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Meeting human need through consumption, work, and leisure

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to present a perspective on need that derives from a personalism which is grounded in Catholic social thought and runs counter to the individualism of mainstream economics, focusing on need in the context of three economic activities: consumption, work, and leisure. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Three strands of Christian personalism emerged in twentieth-century Europe: in Paris, Munich, and Lublin. The author's comments derive from the Lublin strand. Findings ‐ Mainstream economics regards consumption as satisfying human material wants. Need is disregarded except when poverty is addressed. Personalist economics insists that there are needs of the human spirit which are addressed through consumption. Personalist economics views work as having two effects. First, by producing goods and services it provides income to purchase those goods and services. Second, it provides opportunities to associate with others in the workplace, and to apply creative talents and energies. Mainstream economics regards the first but not the second as within the domain of the discipline. Mainstream economics defines leisure negatively as time spent not working. Personalist economics sees it positively as an activity crucial to personal development. Originality/value ‐ The reader is asked to consider two questions. Will economic theory continue to be constructed on an economic agent who is represented by the passive and predictable homo economicus of mainstream economics that is based on the individualism of the seventeenth-to-eighteenth century enlightenment? Or, will it turn to the active and unpredictable acting person of personalist economics based on a personalism that emerged in the twentieth century?
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Keywords: Christianity; Consumption; Economic theory; Human nature; Leisure activities

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 15, 2011

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