CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1On 11 February 1976, François Mitterrand was the guest on the Antenne 2 program “C’est-à-dire”. The leader of the Parti Socialiste (PS) took the opportunity to present a forceful response to the accusations of economic incompetence made in the previous day’s Le Monde newspaper by finance minister Jean-Pierre Fourcade. Calling Fourcade a “specialist in deficits”, in reference to the failure of investments by the Chirac government to bring about a recovery, Mitterrand proposed a televised debate that the minister quickly accepted. [1] After some back and forth between the two camps, the debate was broadcast live on 2 March on Antenne 2. While viewers generally found it quite tedious, this debate represents an important milestone in the socialist search for economic credibility: Jean-Pierre Fourcade was unable to get the upper hand over François Mitterrand despite the comparative historical advantage that his political family had enjoyed on this subject. The minister left the television studios in a fury after learning that his adversary had had access to the same dossiers as those provided by his office in preparation for the debate. [2] The newspaper Les Échos – seldom accused of socialist leanings – called it a draw, and even noted the progress made by the leader of the opposition in mastering orthodox economic reasoning and language. [3]

2This example highlights the strategic role of economic advisers in the advances in credibility made by the PS on this topic during the 1970s. Of course, its leaders were also able to take advantage of favorable political and economic circumstances. From the presidential election of 1974, the electoral success of the party made it easier to take a – relative – step away from the Marxist economic discourse of their communist ally, which continued to alarm public opinion. Then between 1976 and 1981, the difficulties encountered by the governments of Raymond Barre in halting the rise in unemployment weakened the republican right’s reputation for competency, and in particular that of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing who claimed to have called the “best economist in France” to serve as his prime minister. Yet these favorable circumstances do not explain everything. The increased economic credibility of the PS, especially when compared to that of the SFIO (Section française de l’internationale ouvrière) of Léon Blum or Guy Mollet, was related to the involvement of several “economists” in the party, people capable of developing an alternative to Barrism that was deemed attractive and even credible by a portion of the elites and the media while remaining faithful to the major axes of the government programme commun (Common Program) agreed with the communists in June 1972.

3Curiously, the role of the “economist” as member of a political party has garnered little interest in the rich sociological and political science literature on expertise, especially when the party is in the opposition. This oversight is all the more surprising in that, since the 1980s, a number of works have proposed thought-provoking discussions of the multipositionality of economists and their proximity to political power at every level. Discussing the influence of Keynesian ideas on French economic policy in the twentieth century in the collective volume edited by Peter Hall, Pierre Rosanvallon underlined for example the role of senior civil servants Gabriel Ardant and Simon Nora as well as the economic journalist Georges Boris in the “Keynesian” conversion of Pierre Mendès France. He did not ask, however, the extent to which the participation and the activity of these experts and backers of Mendès changed – or did not change – the way the Parti Radical thought about the economy and put that thinking into practice under the Fourth Republic. [4]

4This lack of interest in the relationship between “economists” and parties can be found twenty years later in the important work of Marion Fourcade. While this sociologist reflected on the way many heterodox trends – the Annales School, structuralism, theory of state monopoly capitalism (SMC), [5] “regulation theory”, and convention theory – attempted to challenge the dominant neoclassical approach, she does not show how, at the same time, these parties integrated these economic theories into their speeches and programs, and welcomed many of their apostles. [6] Communism and socialism of the 1960s and 1970s were largely inspired by SMC (the economic section of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) was primarily responsible for consideration of this topic and its spread in France) and/or the theories produced by the different branches of “regulation theory” to construct their alternatives to Gaullist interventionism and then Barrist “neoliberalism”. [7] More recently, the work of Mariana Heredia, despite the attention it pays to the incestuous relationships maintained by economists with different types of political power on the national, European, and international levels, [8] confirms the rarity of sociological research that considers the party as a separate actor in economic history, and the figure of the “economist” engaged in a party as a fertile terrain of reflection for understanding the “‘rise of experts’ in our systems of political and economic decision making”. [9] The work of political scientists on French parties does not currently allow us to fill in these gaps, even in the well-known case of the PS. During a presentation to the National Congress of the French Association of Political Science (AFSP) in 2015, Fabien Escalona expressed regret that his colleagues avoided “any extensive exploration of what economic changes are doing to the PS and what the PS is doing in return to macroeconomic policies”. [10] It should be noted that the broader question of the relationship between parties and ideas and their social conditions of production is now being brought back into the spotlight by a group of political scientists calling for a “true social history of ideas in partisan contexts”. [11] We can expect this endeavor to lead to work focused on the subtle and complex relationships between parties (on the right or the left, in government or “antisystem”), [12] experts, and economic theories, a field of research that is still largely undeveloped.

5The discipline of history shares this lack of interest for partisan economic production. This disinterest is due less to economic historians than to their political counterparts, whose attitude stems in large part from the tradition established by René Rémond. In his work to rehabilitate political history against the hegemony of the Annales School, he proposed an interpretive framework that knowingly abandoned economic and social history to better emphasize the autonomy of politics, the “place of management of global society”. [13] The history of the French right and left has been marked by this methodological choice. Historical accounts and policy articles rarely see the economy as a pertinent point of entry for understanding the different political families that they address. [14] Yet a number of works – including those of Peter Hall, Marion Fourcade, and Mariana Heredia – have confirmed Keynes’ intuition that every politician in power is the slave of some defunct economist. Why would the same not be true for the leader of an opposition party such as the PS between 1958 and 1981? Might a deeper reflection on experts contributing to the conquering of power not represent a fertile path toward identifying the underlying foundations of the political economy of the government in cases of changes in the party in power? Taking the example of the “economists” of the PS “remolded” by François Mitterrand at the Épinay Congress (11-13 June 1971), this article aims to show that the study of socio-professional profiles, economic cultures, and tasks accomplished by these actors in a partisan milieu allows us to give a positive response to the two preceding questions.

