The personalistic manifesto

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The personalistic manifesto is the main work of the French philosopher Emmanuel Mounier , published in Paris in 1936. The German translation was first published in Zurich, probably in 1937. The personalistic manifesto is the basis of the personalism movement in Central Europe in the 20th century and should be an alternative to individualistic ones , fascist and communist theories of man.

Emmanuel Mounier was a Christian and a committed advocate of Christian social teaching , which classifies the value of the person as the highest of all values. Due to a clear loss of values ​​in the communist and liberal-democratic philosophies of the 20th century, a large number of Christian communities emerged, for example the Catholic Worker Movement or Religious Socialism , which opposed the development with their point of view. Mounier's concern was to use the manifesto to give the individual currents a common foundation and a goal, namely the practical implementation of personalism in politics, business and social life, in short to justify the personalist revolution as a third way alongside individualism and communism.


Personalistic view of man

Mounier describes the human being as the unity of two opposing, inner movements, one of which strives for diversion and the other for concentration. In this dynamic tension between individuality (greed, greed, distraction) and person (domination, free choice), human life takes place. While existentialism , which is related to personalism in many ways, mainly describes the awareness of the senselessness of human existence, personalism aims to activate human freedom and the awareness of one's responsibility towards others. The mere existence of the individual is overcome through life in a community and commitment to others, which is experienced as meaningful .

According to Mounier, the human dimensions of existence can be distinguished as follows:

  • the human individual is “a higher animal” and is continuously subjected to the influences of his environment
  • the level of consciousness is determined by personalities who are not the person (comparable to social roles)
  • At the level of the unconscious , there are desires, aspirations, hopes and requests that often appear ambiguous and alien to us
  • the person is inner order, deeper than the unconscious, and creates the integration of all human dimensions: "this progressive unification of all my actions and through it my personalities or my states is the actual act of the person"

It is a matter of a spiritual principle of life that is called each person's calling. The person's goal is to pursue this calling continuously; H.

"When we say person, we mean exactly:
1. that a person can never be taken as a means to an end for a collective or any other person.
2. that there is no impersonal spirit, no impersonal happening, no impersonal value, no impersonal fate. Only matter is impersonal. Every community is (itself) a person made up of persons and not just a number or a force and as such matter. Spirit = personal;
3. that, consequently, except in exceptional circumstances when evil must be chained by means of power, any legally legitimate or ruling regime is to be condemned for which the person is regarded as an exchangeable object, which makes them equal, the vocation of the person ( different in each individual) or even forced from the outside to a particular vocation by means of the tyranny of a legal moralism, which is often the source of conformism and hypocrisy;
4. That society - that is, the legal, statutory, social and economic regime - neither has the task of submitting the person nor can presume to be responsible for the development of the vocation of the person, but first of all for an area of Freedom, protection, play, and leisure to allow individuals to come to terms with this calling with full spiritual freedom; it has to help the person, without constricting them, by means of a provocative and inviting upbringing, to free himself from all conformism and from all false influences; it must also provide the material means, social and through economic organisms, which are normally necessary for the development and exercise of the vocation, with the exception of heroic vocation. (…) It is the person who builds their destiny; nobody, neither human nor collective, can replace them. "

Differentiation from individualism

Due to the frequent confusion of personalism and individualism , Mounier goes into more detail in his personalistic manifesto to the individual in order to know his conception of man delimited. In this context he explains:

“My person is not my individual. The individual is the dispersion of the person on the surface of their life and their willingness to get lost on this surface. My individual is that indefinite and changeable image that (...) result in the various roles between which I fluctuate, in which I dissipate and flee from myself. My individual is the insatiable enjoyment of that distraction, that incestuous love of my idiosyncrasies, of my precious wealth that only interests me. It is also the panic that overcomes me when I only think about breaking away from the fortress of my security and my egoism, that fortress that I have built around me to assure myself of my egoism and against the surprises of love To defend. It is ultimately the capricious and arrogant aggressiveness with which I armed myself, the demand, the revindication, as an essential modality of self-awareness and the legal and metaphysical approval that the West gave them with the declaration of human rights and the Napoleonic law has. " (...)
“When we pretend to base our human and social regime on the person, some have suggested that we are defending the shameful form of an old decadent individualism. Others believe that we want to replace the fascist cult of the superman; still others that we get the beautiful words as its own, with which capitalism justifies the independence, freedom, singularities and psychological complexities of the few "successful", which he produces (so as to move the awakening oppose a sense of community). " .

