American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 88, Issue 3, Summer 2014

Dries Deweer
Pages 487-510

Mounier and Landsberg on the Person as Citizen
The Political Theory of the Early Esprit Movement

This article sheds light on the political theory of the Esprit movement and its main theoreticians of the period 1931–1950, Emmanuel Mounier and Paul-Ludwig Landsberg. The Esprit movement saw the need for a personalist democracy, which is defined as a political system which fosters the individual human being’s ability to discover and realize their personal vocation. The sustainability of this type of democracy is not only dependent on a constitution based on checks and balances, but especially on a vigilant and active citizenry that rein in institutional political power. The personalists of Esprit remind us that politics concerns everyone. Mounier and Landsberg may have focused on the dark side of politics—the power play, oppression and pretence of democracy—but recognized that politics was necessary to build and safeguard a framework that centers on the development of human persons.