6Tightening the focus on the “partisan economist” in fact presents a triple epistemological interest. It first allows us to understand the party as an actor involved in the construction of what John Campbell and Ove Pedersen have named “knowledge regimes”, in other words the procedures by which institutions and organizations produce data, research, and political recommendations that influence public debate and political practices. [15] In this research, however, the party remains – once again – the odd man out, as witnessed in the treatment reserved for the case of France. The PCF, PS, Républicains indépendants (RI), and Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) do not figure among the numerous actors (state, clubs, semi-public research organizations, political foundations, and universities) closely examined by the two researchers to identify the causes of the progressive decline of the post-war interventionist economy. [16] Yet when in the second half of the 1970s the crisis became the common reference of the elites and the people, the Common Program on the left and the counter-plans of the PS both contributed to the latter’s promotion of an alternative strongly inspired by the analyses of regulation theorists, based on banking and industrial nationalizations, democratic planning, and – to a lesser degree – self-management, to overcome stagflation. [17]

7Shedding light on the genesis and pliability of the economic programs of the period constitutes the second point of interest for a study of the “economist” in a partisan context. While the literature dedicated to the economic ideological and policy changes of the parties since the “neoliberal turn” of the late 1970s is very rich, the main approach, inspired by rational choice theory and based on the vast database of the Comparative Manifesto Project, does not provide a way of grasping the strategic and technical issues governing their development. [18] Aiming to fill in these gaps, Nicolas Bué, Karim Fertikh, and Mathieu Hauchecorne have recently called on political scientists to join the work of political historians focused on the origins, authors, and strategies hidden behind the wording of the official platforms, to grasp the “meaning invested in the programs”. [19] In the case of the PS, the evolution of the role of experts during the different phases of developing its economic discourse appears useful in understanding the subtle dialectic connecting politics and economics within a formation aimed at gaining power. Even better, it allows us to refute a mistaken interpretation that remains strongly anchored in the dominant memory, that of a socialist government unaware of the risks of a policy of recovery through public consumption at the time of its arrival into power and obliged to make a catastrophic about-face on 25 March 1983 toward “austerity with a human face”. [20] Placing the March 1983 announcements of austerity measures within the broader temporal context of the PS’s search for economic credibility from late 1973 with the help of several “economists” skeptical of the solutions of the Common Program undercuts the thesis of an emergency turnabout by a handful of responsible and astute leaders.

8At the level of political socialism, finally, the study of the “economists” engaged in the PS and the Parti Socialiste Unifié (PSU) contributes to a better understanding of the sociology and the political and economic culture of the élites roses, or socialist elite, in the opposition. While the entourages of the executive under the two seven-year terms of François Mitterrand have been the subject of in-depth research – as has, more recently, that of François Hollande [21] – all of this work, by focusing on the period in power, logically overvalues the government elite in ministerial cabinets. My dive into the archives of the study commissions of the PS in the 1970s reveals, however, a heterogeneity of the socio-professional profiles of individuals considered internally to be experts.

9This last observation is a reminder that the concept of “economist” in a partisan context raises delicate problems of definition. Several sociologists, like Frédéric Lebaron or Marion Fourcade, have underlined the extreme difficulty of defining the profession of economist, particularly in France. [22] In the same way, the great diversity in the socio-professional backgrounds of the socialist experts in space and time implies that we cannot refer to them as “economists” without using quotation marks. Their multiple positions make any attempt to classify them by socio-professional criteria alone a vain task: in both the party of Épinay and the PSU, an expert was anyone recognized as such by the leaders, on the strength of his or her ability to translate the technical language of economics into the more common parlance of politics. The presidential campaign of 1974 represents a significant break in the history of socialist expertise as it marked the arrival of the “economists” on the public stage, which was itself part of a wider process of professionalization of partisan elites. [23] An international trend that did not take place solely in France and in the PS, [24] this mediatization occurred for reasons that were as much political as they were economic. The continued rise in unemployment and the first signs of deindustrialization made socioeconomic themes central to the debates between the PS and the government, but also between the PS and the communists. On the margins of the SFIO in the 1950s and 1960s, socialist “economists” were placed at the heart of the political fight and were called on to provide their leaders with reports on a wide variety of topics, from macroeconomics to industrial policy, including credit, taxation, distribution, and consumption.

10Given the influx of experts and the multiplication of internal expertise structures in the PS, in particular after 1974, the use of multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) seemed useful to give the strongest presentation of the socio-professional backgrounds of the “economists” who contributed to developing the party’s speeches and platforms. [25] The work of Brigitte Gaïti on the processes of selecting socialist ministers in the Mauroy governments (1981-1984) and that of Frédéric Lebaron on the field of French economists in the mid-1990s have proven this approach to be heuristic in the case of the “élites roses”. [26] I have thus in turn performed an MCA based on a prosopographical database of 196 PS experts, constituted by crossreferencing several written (private archives, gray literature, press) and oral sources (approximately 40 semi-structured interviews). The relatively small size of this corpus (it could not be any larger) was compensated for by the exhaustive study carried out on it and the particular attention paid to the choice of active and additional variables. For the size of the population studied and the methodological choices made in implementing the MCA, my research is inspired by the aforementioned work of Frédéric Lebaron, but also that of Danièle Fraboulet on the Union des industries métallurgiques et minières (UIMM), Gisèle Sapiro on writers during the Occupation, and Pierre François and Claire Lemercier on the conversion of economic elites in the leading companies of the SBF 120 to the standards of shareholder value. [27] In these four cases, the methodological choices made during the analysis allowed the MCA to preserve its full descriptive and typological value. [28] Three major socio-professional profiles of socialist “economists” were brought to light by factorial analysis: senior civil servants from the Ministry of Finance and state economists, economic theorists – primarily academics – and a nebula of permanent political and union employees, chief executives, and executives in the private sector. The results of the MCA were submitted to a hierarchical ascendant classification (HAC) using the Ward method, which allowed for greater precision in identifying the sociological properties most important in structuring these three profiles. [29]

