Bertrand de Jouvenel
Born(1903-10-31)31 October 1903
Paris, France
Died1 March 1987(1987-03-01) (aged 83)
Paris, France
Alma materUniversity of Paris
Marcelle Prat de Jouvenel
(m. 1925; died 1971)
FamilyJouvenel des Ursins [fr]
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern Philosophy
InstitutionsMont Pelerin Society
Main interests
Political philosophy
Notable ideas
High-low vs. middle dynamic

Bertrand de Jouvenel des Ursins (31 October 1903 – 1 March 1987) was a French philosopher, political economist, and futurist. He taught at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester, Yale University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California, Berkeley.


Bertrand was the heir of an old family from the French nobility, coming from the Champagne region. He was the son of Henri de Jouvenel and Sarah Boas, the daughter of a Jewish industrialist. Henri divorced Sarah in 1912 to become the second husband of French writer Colette. In 1920, when he was only 16, Bertrand began an affair with his stepmother, who was then in her late 40s. The affair ended Colette and Henri's marriage and caused a scandal. It lasted until 1924. Some believe Bertrand to be the role model for the title character in Colette's novel Chéri, but in fact she had published about half the book, in serial form, before she and her stepson met for the first time, in the spring of 1920. Their affair actually inspired Colette's novel Le Blé en herbe. In the 1930s, he participated in the Cahiers Bleus, the review of Georges Valois' Republican Syndicalist Party. From 1930 to 1934, Jouvenel had an affair with the American war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. They would have married had his wife agreed to a divorce.[3]

In his memoirs, The Invisible Writing, Arthur Koestler recalled that in 1934, Jouvenel was among a small number of French intellectuals who promised moral and financial support to the newly established Institut pour l'Étude du Fascisme, a supposedly self-financing enterprise. Other personalities to offer support were Professor Langevin, the JoliotCuries, André Malraux, etc.[4]

However, that same year, Jouvenel was impressed by the riot of the antiparliamentary leagues that occurred on 6 February 1934, became disillusioned with traditional political parties and left the Radical Party. He began a paper with Pierre Andreu called La Lutte des jeunes (The Struggle of the Young) while at the same time contributing to the right wing paper Gringoire, for which he covered the 1935 Nuremberg Congress in Germany where the infamous Nuremberg Laws were passed. He began frequenting royalist and nationalist circles, where he met Henri de Man and Pierre Drieu la Rochelle.[5]

He was in favour of Franco-German rapprochement and created the "Cercle du grand pavois", which supported the Comité France–Allemagne (Franco-German Committee). Here he became friends with Otto Abetz, the future German ambassador to Paris during the occupation.[6] In February 1936 he interviewed Adolf Hitler for the journal Paris-Midi,[7] for which he was criticised for being too friendly to the dictator.[citation needed]

That same year he joined Jacques Doriot's Parti populaire français (PPF).[8] He became the editor in chief of its journal L'Émancipation nationale (National Emancipation), wherein he supported fascism. He broke with the PPF in 1938 when Doriot supported the Munich Agreement.

After the French defeat in 1940 Jouvenel stayed in Paris and under German occupation published Après la Défaite, calling for France to join Hitler's New Order. He fled to Switzerland just before the liberation of Paris by the Allies. Jouvenel was among the very few French intellectuals to pay respectful attention to the economic theory and welfare economics that emerged during the first half of the 20th century in Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This understanding of economics is shown by his work The Ethics of Redistribution.

Jouvenel's mother passionately supported Czechoslovakian independence, and so he began his career as a private secretary to Edvard Beneš, Czechoslovakia's first prime minister. In 1947, along with Friedrich Hayek, Jacques Rueff, and Milton Friedman, he founded the Mont Pelerin Society. Later in life, de Jouvenel established the Futuribles International in Paris.

Dennis Hale of Boston College has co-edited two volumes of essays by Jouvenel.[9]

Later in his life, Jouvenel's views shifted back to the left. In 1960, he complained to Milton Friedman that the Mont Pelerin Society had "turned increasingly to a Manichaeism according to which the state can do no good and private enterprise can do no wrong."[10] He was sympathetic to the student protests of 1968 and critical of the Vietnam War.[11] He also expressed support for the Socialist François Mitterrand.[10]

Sternhell controversy

Zeev Sternhell published a book, Ni Droite, ni Gauche ("Neither Right nor Left"), accusing De Jouvenel of having had fascist sympathies in the 1930s and 1940s. De Jouvenel sued in 1983, claiming nine counts of libel, two of which the court upheld. However, Sternhell was neither required to publish a retraction nor to strike any passages from future printings of his book.[12]



  1. ^ a b "Bertrand de Jouvenel's Common Good Conservatism – Daniel J. Mahoney". Law & Liberty. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Bertrand de Jouvenel's Shared Fantastic Conservatism". Long Island News and Law. 17 April 2021. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  3. ^ For a detailed account of Jouvenel's affair with Martha Gellhorn see Caroline Moorehead: Martha Gellhorn: A Life, Chatto & Windus, London 2003, ISBN 0701169516 (hardback).
  4. ^ Arthur Koestler, The Invisible Writing, Collins and Hamish Hamilton, London 1954. Republished in 1969 by Hutchinson (Danube edition) ISBN 0090980301. p. 297
  5. ^ Le siècle des intellectuels by Michel Winock, ed. Seuil, p. 410.
  6. ^ Bertrand de Jouvenel, Un voyageur dans le siècle (1903–1945), tome 1, éditions Robert Laffont, Paris, 1979
  7. ^ "Les grandes interviews du siècle: Adolf Hitler". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  8. ^ Laurent Kestel, " L'engagement de Bertrand de Jouvenel au PPF de 1936 à 1939, intellectuel de parti et entrepreneur politique ", French Historical Studies, n.30, hiver 2007, pp. 105–125[ISBN missing]
  9. ^ "Dennis Hale". Boston College.
  10. ^ a b Rosenblatt, Helena (2012). French Liberalism from Montesquieu to the Present Day. Cambridge University Press. pp. 214–219.
  11. ^ De Dijn, Annelien (2010). "Bertrand de Jouvenel and the Revolt Against the State in Post-War America". Ethical Perspectives. 17 (3): 386.
  12. ^ Robert Wohl, 1991, "French Fascism, Both Right and Left: Reflections on the Sternhell Controversy", The Journal of Modern History 63: 91–98.

Further reading