsequent liberal economists - Ch. Dunoyer, V. de Broglie, G. de Molinari, E. de Girardin, P. Leroy-Beaulieu - tried to deal with some of the unresolved questions and, mainly on the basis of Say's work, developed original approaches focusing on the productivity of public spending, the role of the State as a factor of production, utopian views of the State as a private company, and finally the inexorable political and administrative logic of the modern electoral State.
This paper addresses a group of Catholic political economists in France in the 1830s, which was described by the Dublin Review as ‘Catholic in its faith, and Catholic in its manner of conceiving science’. A first section clarifies how contemporaries perceived this group. This is followed by an analysis of Villeneuve-Bargemont's Economie politique Chrétienne in order to outline a standard Catholic approach to political economy. Finally, that standard is used to chart the work of other Catholic economists within that group and to contrast it with the approach followed by other contemporary social political economists.
On the mercantile system, the prohibitive system and free trade
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Chapter XIII. On the mercantile system, the prohibitive system and free trade.
Le retour des huguenots. La vitalité protestante, XIXe-XXe siècle
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Baubérot, Jean (1985). Le retour des huguenots. La vitalité protestante, XIXe-XXe siècle. Paris/Geneva: Éditions du Cerf/Labor et Fides.