11The quantitative approach notably allows us to refute clearly the idea of socialist economic expertise being taken over by the “technostructure” of the Ministry of Finance. [30] While the PS was increasingly penetrated by the state during the decade, [31] and while high-level bureaucrats exercised growing influence over the production of economic discourse, these bureaucrats did not have a monopoly over partisan economic speech, contrary to the myth regularly reported by the press at the time. [32] The “cartelization” [33] of the party remained very partial, with the 1970s even representing an “activist interlude” for an organization traditionally structured around its federations and electoral bastions. [34] Nevertheless, the rapid rise within the PS of state economists, senior officials, and academics converting their technical knowledge into a political resource (examples include Laurent Fabius alongside François Mitterrand, Christian Pierret alongside Jean-Pierre Chevènement, and Jean-Pierre Cot in the Rocardian movement) represents one of the pinnacles of a process of professionalization that has made the current PS into a veritable “cartelized partisan enterprise”. [35]

12The specificity of the partisan context, one of the privileged places of political expression in a pluralist democracy, invites us not to be content with only a typology of experts based solely on their socio-professional properties. The archives of the PS reveal that during key moments when economic expertise was mobilized – election campaigns, party congresses, the negotiation and updating of the Common Program in 1972 and then in 1976-77 – the “economist” only had a voice if he or she was very close to the first secretary or one of the leaders of a movement (Rocardians, Mauroyists, or Jean-Pierre Chevènement’s Centre d’études de recherches et d’éducation socialiste (CERES)). It therefore seemed necessary, following the example of Brigitte Gaïti in her study, to combine sociological and political variables in order to develop a political typology of economic experts in the PS in the 1970s. This political typology, presented in the last section of this article, is based in particular on combining a variable called “proximity to internal power” with the three socio-professional profiles resulting from the MCA and the HAC. In the end, the contingency of political circumstances – government decisions, state of relations with the PCF, rivalries between movements – opens up or shuts down possibilities for the work of partisan “economists”, defining, in short, the sacred and the profane.

Economic expertise in tatters?

13The cité Malesherbes [the SFIO and then PS headquarters] is buzzing like a beehive. […] The tired insiders working with sage and slow deliberation have been replaced “with groups of young technicians, economists, civil servants from Finance and Planning, researchers in semi-public companies, union members, and activists from planning and ecology associations who know how to work quickly, clearly, and concretely”, affirmed Pierre Guidoni, a former SFIO member who became one of the longtime leaders of CERES, in his personal history of the PS. [36] While his rosy description of the Chevènementists exaggerates the association of the grassroots with the work of the party, it correctly emphasizes the rediscovered dynamism of internal experts after the victory of François Mitterrand at the Épinay Congress. The impression of dispersion made by the multiplicity of study groups should not however hide the centrality of the official Economic Commission.

The Economic Commission, sovereign structure of expertise in the PS

14The penetration by state economists and senior civil servants of the SFIO of the 1960s was still weak, as the major bureaucrats privileged involvement in the reformist margins of the non-communist left, notably the PSU, the Confédération française démocratique du travail (CFDT) trade union, and the many clubs created during the Algerian War – in particular the Club Jean-Moulin, the most important among them. [37] This dynamic accelerated with CERES taking charge of the PS Program Secretariat, a decisive reinforcement in the victory of the opponents of Guy Mollet at Épinay. [38] Since its creation in 1966 (under the patronage of Guy Mollet), the research center had been able to mobilize its networks within Sciences Po Paris and the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA) to attract young graduates open to socialist ideas but hostile to “national-Molletism”. From the Épinay Congress to the presidential election of 1974, this trend, of which ENA graduates Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Didier Motchane were the undisputed leaders, constituted the main point of entry for young “economists” into the party and the study commissions. [39]

15The polarization of young civil servants by the Chevènement and Motchane group increased again after Épinay with Chevènement’s rise to leader of the Program Secretariat of the PS. On the strength of his decisive role in the victory of the Mitterrandists at the congress, Chevènement imposed the supremacy of CERES on the economic thinking of the party. During the development of the PS Program “Changer la vie” [Changing Life] published in March 1972, and during the negotiations on calculations for the Common Program in the same year, the most active “economists” were Daniel Lebègue, Louis Gallois, and Christian Pierret, three ENA graduates close to Chevènement who occupied high-ranking civil service positions in the Ministry of Finance. [40]

16The Economic Commission in which the three men participated inexorably imposed itself as the sovereign structure of internal expertise. Led with an iron fist by Jean-Pierre Chevènement, it represented on its own more than a third of the experts committed to the PS. [41] In addition to the development of the program, its members were responsible for providing assistance to parliamentary work (proposed laws, presentations on the floor, monthly situation reports), writing articles for the party press, and, during election campaigns, supplying candidates with arguments. To these political missions was added the aim – albeit a fleeting one – to train activists. [42] The prerogatives of the commission were therefore very broad: it was authorized to deal with issues of economic conditions as well as questions of industrial, credit, and tax policy. Planning and preparation of the budget also came under its purview. [43]

17CERES’s unflinching attachment to the wording of the Common Program brought an end to its quasi-monopoly on partisan economic discussion. After defeat in the legislative elections of March 1973, in which the PS ran as an ardent defender of the program, François Mitterrand, hoping to convince the public of his party’s ability to govern and of the realism of its economic program, called for a more flexible reading of the document. For his presidential campaign in 1974, he turned to the services of a small team of experts led by Jacques Attali, which Michel Rocard joined, in doing so leaving the PSU that he had led since 1967. [44] The Economic Commission – the “economists” close to Chevènement – found itself effectively marginalized. After the PS congress in Pau (31 January-2 February 1975), CERES left the leadership of the party and was replaced by the leaders of the “Assises group”, a disparate network that joined the PS in the fall of 1974, made up of Rocardians from the PSU, CFDT unionists, and actors from associations and/or clubs sympathetic to the theme of selfmanagement [45] The political and technical functioning of the Economic Commission was turned upside down.

