Heinrich Pesch

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0. From the Wikipedia:

"After studying law at Bonn, Pesch entered the Society of Jesus in 1876. He made his novitiate with exiled German Jesuits in the Netherlands. For his studies of philosophy (1878-1881) Pesch was sent to Bleijenbeek, also in the Netherlands. He completed his theological studies at Ditton Hall (1884-1888). While in England, Pesch lectured for a few years at the Stella Matutina school. He was ordained priest in 1888.

From 1892 until 1900 Pesch was spiritual director at the Mainz seminary, where he wrote his first book Liberalism, Socialism and Christian Order. Through lectures of the publicist Rudolf Meyer Pesch became acquainted with the teachings of Marx and Rodbertus. After a renewed study of economics with Schmoller and Wagner in Berlin (1900-1902), Pesch moved to Luxembourg and worked on his major opus Lehrbuch der Nationalökonomie. He died in 1926."


1. By Rupert J. Ederer:

"Heinrich Pesch was born in Cologne, Germa­ny, on September 17, 1854. He died in Valkenburg, Holland, on April 1, 1926. During that span of not quite 72 years he combined with his exem­plary life as a Jesuit priest many years of extraord­inary, productive scholarship. Pesch began his uni­versity studies at Bonn. After he entered the Jesuit order in 1876, he went through the intensive regi­men required by that order, and that included for him periods in Holland, Austria, Luxembourg, and England. It was during his theological studies in England — absence from Germany being forced by the Bismarckian repression of Jesuits — that Pesch was able to see firsthand the social devastation lib­eral capitalism wrought among the working classes. The experience is what prompted the young stu­dent to dedicate his life to doing what he could to improve the lot of the common working people.

Although the provincial of his order had in­tended to have him go on studying to become a professor of theology, Pesch successfully pleaded his case for studies in economics. While still a the­ology student, he began to probe the so-called Soziale Frage — the great social question of the time, namely, how to alleviate the plight of the working classes in the laissez-faire capitalist milieu of the late 19th century. Later he was assigned to co-edit with his brother, the renowned philosopher Tilmann Pesch, the prestigious journal Stimmen aus Maria Laach. He published 71 significant articles in it over a 28-year period. There were also assign­ments in various parts of Europe, including Vienna and Holland, before he was assigned to be spiritual advisor in the seminary of the Diocese of Mainz — a happy coincidence! There the Jesuit scholar dwelt in the same house in which the great pioneer of Catholic social teaching, Bishop Wilhelm Em­manuel von Ketteler, had lived; it was there that Pesch wrote his important two-volume work Liberalismus, Sozialismus und Christliche Gesellschaftsordnung (Liberalism, Socialism, and Chris­tian Social Order), which he described as an exer­cise in philosophical sociology. His studies in ethics and moral theology had convinced him of the rele­vance of morality for economic life. That set him on a course that was contrary to the positivistic or­ientation that the social sciences, including eco­nomics, were taking by that time."



"Pesch, who died in 1926, was thought to have inspired Pope Pius XI’s great social encyclical Quadragesimo Anno five years later. In spite of Pesch’s relative obscurity, Ederer called him an economic “system builder,” on par with Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes—although the system he constructed was based firmly on Catholic teaching and the natural law. The word “solidarism” rings of the principle of solidarity, which has been stressed more recently in Catholic social teaching. In fact, solidarism is also referred to as “the solidarity work system.” There is some indication that Pesch’s solidarism influenced the famed Solidarity trade union movement in Poland that rose to prominence a generation ago and led the way to the collapse of Eastern European communism."



Works in English translation

From the Wikipedia [1]:

  • "Christian Solidarism." In: Joseph N. Moody (Ed.), Church and Society. New York: Arts, Inc., 1953.

  • Heinrich Pesch on Solidarist Economics: Excerpts from the Lehrbuch Der Nationalökonomie. Translated by Rupert J. Ederer. University Press of America, 1998.

  • Liberalism, Socialism and Christian Social Order, Translated by Rupert J. Ederer. Edwin Mellen Press, 2000 (5 vol.)
Book 1: The Philosophical Roots Of Economic Liberalism
Book 2: The Free Market Economy Or Economic Order?
Book 3: Private Property As A Social Institution
Book 4: The Christian Concept Of The State
Book 5: Modern Socialism

  • Teaching Guide to Economics, Translated and Edited by Rupert J. Ederer. Edwin Mellen Press, 2002 - 2003 (10 Vol.) [9][10]
Book One: Foundations for Economic Life (2 vols.)
Book Two: Economic Systems and the Nature and Dispositional Causes of the Wealth of a Nation (2 vols.)
Book Three: The Active Causes in the Ongoing Economic Process (2 vols.)
Book Four: The Satisfaction of a Nation’s Wants as the Purpose of the National Economy and Production (2 vols.)
Book Five: General Economics (2 vols.)

  • Ethics and the National Economy, Translated with an introduction by Rupert Ederer, IHS Press, 2003.

the Lehrbuch der Nationalokonomie

"The monumental work of the German Jesuit Heinrich Pesch, Lehrbuch der Nationalökonomie, created an economic and social doctrine called solidarism. Pesch based his economic analysis on the bond, factual and moral, which unites the members of society with one another and the social whole, and the whole with its members. Since man is a being not merely social by nature, but whose actual existence is always in a concrete social environment, the abstract theories of individualism can neither explain nor guide society; on the other hand the socialist theories which tend toward denial and destruction of individual life make an equally unreal abstraction. Solidarism, a mean between these extremes, bases social unity on human nature and the common good. Since solidarism is a directive or ethical principle as well as an explicative principle it must be based on moral reality. The moral principle of social life is the common good. The basis of solidarism is the principle of the mutual rights and duties of society and its members. Pesch called this principle social justice."

