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A review of “Devenir Soi” by Jacques Attali: through the lenses of liberalism and Buddhism

Marc Pilkington (Associate Professor of Economics, University of Burgundy, Dijon, France)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 7 September 2015




The purpose of this paper is to reinterpret Attali’s worldview through the lenses of liberalism and Buddhism by mobilizing the relevant literature, beyond the mere book review. This paper is an essay based on the book “Devenir Soi” by Jacques Attali, published in France in 2014. These analytical grids were chosen, because freedom and self-realization are two themes that pervade the book.


After presenting the book structure, the objective and the methodological approach, we uncover Attali’s interrogation, namely how to free oneself from the omnipresence of evil, the withering away of the State and growing xenophobic populist self-entitlement. We make explicit Attali’s liberalism and plea for freedom, and we present a critical discussion of his method, based on the idea of selfness essentialism and a novel comparison with Buddhism. Finally, we assess the overall success of Attali’s intellectual endeavor.


Attali’s thesis is generally consistent and solid. Nevertheless, a few weaknesses are identified.

Practical implications

Anybody willing to read Attali’s book as a self-development book will gain some valid insights with this paper.

Social implications

Attali’s book is largely centered on the individual. Yet, through the lenses of liberalism and Buddhism, a new vision of society is put forward.


Attali enjoys an international reputation as an intellectual, economist and essayist. Devenir Soi has not yet been translated in English. More than a mere translation, the present paper will bring his ideas to the fore in the English-speaking world.



Pilkington, M. (2015), "A review of “Devenir Soi” by Jacques Attali: through the lenses of liberalism and Buddhism", On the Horizon, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 158-168.



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