18Under the supervision of the deputy from Doubs, André Boulloche, two sub-commissions – themselves subdivided into study groups and sub-groups – gathered the numerous experts who had rallied to the PS following the presidential election. Responsible for short-term issues, Jacques Attali, primary economic advisor to François Mitterrrand, was in charge of the – politically strategic – study of economic conditions. Michel Rocard took up the leadership of a “medium-term” commission, responsible for studying problems of planning, macroeconomics, and social balance induced by the socialist transition. [46] Two secretaries became associated with the triumvirate of Boulloche-Attali-Rocard, illustrating once again the new political balance of the PS: the “sabra” [47] Laurent Fabius, and the Rocardian François Stasse, an active member of the Economic Commission of the PSU who had followed his “boss” since the Assises du Socialisme debate. The influence of CERES was reduced to a bare minimum.

19This restructuring of the commission did not take place without political maneuvering. It was a way for François Mitterrand to both avoid a Rocardian take-over of research into economic forecasting, a decisive weapon in public and parliamentary debates in times of crisis, and to isolate CERES. Beyond these struggles between movements, the development of the Economic Commission and its new way of working underlined the professionalization of the PS expertise after Épinay. Between 1974 and 1978, the Economic Commission functioned on the model of the State Planning Commission (Commissariat Général du Plan) or the Department of Forecasting at the Ministry of Finance. [48] This importation of methods and skills by the administration can be explained by the massive influx of senior civil servants and state economists from the major departments of the Ministry of Finance. This phenomenon made an impression on the party leaders who, like the Mitterrandist Jean-Marcel Bichat, believed that their coming to power was now highly probable. [49]

20Until the legislative elections of March 1978, the search for economic credibility launched by François Mitterrand on the eve of the 1974 presidential election met with success. The PS was able to organize major international events: in the summer of 1975, it held a conference on the “global crisis of capitalism” that included the participation of John K. Galbraith and the economic Nobel laureates Jan Tinbergen and Wassily Leontief. [50] On the national stage, until 1981, the party was capable of proposing a counter-plan that was updated every six months. Yet while the Economic Commission was indeed the sovereign structure of socialist expertise, its influence was far from that of the Economic Section of the PCF, which, since its creation in 1954, had held an almost absolute monopoly over communist economic expertise. [51]

A complex cartography

21The first secretary, internal movements, and the parliamentary group all had their own sources of information. The secretariat of the socialist parliamentary group thus appeared to be an independent cluster of expertise, in which Michel Charasse among others distinguished himself on fiscal and budgetary questions. When, buoyed by its positive electoral results, the PS had access to greater financial resources in the latter half of the 1970s, it allocated them in priority to strengthening the group secretariat, highlighting the importance given to the daily struggle on the mid-term consideration in which much of the work of the Economic Commission was involved. [52]

22François Mitterrand also had his own structures of reflection at his disposal. [53] The most official was termed the Group of Experts of the First Secretary (GE) which, from late 1972, provided him “the documents, studies, and reflections he needs” [54] and counterbalanced the influence of CERES on research. The functioning of the GE was overseen by those close to François Mitterrand (Philippe Machefer, Paul Legatte, Jean-Marcel Bichat) and was led by Albert Gazier, who was close to Pierre Mauroy after having been one of the main opponents of Guy Mollet over the previous decade. In theory, the group was supposed to complement rather than supplant the official commissions, but in reality, rivalry with the Economic Commission quickly outpaced the ideal of complementarity. During his 1974 presidential campaign, François Mitterrand, to the great dismay of Jean-Pierre Chevènement, picked up the monetary analyses of Christian Goux, an economics professor at the Sorbonne who was well-versed in Marxist analysis and a regular member of the GE. [55] After 1975, the first secretary strengthened his own resources in expertise by making his personal cabinet official, and making Laurent Fabius its director. [56]

23The other existing structures of economic expertise – the Industrial Policy Commission, the Institut socialiste d’études et de recherches (ISER), and the National Secretariat for the Public Sector led by Michel Rocard between 1976 and 1979 – had only a reduced influence on the production of discourse and programs during the period, even though some of their “economists” did play an important role on certain issues. The role of partisan experts cannot be grasped satisfactorily by only focusing on study groups. Understanding the phenomena of circulation and diffusion of ideas and economic concepts in the organization requires working on the smaller scale of the actor.

The economic experts of the PS: of movements and men

24The new centrality of “economists” in partisan decision making was accompanied by the promotion of the most important among them to the top of the organization. Their rise was not applauded by everyone. Some, like Jean Poperen, deputy from the Rhône and national secretary for Organization and Propaganda, tirelessly denounced the “social-technocratic” shift of a party that was originally established to defend the interests of the working class. [57] Others, like the Mauroyist Jean Deflassieux, a banking executive with Crédit Lyonnais and long-time party activist, observed with no little acrimony that “the tasty smell of soup rising from the socialist bowl” was arousing unexpected vocations in senior civil servants from the public authorities. [58] With more distance, but not without irony, the journalist Philippe Reinhard underlined how ENA graduates were colonizing the summits of the party; he also noted the sometimes tricky cohabitation of ENA alumni with academics and private sector executives. [59] Reference to the MCA and HAC will allow us to give more precision and nuance to this journalist’s impressions.

