The Catholic University of America

 Joseph Sladky Defense

Final Examination of Joseph F.X. Sladky

For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

April 27, 2011 9:00a.m., Caldwell Room 125


Rev. Jacques M. Gres-Gayer, Ph.D.


A Program for a Christian Social Order: The Organic Democracy of René de La Tour du Pin

René de La Tour du Pin was one of the leading social Catholic theorists during the latter half of the nineteenth century.  This dissertation examines La Tour du Pin’s role in attempting to lay the foundations for a more just and representative Christian social order.  There is a particular focus on the analysis of his social theories and the examination of the utility and foresight of his many contributions to Catholic social thought.

La Tour du Pin was at the helm of Association catholique, the most influential social Catholic journal in late nineteenth century Europe.  He was also the secretary and moving spirit behind the Fribourg Union, a multi-national group of prominent and influential social Catholics, whose expertise was drawn upon by Pope Leo XIII in the drafting of Rerum Novarum.  Later, some of his ideas found their way into Quadragesimo anno.  Through his corporative system he promoted a program which organized society by social function and which gave corporations public legal recognition and autonomy in all areas pertaining to their proper sphere.  As this corporative system extended itself into the political arena, it would grant a proportionate, yet real representation to all segments of society by true participation.

Concerning sources, I have drawn primarily upon La Tour du Pin’s central work, Vers un ordre social, his articles from Association catholique, and his shorter work Aphorismes de politique social.  This dissertation begins with a survey of the historical, religious and socio-economic environment of the nineteenth century.  The thought of important thinkers who shaped La Tour du Pin’s views is then examined.  This is followed by a brief biography of the thinker’s life.  Next, his social theories are investigated and analyzed.  His ideas on the family, the Church’s role in society, corporations, decentralization of power, the role of the state, and political representation are comparatively analyzed with the social works of thinkers such as Locke, Rousseau, and Tocqueville.  La Tour du Pin’s ideas are also assessed and critiqued by the Church’s social teaching, especially that of the popes.  Lastly, his influence on later thought and politics is assessed.