December 11, 2017

Denis de Rougement

An obituary. Published in The Ecologist Vol. 16 No. 2–3, March 1986.


Denis de Rougemont, the famous Swiss thinker and writer and chairman of Ecoropa (Ecological Action for Europe), an organisation with which we are all closely associated, died on the 6th December 1985 at the age of 79. He was born on the 8th September 1906, the son of a protestant minister, at Neuchatel in Switzerland, also the birthplace of the great Swiss philosopher, biologist and psychologist, Jean Piaget.

To the French speaking public he will mainly be remembered for his famous book Amour et Occident (Love and the Western World) which he wrote in 1939. For environmentalists in the French-speaking world, Denis de Rougemont is mainly known for his book L’Avenir Est Notre Affaire (Paris, Stock, 1977), which provided a bold and comprehensive statement of what the Club of Rome calls the “Predicament of Man”.

He will also be remembered as an inspiring teacher, as all those who studied with him at L’Institut d’Etudes Européennes in Geneva, fully recognise.

Throughout his life, his main preoccupation, however, and the principal theme of most of his writings was the unacceptability of the nation state and the need to create a Europe of the regions in which local people take government into their own hands and bypass national governments whose policies are invariably destructive.

He carried on his work to the end. I visited him in hospital a month before his death. His mind was still that of a young man. His preoccupation with the terrible problems that our world faces today was undiminished, and his analysis of the causes as clear as ever. In spite of all his remarkable achievements, he felt that his work was still unfinished. There were another 17 books he still wanted to write and only hoped that he could live long enough to finish some of them. Unfortunately, this was not to be.

A man of such wisdom, erudition, and commitment will be hard to replace.

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