Parisianism and under-representation of women

25The Parisian domination of study commissions in general and the Economic Commission in particular was regularly deplored by its organizers without this leading to any changes in the composition of the central groups. Even before the widespread arrival of François Mitterrand’s “sabras”, the leaders deemed it impossible to fix this problem, due to the lack of sufficient funding. [60] The nature of the tasks required of the Economic Commission pushed it towards a centralized mode of operation. And the change in the majority resulting from the Pau Congress had no effect: “The composition of the Economic Commission is too Parisian and the percentage of bureaucrats is too high”, noted the – Rocardian – secretary of the Commission between 1976 and 1978, Jean-Pierre Hoss, a state councilor. [61] The critique of Parisianism was closely connected to the accusation of “technocratism”. As national secretary for Research from 1975 to 1979, Gilles Martinet regularly received letters from disillusioned provincial activists. [62] Journalist Jean-François Bizot’s “free dive“ investigation into the PS of Épinay confirmed this state of affairs: he observed the sometimes deep disconnect between the notes produced by the Groupes socialistes d’entreprise (GSE), that piled up on the desk of Gilles Martinet, and the positions defined by the central groups of the commissions. [63]

26This “Parisianism” was combined with the overwhelmingly male-dominated population of PS “economists”. Only seven female experts were part of the data collected here, representing just 3% of the partisan “economists”. This observation is hardly surprising given that few women occupied positions of national and local leadership in the party [64] and that the economic profession as a whole remains a male affair, even today. [65] This under-representation of women was joined by a tacit division of the sexes in the work of experts: men dealt with macroeconomics, taxation, industrial policy, and credit; women dealt with consumer studies, distribution, labor time, and quality of life. Socioeconomic issues nevertheless allowed the internal promotion of a few rare female experts who were very politically engaged in the Mitterrandist movement. In 1978, the Mitterrandist journalist Christiane Doré, a graduate of Sciences Po and specialist in consumer issues, succeeded Marie-Thérèse Eyquem, her “political mother”, as national delegate for Consumption. [66] Examples of the political ascension of women in economics remained an epiphenomenon prior to 1981. PS experts did however share one trait with their male counterparts: their youth, as six of the women were under 35 in 1975.

Influx of young unionized and/or political “economists”

27The generational renewal being experienced by the PS in its grassroots and, to a lesser degree, at the top, [67] also concerned the “economists”. The majority of them were between 20 and 35 years-old (54%) followed by the generation aged 35 to 50 (32%). Only a minority was over 50 in 1975 (13%). Participation in the Economic Commission represented one of the clearest paths to power: 53% of its members ended up in ministerial cabinets in 1981, all generations combined. More generally, 60% of those aged 20-35 became member of a cabinet after the victory of François Mitterrand. In contrast, the Industrial Policy Commission was an ineffective elevator: only 39% of its members later joined a cabinet. The rejuvenation of expertise affected all groups, although the Rocardians had more experts in the 35-50 group. This exception was related to the political trajectory of their leader: most of Michel Rocard’s primary economic advisors had been present at his side since the mobilization of the Union nationale des étudiants de France (UNEF) against the war in Algeria. With an identical background in economics as their leader – Sciences Po, ENA, Inspectorate of Finances – Yves Bernard and Pierre-Yves Cossé formed a steadfast duo of advisors who were joined, after 1968, by young experts such as François Stasse.

28The undeniable rejuvenation of socialist economic expertise should, however, be qualified on one point. While experts over 50 years old, who for the most part were members of the GE, were largely in the minority (14% of the corpus), several of them continued to play an important role due to their political experience (André Boulloche, Albert Gazier) or their concrete experience of the corporate world. Pierre Dreyfus, former chief executive of the state-owned Renault company from 1955 to 1975, or Jean Riboud, CEO of Schlumberger, provided François Mitterrand with microeconomic analyses that the young macroeconomists of the Ministry of Finance could not offer him.

29Yet the rise of this younger group did not usher in a period of de-unionized experts and political novices. The ties between Rocardians and the CFDT were particularly close and went far beyond the economic sphere. [68] Like Pierre Rosanvallon and Jacques Julliard, Hubert Prévot – an ENA graduate and senior civil servant in Forecasting as well as an active member of the PSU Economic Commission in the 1960s – moved between CFDT and Rocardian circles throughout the next decade. [69] The young Rocardian experts cultivated these historical ties with the CFDT, of which 75% of them were members. This affinity with the CFDT, also found in the PSU (eight “economists” out of ten from my sample were card-carrying members), was not unique to this self-proclaimed, Rocardian “second left”. The unionization of Mitterrandist experts reveals some surprises. Although the relationship between François Mitterrand and Edmond Maire was a very difficult one, no small fraction of the first secretary’s “economists” (29%) were CFDT members, as were “his” inspectors at the Ministry of Finance, a rare species in the fauna of the “economists” of the party of Épinay (Patrick Careil, Louis Schweitzer, and Robert Lion). [70]

30CERES, for its part, had strong connections to the CFDT group hostile to Edmond Maire: 38% of the experts at the research center were members of the confederation. Some, like Michel Coffineau, a former Post Office employee who became confederal secretariat in 1972, and Michel Rolant, head of the economic division of the CFDT in the second half of the century, played – or had played – a leading role in union governance. Among senior civil servants, state councilor Thierry Le Roy influenced the CFDT-ENA section with his activist dynamism. [71] In the same vein, Pierre Antonmatteï, specialist in social affairs at the Ministry of Commerce and Craft Industries, led activism in the Federal Commission of the CFDT on Finances and Party Engagement alongside Jean-Pierre Chevènement. [72]

31In contrast, the affiliation of experts from all movements to a CGT federation or Force ouvrière (FO) union was rare. A few senior civil servants from CERES, such as André Bellon or Christian Sautter, were members of the confederation of Georges Séguy. [73] Among the Mitterrandists, only political leaders such as Pierre Joxe and Jean Pronteau, head of the ISER and the GE from 1976, [74] claimed CGT association. The FO, for its part, was only graced by a handful of experts, often former members of the SFIO such as André Boulloche.

32While plausible, this preliminary exploration of the unionization of the socialist “economists” should be considered with caution since I was unable, despite my attempts, to access the archives of the CGT and FO Federation of Finances. [75] The union membership of 19 of the 196 experts studied is also unknown. Nevertheless, the prosopographical approach confirms the importance of the CFDT – previously highlighted by Hélène Hatzfeld in the social and societal realms [76] – as a reservoir of economic ideas and experts for the PS.

