Laurent Ledoux's blog

Probably not, unfortunately, but at least some serious thinkers are pushing for it, under the terms “happy sobriety”, “voluntary simplicity”, “frugality” or simply wisdom.

In Belgium, one can think, among others, of Christian Arnsperger (“Ethique de l’existence post-capitaliste”), Marc Halévy (“Le principe frugalité”), Emeline de Bouver (“Moins de biens, plus de liens”) or Luc Bouckaert (“Frugality”; “Spiritualiteit & Soberheid”). In France, the most prominent ones are Pierre Rabhi (“La part du colibri”) and Patrick Viveret (“Reconsidérer la richesse”).

Viveret, a former conselor in the French Audit Office and philosopher, will give a conference and seminar this coming 15 & 16/01 in Brussels on how to pursue this “happy sobriety” (more info on; note Halévy will give also a conference on 09/03 – see below).

Roland Vaxelaire and myself recently wrote a small article in La Libre Belgique to announce his venue. You’ll also find hereunder an English translation of this article as well as the video and commented powerpoint slides of a “performance” which I gave in September 2009 at a Pecha Kucha event.

But before anything, let us wish you a very“happy & sober” 2010 !

As many others, you may have read about the recent upturn of the stock market with a mix of relief and perplexity. On the one hand, we hope that the crisis and its painful consequences, especially for the weakest around us, will not be as rough as we had feared. On the other hand, we are – although maybe reluctant to admit it – worried that a prompt recovery will prevent us from learning the lessons from the crisis, and thoroughly reconsider our economic system and our lifestyles.

Indeed, as many others, you may have felt an awkward feeling noticing the abundance of presents bought and received in the last few weeks, or jumping into the frantic succession of profuse meals, when Christmas Eve is meant to be, even for non-believers, an occasion for introspection. Some may say that it is good for the economy. But is it that good for us? Does this overflow really fulfill our whishes?

These questions are at the heart of the reflection that the economist and philosopher Patrick Viveret has had for 40 years. Throughout his books he helps us better analyze and apprehend the profound link between the outrageousness and our society’s angst. According to him, one of the keys to understanding this articulation lies in the confusion that we maintain between our needs on one hand and our wishes on the other hand…

For the full text, click here. For the original version of the article in French, click here.

Note that another thinker of the sobriety and frugality, Marc Halévy will give a conference for Philosophie & Management on 09/03 at 20:00 at La Ligue des Optimistes, 1, Avenue Alfred Solvay, 1170 Brussels. For more details, see

Finally, you’ll find hereunder (no need of a link anymore) the performance I gave for Brussels’ Pecha Kucha on 19/09/09 to launch the new cycle of seminars of Philosophie & Management.

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The main message of this performance was also about the need (my desire) to follow the “happy sobriety path” (something Danièle and me initiated more deliberately after a wonderful stay at the fabulous SHA – if you want to start a “new” life, there are worse place than there to do so ;-)). You’ll find also here the slideshow I presented on this occasion, its commented version here and finally here a French translation of a slightly different version of this performance.

Note: To watch a longer version of the video, preceded by an introduction on Pecha Kucha, by the organizer and friend, Alok Nandy, click here.

So what about you? What are your resolutions for this new year?

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  1. Happy New Year to you Laurent.

    I, like you, fear that any quick recovery will make many of the lessons less important to learn. However, I find it hard to believe that any sort of recovery is likely in the short-term. The recent stories about bank bailouts needing to be repaid in 2010 make me think that there will be more trouble to come in financial markets.

    It seems unlikely to me that the huge bailouts solved the banks problems. More likely, it postponed them and provided breathing space for them to be able to fix some of the issues and fully investigate their derivative responsibilities. But until credit default swap markets are wound down, how can this problem be truly solved?

    In a post of mine some time ago, I predicted that this recession will last until 2015-2017. Nothing in the financial news since then has made me believe I was wrong. In fact, many factors – like the crumbling financial state of Dubai for example – suggest that problems are actually worse than we realised, which does not suggest a quick fix.

    I’m all doom and gloom, I know, but these are not happy times in the financial world.

    Best wishes for 2010.

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