Ever since in 2009 Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer, ECLM, published the large volume entitled Essay on Œconomy, I have wanted to draw out its essence for a short book. This is now well and done. ECLM has just published Petit traité d'oeconomie A short treatise on œconomy. Attached is its table of contents. The first part tells the story of a pursuit, the second exposes its results.

The desire and the need to formulate another theory of the economy are hardly new to me.

Back in 1971, when working on urban development in Algeria, I had discovered that the ‘monetary veil’ prevented distinguishing a territory’s exchange flows with the outside world from its internal exchange flows, which made its reality difficult to grasp.

Later, when directing the services of the Ministry of Public Works in an area in the north of France in full crisis, I had found that our conception of currency and the economy made it practically impossible to mobilize idle hands to serve unmet needs.

The last two decades of the twentieth century confirmed my doubts with an additional essential component, namely the inability of the dominant theory to manage the decisive relations between humankind and the biosphere.

We need another economic theory. There have been plenty of would-be replacement theories, from Marxist economics to self-centred development, from social and solidarity economy to sustainable development. None fulfils the requirements.

Against a background of disillusion regarding the major ideologies, myriads of local innovations have flourished these past few years. Will it be enough for us to wait for them to multiply and for an economy to emerge that is truly up to the challenges of the current transition? I doubt it.

You cannot fight against a school of thought that although superseded has the merit of being coherent unless you provide the foundations of a just as strongly coherent alternative. This has been the sense of my quest.

Etymology is what put me on track. Until the mid-eighteenth century, one would not speak of economy, but of œconomy; the origin of the word was the Greek oikos (house) and nomos (rule). Œconomy designated the wise government of a house for the common good of the family. In the twenty-first century, we can understand this as ‘the wise government of the planet for the common good of humankind’. Œconomy is thus a branch of governance.

Having demonstrated for several decades that governance must comply with a number of constant principles, I found myself in familiar territory. Hence the idea of a ‘great forward comeback from economy to œconomy’, a ‘great comeback’ because the challenges of the twenty-first century, the management of a limited and fragile planet, are very comparable to those prevailing before the industrial revolution; and ‘forward’ because these challenges must be taken up with all the intellectual and technical resources we have today.

Hence the plan for a short treatise. In the first part, I check the current economy against criteria drawn from the principles of governance, and this reveals its insufficiencies. And in the second part I explore what an œconomy that complies with these principles should be. Which leads me to revisit, for instance, the legitimacy of today’s economic and financial actors, currency, the governance regimes of goods and services, and the role of territories and value chains.

Œconomy is not a ‘ready to think’ doctrine that only needs to be implemented. It will be the outcome of a collective invention under the guidance of the principles of governance. My short book offers a framework for this invention.