33The politicization of partisan “economists” is closer to expectations than their unionization. Most entered politics in the wake of the leader of their movement. This explains the overrepresentation of former SFIO members in CERES (31% of the members compared to 16% of Mitterrandists and 6% of Rocardians) and those of the PSU among the Rocardians (66%). [77] The study of the Mitterrandist group confirms the phenomenon of the “sabras”: 65% of his experts had no political experience before Épinay, and this number is even greater (78%) if we exclude the friends of Pierre Mauroy from this group. This divergence in the politicization of experts according to their movement is not found on the sociological level, where there was greater convergence. All of them, in fact, mobilized their expertise in similar proportions, structured by three major socio-professional profiles.

The three major socio-professional profiles of economic experts

34The graph of the active variables of the MCA reproduced below reveals three major socioprofessional profiles to which all PS leaders turned in similar proportions. The ENA graduates of the Ministry of Finance and the senior civil servants more widely are concentrated on the left of the graph. Their density confirms the wholesale involvement in socialism of a highly-educated elite coming from the top tier of economic and financial administration during the 1970s. It also confirms more broadly that the majority of the PS – while denying it officially – attributed, like the PCF, decisive importance to the state as an “agent of economic, political, social, and cultural change”. [78] While graduates of the École des hautes études commerciales (HEC) (6% of those studied) and the Polytechnique (12%) represented a minority in the party, their small number was inversely proportional to their role in the construction and choreographing of economic debate. Take, for example, the role of HEC alumni such as Louis Gallois in CERES, Jean Deflassieux with Pierre Mauroy, and Pierre Rosanvallon with the Rocardians. Graduates from the Polytechnique were no less influential. Many of them used the study commissions as stepping stones towards a political career or to reach the highest positions in government. In addition to the well-known examples of Mitterrand’s “sabras” such as Jacques Attali or Paul Quilès, there are also the examples of Christian Sautter with CERES and Jean Peyrelevade with the Mauroyists.

Figure 1

Multiple Correspondence Analysis of the space of “economists” in the PS of Épinay[79]

Figure 1

Multiple Correspondence Analysis of the space of “economists” in the PS of Épinay[79]

35However, the path most taken by these partisan senior civil servants is the one leading from Sciences Po Paris to the ENA. The HAC shows it clearly: 86% of the members of the cluster of senior bureaucrats graduated from the ENA and 83% from Sciences Po. Combining the variable ENA with affiliation to a movement underlines, moreover, that contrary to the common assumption that socialist ENA graduates were mostly Rocardian, [80] all of the movements had more or less an equivalent proportion among their economic experts, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1

The “economists” of the PS movements who attended the École nationale d’administration[81]

ENA graduatesNon-ENA graduatesTotal
Mitterrandists (incl. Delorists and Mauroyists)35% (n = 32)65% (n = 59)100% (n = 91)
CERES47% (n = 21)53% (n = 24)100% (n = 45)
Rocardians28% (n = 14)72% (n = 36)100% (n = 50)
PSU20% (n = 2)80% (n = 8)100% (n = 10)

The “economists” of the PS movements who attended the École nationale d’administration[81]

36Reciprocally, the rarity of ENA graduates in the PSU teams confirms a strong sociocultural tendency, the lack of attraction for the margins of the political game among government elites. Finally, while the cluster of state economists and senior civil servants is numerically dominant in the PS of Épinay, it was by no means hegemonic before 1981.

Table 2

Profession of the “economists” in 1975 by PS movement[82]

Mitterrandists (incl. Delorists and Mauroyists)CERESRocardiansPSU
Senior civil servant37% (n = 34)51% (n = 23)38% (n = 19)70% (n = 7)
Academic18% (n = 16)7% (n = 3)8% (n = 4)10% (n = 1)
Banker8% (n = 7)4% (n = 2)6% (n = 3)0%
Executive in private sector13% (n = 12)22% (n = 10)8% (n = 4)10% (n = 1)
Chief executive9% (n = 8)2% (n = 1)10% (n = 5)10% (n = 1)
Member of Parliament4%(n = 4)2% (n = 1)8% (n = 5)0%
Political or union employee5% (n = 5)9% (n = 4)14% (n = 4)0%
Other5% (n = 5)2% (n = 1)8% (n = 7)0%
Total100% (n = 91)100% (n = 45)100% (n = 50)100% (n = 10)

Profession of the “economists” in 1975 by PS movement[82]

37Academics and economic theorists represent in fact an important second cluster of expertise, gathered in the upper-right quadrant of the graph of active variables of the MCA. The HAC brings additional precision to the properties most important in structuring this second cluster, underlining that 91% of academics (professors or young lecturers) and 76% of doctorate holders are gathered within it, and that all of its members published at least one work of economics over the course of the period. While those holding a doctorat – particularly in economics – were a minority no matter what PS movement is considered (21% of the sample or 41 individuals), Mitterrandists and Rocardians still included more than CERES, where they had a minimal role (three experts out of the 45 engaged by the study center).

38Yet like Polytechnique or HEC graduates, academics played a vital role in producing economic discourse. Not held to a duty of confidentiality, they could defend the credibility of the PS counter-plans in the press. They also revealed themselves to be useful when giving meaning to vague terms like the break with capitalism, democratic planning, and self-management. In the entourage of François Mitterrand, Jacques Attali played a decisive role in mediating between the party and scholars by creating with Marc Guillaume the Institut de recherche et de formation socio-économique (IRIS) in Dauphine. [83] Since the days of the PSU, Michel Rocard had also counted several academics in his close circle of economic expertise: Gérard Fuchs and Bernard Soulage for macroeconomics, and François Soulage (Bernard’s brother) for questions related to the social economy were among his most faithful advisors.

39The study commissions were thus dominated by senior civil servants and academics close to the leaders of the different movements. Autodidacts were rarer and from previous generations (Jacques Delors, Albert Gazier). Similarly, few experts started their professional career as employees or workers (7% of the sample). The MCA nonetheless allows us to highlight the existence of a third profile of expertise that qualitative exploration of the sources alone would have led us to underestimate: that of a nebula of political and union employees, senior civil servants, and some business owners close to François Mitterrand or Michel Rocard. With fewer academic qualifications and older than the academics and state economists, the actors in this third cluster were members of the GE or the Industrial Policy Commission. The most involved had direct access to François Mitterrand or Michel Rocard and were able to give them the benefit of their knowledge of the corporate and banking world. The group also included political employees, very involved in the activities of a particular movement – Didier Motchane at CERES, Lionel Jospin for the Mitterrandists, Patrick Viveret for the Rocardians – and possessed sufficient economic culture to initiate and/or supervise the work of the less politicized experts of the study commissions.