The bourgeois ideal of the protected consumer appears to the personalist as the sharpest contrast to all spirituality: to the capitalist, comfort is the highest of all conceivable values, the “mainspring of action”; his greatest ambition is the prestige that arises from the extent of his comfort. For the citizen, legal entitlement is the highest form of self-confidence. Money separates people not only from the creative act and the personal relationship with their possessions, but also from other people, in that it makes every interpersonal exchange, every relationship a commercial matter. The dogmas of modernity, literally rationalism and liberalism , gradually led to the dissolution of Christian-social values ​​(equality and brotherhood among people as opposed to the separation of humanity into free and slaves in pre-Christian times). However, the person's spiritual life arises from precisely this source - the community.

The management of a spiritual life, which for Mounier is the final manifestation and the crowning glory of human life, has become a privilege for the privileged, for a wealthy elite that does not have to strive for their daily bread through the capitalist economic order; but the masses of working mankind were cut off from leading a spiritual life; their meaning in life inevitably relates to work, thrift and a vague desire for improvement and advancement in the hierarchy.

Personalism sets itself apart from communism insofar as communism is ultimately a negation of spiritual reality (see: historical materialism ). The person is not only reality, but also has top priority in personalistic thinking.

The personalistic social order

Mounier's personalism is the idea of an image of man and, derived from it, a social order .

Personalism is fundamentally skeptical of the functional organization of a society: the temptation to overestimate oneself and abuse others is a "constitutional flaw in all human rule" and sooner or later always leads to a disastrous split between leadership and led, to one Conversion of a social function into a caste: “Personalism therefore rejects at the same time an aristocratic system that differentiates people only according to their external circumstances and a democratic system that does not want to observe their inner principle of freedom and individuality. These are two forms of materialization, the objectification of personal life. "

According to Mounier, it is impossible to establish a community with disregard for the person; This even if it were based on alleged human values, which are only dehumanized because they are depersonalized. Values ​​are to be accepted and produced by the person. The only valuable and lasting community is the personalistic community, a person of persons, i. H. the living result of each person's successes.

The structure of the personalistic order would have to be such that it guarantees the rights and demands of the person in every social area. It is undisputed that this community can be called utopian , but it still remains the idea or principle by which any actually existing community should be measured and criticized:

“The idea of ​​the primacy of the mind over technology, over politics and over economy, which cannot be compared with the logical rigidity or the formalistic morality of eternal laws that give history and people from the outside a prefabricated framework, a collection of formulas for use and want to impose omission in order to achieve what depends on the free consent of the people. "

In contrast to all orders that make the spiritual a private matter for individuals, personalism places a spiritual value, the person, at the center of all human reality. Personalism must be clearly distinguished from any spiritualism or a certain doctrinal or moralizing idealism. The starting point of thinking is the person in whom the actual reality of man is recognized and from the primacy of this root the entire structure of thought unfolds.

The idea of ​​the personalistic social order in the sense of the above equitable institutions can be formulated as follows, according to Mounier:

1. A negative condition

“One must never allow even one person to become a victim of pressure or an instrument of institutional tyranny. One must never intervene in the actual personal part in the life of the individual in the private or public domain; one must protect this inviolable part against the possibility of oppression by other individuals or other institutions (...) "

2. A positive orientation

“One must give ever greater numbers of people, and ultimately everyone, the appropriate means and effective freedoms to allow them to perfect themselves as persons; (...) one must penetrate the gears of the community with the virtues of the person by developing initiative, responsibility and decentralization to the greatest possible extent at every level and at all points. "


  • Emmanuel Mounier: The Personalist Manifesto . Jean-Christophe Verlag Zurich, undated; (Manifeste au service du personnalisme. Collection Esprit. Fernand Aulier, Editions Montaigne, Paris 1936)

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Mounier: The personalistic manifesto . P. 81.
  2. ^ Personalistic and community revolution , pp. 203ff.
  3. ^ Mounier: The personalistic manifesto . P. 88.
  4. ^ Mounier: The personalistic manifesto . P. 110.
  5. ^ Mounier: The personalistic manifesto . P. 113.