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Belgian Catholic entrepreneurs’ organisations, 1880-1940. A dialogue on social responsibility

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

During the last decades of the I 9th century and the interwar period the Belgian Catholic Church entered into an intense dialogue with the entrepreneurial milieu. Building on older networks several Catholic entrepreneurs' organizations were created. These structures developed intricate discourses, confronting business men with their social responsibility, shaping and refining their identity and worldview in contrast to that of their liberal counterparts. Belgian Catholic entrepreneurs associations radiated a particular organizational culture, exuding a genteel atmosphere of a socio- religious debating club. But they also advocated a clear Christian identity, in line with Catholic social teachings and Neo-Scholastic philosophy. Only a (re) Christianization of the business world, so they argued, would provide a durable solution to existing social tensions. The 'bon patron catholique' had to become an instrument of moral regeneration and social renovation. Members were urged to highlight the Catholic identity of their company, to guide and monitor the families that worked for them and to offer clear and regular support to social works. The discourse of the Belgian Catholic entrepreneurial organizations on the social responsibility of their members would only slowly move away from its paternalist roots. Nonetheless in the interwar period a more structural vision of social relations arose, resulting in a closer collaboration with the Christian workers movement. This prepared the Belgian Catholic entrepreneurs' organizations for their leading role in the post-war welfare state and its systems of interest mediation and collective bargaining.
Journal: Zeitschrift für Unternehmensgeschichte
ISSN: 0342-2852
Issue: 2
Volume: 56
Pages: 163 - 186