40Discovering these three socio-professional profiles of socialist “economists”, on the strength of robust quantitative methods, represents a necessary but insufficient first step in developing a typology. In a world where economic choices are overdetermined by the political strategy of the organization, the construction of a variable indicating the degree of proximity of each expert to one of the major leaders of the party appeared necessary. In the PS, and, to a lesser extent, in the PSU, there was a strong political hierarchy of experts that researchers cannot ignore. The projection of this variable as a supplement to the graph of the MCA (provided as an annex) shows that its three modalities (strong/medium/weak) are gathered in the center, which allows us to deduce that belonging to one or the other of these three clusters presented by the HAC is not a discriminatory factor in reaching the summit of socialist economic expertise.

A tentative political typology of socialist “economists”

41Contenting ourselves with revealing the socio-professional profiles of the “economists” working within the PS would not allow us to grasp their real influence in the process of developing the programs and public discourses of the organization. The proximity of the “economists” to its main leaders, and in particular François Mitterrand, is much more decisive than sociological origin in understanding their place in the very hierarchized arrangement at the service of gaining power. Thus, the three major socio-professional profiles of socialist experts interact, albeit very unequally, in the four groups distinguished below.

At the top of the hierarchy: “politician-experts”

42The term “politician-experts” is used here in reference to professional politicians with a sufficiently solid economic background to supervise the work of the many research structures of the PS. These actors popularized partisan economic discourse and regularly debated with their governmental or communist adversaries. They occupied important positions within the party. Among them were members of parliament (André Boulloche, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, Pierre Joxe), national secretaries (Jean Pronteau and Michel Rocard, who was also deputy for Yvelines), and young members occupying strategic roles, such as Laurent Fabius, cabinet director for François Mitterrand, the Rocardian Robert Chapuis, national delegate for Technology, Research, and Industrial Policy from 1975 to 1979, and the Chevènementist Michel Coffineau, deputy national secretary for the Corporate Sector after the Metz Congress in 1979.

43The “politician-experts” exercised vigilant control over the study commissions, in particular over the GE and the Economic Commission. [84] The Economic Commissions of the movements, like that of CERES, functioned according to the same principles. Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Didier Motchane made sure that their experts systematically opposed Rocardian positions with well-researched and polemic counter-arguments: “at the time, to stand out, you had to put in a little more Marx”, recollected the economist Michel Beaud, who was secretary of the organization between 1976 and 1979. [85]

Figure 2

Situation of the “politician-experts” in the PS movements according to the axes defined by the MCA[86]

Figure 2

Situation of the “politician-experts” in the PS movements according to the axes defined by the MCA[86]

Note: square = CERES expert; triangle = Mitterrandist expert (including Mauroyists in bold and Delorists in italics); cross = Rocardian expert.

44The “politician-expert” was thus situated at the intersection between politics and economics. Having left research, sometimes long ago, or trained on the job – like Robert Chapuis, Parisian high school literature teacher named national delegate for Energy by François Mitterrand a few months after the Pau Congress – this figure ensured the distribution and promotion of the partisan program to the voters and the party activists. [87] On the strength of a social authority acquired by the exercise of political responsibilities, he or she “can pronounce with authority a discourse that is no longer a function of knowledge on an issue foreign to his [or her] technical competence but not to the power he [or she] has acquired through it”. [88] Added to this function of team leader and publicist of economic issues was that of recruiting young talents. Pierre Joxe had effective networks in the Conseil d’État and at Sciences Po Paris where he taught for many years; Jacques Attali was an effective headhunter at the Université Paris-Dauphine, the École polytechnique, and in the upper levels of the administration; and Jean-Pierre Chevènement had solid connections in the economic sectors of the Ministry of Finance and the ENA. Michel Rocard and Jacques Delors also had valuable contacts in the upper levels of the administration (whom they knew well, having worked there in the previous decade), at universities – Delors led a research seminar at the Dauphine entitled “Work and Society” – and at the CFDT.

45The socio-professional trajectories of the “politician-experts” were more varied than those of the experts of the research commissions. Long-time socialist activists – André Boulloche, Albert Gazier, Michel Rocard, and even Jean-Pierre Chevènement – worked alongside those close to François Mitterrand, who also came from diverse backgrounds, from the old guard of the Convention des institutions républicaines (CIR) of the 1960s (Paul Legatte, Pierre Joxe) to the “sabras” (Laurent Fabius, Paul Quilès), including personalities promoted by the First Secretary, such as Christian Goux and Lionel Jospin. This mixing of political generation and socialization was accompanied by socio-professional combinations that were not found at other strata of expertise. The presence of a significant labor component (20% of the number) can be explained by the intention of the movements to involve union leaders in their work, generally from the CFDT. Michel Rocard relied, for example, on the CFDT metal workers Jacques Chérèque, the CFDT representative on the Economic and Social Council whom he had known since the time of the PSU, and André Acquier, the PS’s national delegate for Industry from 1975 to 1980, who was known as the union’s eyes in the party. In CERES, Michel Coffineau and Michel Rolant served as the liaisons between the research center and the CFDT federations convinced of the role to be played by SMC in consideration of the “neocapitalist” crisis. [89]

46The paths of these actors emphasize the porousness between politics and expertise: opportunities for a political career were available to committed “economists” if they could convince an influential figure – a fortiori the leader of an organization – of their competence and fidelity. A significant portion of the “politician-experts”, especially among the senior civil servants and academics, were first close technical advisors to a PS leader before embracing a political career in the second half of the 1970s or after François Mitterrand’s election to the presidency.