— Shields, Leo W. The History and Meaning of the Term Social Justice, Thesis (Ph. D.) University of Notre Dame, 1941, p. 37. [2]

See: Heinrich Pesch on Solidarist Economics, Excerpts from the Lehrbuch der Nationalokonomie


By Jared Q. Tomanek:

"How should one read Heinrich Pesch, a Jesuit priest and economist, who died in 1926? Rupert Ederer, an economics professor, translated parts of Pesch’s work and titled the composition Heinrich Pesch on Solidarist Economics, Excerpts from the Lehrbuch der Nationalokonomie. He chose to begin with an understanding of man. Man has unchangeable dominion and is a rational creature and these are the two foundations upon which his economic thought rests. A short book as this hits the important features of many economic theories. As such, Pesch includes thoughts on the state through the context of man’s nature. Given the family is the cell of society; it is not the entire body and will not fulfill man by itself. With that, the state also has boundaries in that it does not create natural rights but is meant to protect them. If natural law is not respected and given it proper place, Pesch does not offer very hopeful advice. He says society will fail. The purpose of the state is not anarchy or socialism. The state exists for man’s betterment. This can take different forms in different cultures and historical places. In a sense the best state is the appropriate state. Pesch then gives his thoughts on what a state like this would look like. For example, the state’s responsibility is not to hand out happiness to each person. That lies outside the boundaries of its competence, although it is bound to the common good so that each person can accomplish their individual goals. The state is concerned with the public welfare of its citizens and Pesch mentions seven thoughts on its protection and assistance. These include proper protection, interaction with the community, public welfare as common to all, force and law of the state, occupational groups, economic and civil liberty, and finally, how individuals and the state ought to act in midst of each other and other organizations. Solidarism, as Pesch intends, is the understanding that man is an individual person and a member of the community. Economic theories need to recognize this starting point. For Pesch, man is not solely an individual and not only a cog in a machine; he is the composite or an integration of the two. Solidarism is not just some squeamish social justice rant, but rather recognition that man functions in society. It is not some nice idea, but rather a sound economic principle. For example, if man seeks to increase his wealth he will need to know what his neighbor needs or wants and cannot simply produce whatever fancies his emotions (economic individualism), or be forced by central planning to provide goods and services. Instead, the human person freely provides the goods and services his neighbor demands or both will fall short of healthy economic activity. Whereas solidarity is a virtue, solidarism is a social system of human work. It is the bond of unity found in the separate groups in society: human race, family, citizen, and colleague. He calls solidarism “organic” in that it is not some licentious individual on an island but is a moral agent using his own free will. In solidarism, man lives in “reciprocal dependence,” “co-responsibility,” “corporate alliance,” and in “solidarity as a charitable principle.” Collectivist socialism fail as does individualistic capitalism. It is only solidarism that provides the answer to the market. Collective socialism cannot read the minds and hearts of the human person to know what he needs and wants produced. Individualistic capitalism is isolated and cut off from neighbor and results in the same fate as collectivist socialism. The meat of the book is found in the chapter entitled “The Solidaristic System of Human Work,” in which Pesch describes what a solidarist economy would look like. Pesch recognizes the value of man’s role in production and distribution, and that the human person is not likely to serve a few lords (or one lord). He criticizes the lack of unity in individualistic capitalism’s sole pursuit of profit. Collectivist socialism takes away man’s freedom by limiting his organization to one body (the government) and its failure to distribute income fairly.So what are solidarist followers to accept? Pesch says that “All such ideas, to the extent that they are sound, basically acceptable, and well-founded, become a part of the solidaristic system.” This means not basing the system solely on the individual or on society, but on both and on these five ideas: a) man is not isolated, b) the restoration of the family—which Pesch says was fragmented by self-centered (individualistic) capitalism, c) the acknowledgment that the state exists for everyone, not only those with power and/or money and operates in a subsidiary capacity, d) the introduction of a social perspective of private property and an understanding that the ownership of private property is different from its use, and e) freedom must be compatible with the common good. Although Pesch is obviously against individualism as such, he objects to the state that attempts to provide for everything people want, rather only those things that follow in the principle of subsidiarity. In a sense, the use of the state is, like the just war theory, only used as a means of last resort. Pesch’s prescription is not absolute private property for persons or collectivism of means of production. His answer is “socialization of people,” desiring cooperation rather than antagonism as the basis for human activity in the market, producing goods and services that serve the good of neighbor. The remaining chapters deal with occupational organizations, equivalence and just price, just wage, interest and usury. He calls for occupational organizations within the same occupation (manager/worker) and within the same function (worker/worker, management/management). For equivalence and just pricing, his basic tenet is quality product for a fair price. The just wage must also be determined for the workingman. This means that if society is not willing to pay a man a living wage for his labor then society probably has no demand for the fruits of his labor and he places the principle actor for determining this wage as which is in “accord with the common good of society.” Regarding interest and usury, this chapter is the most written and best thought-out reasoning on usury I have found in modern literature. Also of importance are the many sources Pesch uses in the number of footnotes he provides. Overall this work is eye-opening. There is no conflict between the Church’s moral and social justice teachings. Pesch proposes that sound moral principles make great economic practice. It also gives great comfort to that “All such ideas, to the extent that they are sound, basically acceptable, and well-founded, become a part of the solidaristic system.”


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