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Philosopher on the Factory Floor: The sacramental entrepreneurship of François Michelin

John Couretas

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Every student who has bought into the fiction of the "post-industrial" economy should read a remarkable new book from a man who spent much of his life around tire factories. This month, Lexington Books publishes the first English translation of François Michelin's And Why Not? in its "New Series in Ethics and Economics" edited by the Acton Institute's Samuel Gregg. An extended interview with two journalists, the 107-page book examines the industrialist's business management philosophy, his views on the French penchant for central planning and his deeply felt Catholic faith.

Michelin's is an essentially sacramental view of life, in the sense that he everywhere sees the synergy, the cooperative exchange, between God and man...As Michelin puts it: "Factory work expresses perfectly what we do every day. Essentially, it is an action that consists of taking raw materials and making a marketable product out of them. It is a noble act."

The source of this nobility is, for Michelin, the Christian view of the human person "revealed as a free creation." Hence, even the manufacture of a truck tire (an amazingly complex technical and commercial enterprise, in reality) is an ennobling expression of human freedom and creativity.

"The main thing is to live but, in order to do this, one has to feed on the reality that is hidden behind the facts," Michelin says. "One has to seek out root causes."

Without any hint of paradox, Michelin asserts that to apprehend reality, the intellect in search of root causes must "accept the mystery of things." For him, the essential questions about the mystery of God and human existence must be pursued along the "thread of their implications," through the Gospel, the proverbs, the psalms, and the texts of the Church.

John Couretas is communications manager for the Acton Institute.

Read the complete article on The Acton Institute website.



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