economy

The Great Return of the Economy to Oeconomy

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How, in the context of globalization, can humanity reconcile economic necessities with the inescapable fact that natural resources are limitées ? This is the question posed by Pierre Calame in a book published in 2009 by Editions Charles Léopold Mayer, (ECLM), under the title "Essai sur l'œconomie" (Essay on Oeconomy). ». One can fight against a model of thought, outdated but having the merit of coherence, only by laying the bases of an alternative endowed with coherence of the same force. This is the meaning of his quest today for which he has just published a small treatise on oeconomy with the ECLM editions. The first tells the story of a research, the second explains the results.
 
Ahe current system of production and exchange of goods and services does not achieve - and this is very visible in these times of crisis - the objectives that must be assigned to the laws that govern societies. It widens a deep gulf between winners, who are in the minority, and the mass of losers who live in poverty.
In his first book, "Test on the

 " (1) Pierre Calame (2) was interested in the formulation of rules and the design of the factors that underpin production, exchange and consumption. Noting the impasse in the current economic paradigm, he demonstrated that the economy must return to its etymological meaning, " oïkos ", the home, the common house, and "nomos ", the law. To return to oeconomy is to have a broader economic vision, one that encompasses both the art of organizing the material and immaterial exchanges of human beings among themselves, of societies among themselves, and of humanity with the biosphere. Pierre Calame explores these questions in a spirit of open reflection. He demonstrates that it is possible today to ensure society's collective and democratic control of its own destiny.

 
The term "oeconomy" refers to what we seek to build for the future; it corresponds to the branch of governance that organizes the production of exchanges and the consumption of goods and services.

It designates, according to Pierre Calame, a branch of governance whose purpose is to create stakeholders and institutional arrangements, processes and rules aimed at organizing the production, distribution and use of goods and services with a view to ensuring all possible well-being for humanity by making the most of technical capacities and human creativity, with a constant concern for the preservation and enrichment of the biosphere, for the conservation of the interests, rights and capacities for initiative of future generations and under conditions of responsibility and equity that are acceptable to all.

The desire and need to formulate another theory of economics is not new.

As early as 1971, working on the urban development of Algeria, Pierre Calame had discovered that the "monetary veil" made it impossible to distinguish between a territory's external and internal trade flows, which made its reality difficult to grasp.
Then, as head of the services of the Ministry of Public Works in a region in the midst of an industrial crisis in the north of France, he found that our conception of money and the economy made it virtually impossible to mobilise the swinging arms to meet unmet needs.
The last two decades of the twentieth century confirmed his doubts by adding an essential component: the inability of the dominant theory to manage the relations, however decisive, between humanity and the biosphere.
"We need another economic theory. There is no shortage of candidates for the next generation, from Marxist economics to self-centred development, from the social and solidarity economy to sustainable development. None of them meet the requirements. »
 
In recent years, against a backdrop of disillusionment with grand ideologies, myriad local innovations have flourished. Is it enough to wait for them to multiply before an economy emerges that is equal to the challenges of transition? He doubts it.
One can fight against a model of thought, outdated, but having the merit of coherence, only by laying the bases of an alternative endowed with coherence of the same force. This is the meaning of his quest.
 
Etymology set him on the path. In 1755, the Encyclopedia threw a " o " in the trash: what had previously been called " œconomie " became " économie ". Until the middle of the 18th century, we were talking about oeconomy and not economy. By losing its " o ", the economy also gradually loses the memory of its original meaning (oïkos, house, nomos, law), and becomes autonomous from the management of the rest of society to the point of presenting the laws it enunciates as natural laws to which one can only subscribe. Oeconomy designated the wise government of the house for the common good of the family. In the 21st century, let us understand it as "the wise government of the planet at the service of the common good of humanity. Oeconomy is thus a branch of governance.
 
Today, humanity is faced with a pressing requirement: to ensure the well-being of all while respecting the planet's limits. Only a return to oeconomy can make it possible to reconcile economic necessities with the inescapable fact that natural resources are limited, and this is the purpose of this little treatise. By fully assuming its etymology, oeconomy thus becomes the branch of governance that applies to the particular areas of production, circulation, and consumption of goods and services. Pierre Calame demonstrates that it is by returning to it that it will be possible to ensure society's collective and democratic control of its own destiny.
 
Having shown over the decades that governance had to satisfy a number of constant principles, Pierre Calame found himself in a country of knowledge. Hence the idea of "grand retour en avant, de l'économie à l'oeconomie": "grand retour" because the challenges of the 21st century, the management of a limited and fragile planet, are very comparable to those that prevailed before the industrial revolution; "en avant" because these challenges must be met with all the intellectual and technical resources available to us today.
Hence the plan for the little treaty. In the first part, it subjects the current economy to the criteria arising from the principles of governance, which reveals its shortcomings. And in the second, it explores what an oeconomy that satisfies these principles should be. This leads him to revisit, for example, the legitimacy of actors in the economy and finance, money, governance regimes for goods and services, and the role of territories and sectors.
 
Oeconomy is not ready-made thinking, a doctrine that only needs to be implemented. It is the fruit of a collective invention whose principles of governance serve as a guide. His little treatise proposes a framework for this invention.
 
Small treatise on oeconomy - Editions ECLM, 23 May 2018
 
 
  1. This book was awarded the 2009 Limantour Prize of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.
  2. Pierre Calame, polytechnicien, civil engineer, worked for twenty years at the French Ministry of Public Works where he held various responsibilities in territorial management and central administration. He emerged convinced of the need for a radical reform of the State. After a brief stint in industry, for almost twenty years he directed an international foundation, the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind, of which he is currently President.
  3.  

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