Advisors to the Prince

47Unlike the “politician-experts”, none of these key actors in developing socialist economic discourse had faced the challenge of universal suffrage before 1981. This inner circle of expertise, primarily male, was at the heart of the political battle: it synthesized the data provided by the study commissions, and its members signed the documents examined by the steering committees or the leadership of the different movements. Their sociological makeup was more homogenous than that of the “politician-experts”, even if the nebula of the third cluster identified by the HAC was represented in it by strong personalities (Loïk Le Floch-Prigent and Jean-Paul Pagès at CERES, Jean Deflassieux for the Mauroyists). Alongside the senior civil servants, academics played no small role as publicists with the elites and the activists.

Figure 3

Situation of the inner circle of experts in the PS movements according to the axes defined by the MCA

Figure 3

Situation of the inner circle of experts in the PS movements according to the axes defined by the MCA

Note: square = CERES expert; triangle = Mitterrandist expert (including Mauroyists in bold and Delorists in italics); cross = Rocardian expert.

48Within the cluster of senior civil servants and state economists, it can be seen that the experts of the Ministry of Finance were not the only state resource of the PS; state councilors also played an important role. Leading Mitterrandists such as Jacques Attali, Laurent Fabius, and Paul Legatte were members of the Conseil d’État; Michel Rocard could rely on Jean-Pierre Hoss, and Jean-Pierre Chevènement received support from Thierry Le Roy. These jurists were mainly called on during the process of expertise for the quality of their writing. More often than the academics, they were the ones charged with translating the laborious, sober debates between the senior civil servants of the Ministry of Finance into a language that the broader public could understand. [90]

49Despite being less present in this inner circle (16% of the group), academics played a no less important role in renewing the economic image of the PS alongside the party leadership. Within every movement, some were able to reach the higher echelons of party expertise by professionalizing their skills. The rise of Jean Matouk, former doctoral candidate under Christian Goux, can be explained not only by his loyalty to François Mitterrand but also by his specialization in issues of economic outlook. An economics professor at the Université de Montpellier, he founded his own economic research institute in the second half of the 1970s and provided the party with useful macroeconomic data to support the accusations of incompetence leveled against the duo of Giscard and Barre. He was rewarded in 1982 with the presidency of a small nationalized bank. Like the senior civil servants, the ability of academics to make themselves indispensable to one of the main leaders of the PS was the surest way for them to influence the development of the economic platform and, for the most ambitious among them, to turn their technical competence into a useful resource for entering politics and/or to reach the top of government industry or banking.

50Nonetheless, the senior civil servants occupying strategic positions in the major administrations of the Ministry of Finance possessed skills that were more sought-after by the party than those of the academics, which explains their hegemony in this inner circle. Understanding the plurality of profiles of the “economists” active in the PS means moving away from the close guard of the PS leaders who were the focus of media attention.

A range of more open profiles: the experts of the outer circle

51“There were a certain number of ‘foot soldiers’, well, I don’t mean ‘foot soldiers’ per se, but in any case people who were almost all at the Ministry of Finance or the INSEE [National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies], and we spent our evenings and even our Saturday mornings and sometimes our Sundays working out numbers”, remembered Denis Piet, Rocardian senior civil servant at the Department of Forecasting and member of the Échange et Projets club created in 1973 by Jacques Delors. [91] Two pathways were open to these experts who were younger than their elders of the “inner circle” (70% were less than 30 years old).

52The macroeconomists, senior civil servants, or state “engineer-economists” moving toward academic careers, performed important computational work at the time of updating the Common Program (fall 1976-September 1977) and produced reports, and most entered ministerial cabinets in 1981. The Mitterrandists Louis Schweitzer and Patrick Ponsolle, who passed respectively through the Budget and Forecasting departments in the 1970s, the Rocardians Denis Piet and Patrick Peugot (an ENA and Polytechnique graduate who had worked in the Planning department), and the Chevènementist Michel Suveg, a civil administrator at the Ministry of Finance, are good examples of this route. Although further removed from the decision-making process, their female counterparts also embarked on a pathway that would lead them to ministerial cabinets in 1981. The state councilor Yannick Moreau was a member of the social affairs commission of CERES before joining the president at the Élysée Palace, and the ENA graduates Isabelle Bouillot and Élisabeth Guigou, senior civil servants at the Budget and Treasury ministries respectively, played a marginal role in developing the economic discourse of the 1970s before being repositioned at the heart of the decision-making process after 1981.

Figure 4

Situation of the “outer circle” of experts in the PS movements according to the axes defined by the MCA

Figure 4

Situation of the “outer circle” of experts in the PS movements according to the axes defined by the MCA

Note: square = CERES expert; triangle = Mitterrandist expert (including Mauroyists in bold and Delorists in italics); cross = Rocardian expert.

53Academics, in contrast, did not receive as much consideration in this outer circle of expertise. The technical nature of the work and the need for effectiveness favored the promotion of senior bureaucrats in their place, as confided by Gilles Martinet, a maverick of the Rocardian movement and national secretary for Research in the PS from 1975 to 1979, in a letter to Alain Touraine, who was also close to this movement without belonging to its inner circle:


“I believe […] that in the European socialist movement, ‘technocrats’ are progressively overcoming the ‘profs’ (in the French PS, it can be seen both alongside Mitterrand and alongside Rocard). This change does not thrill me. Once again, my training and inclination put me on the side of the ‘profs’. And yet their lack of realism frustrates me. I learn a lot more from the ‘technocrats’ and ‘down-to-earth’ elected officials of the party when we need to take stock of an economic and social problem.” [92]

55These two profiles coexist in fact with experts from the private sector and the “down-to-earth elected officials”, mentioned with a touch of condescendence by Gilles Martinet. Their role, although more obscure, is no less important.

56Often members of the commission for industrial policy, and older than their counterparts in the Ministry of Finance (40% were more than 35 years old), their party activity in the 1970s was not as valued, as illustrated by the example of Claude Bernet. A longtime Mitterrandist, this engineer by training is one of the rare executives from the private sector who took part in the study commissions of Jean-Pierre Chevènement after Épinay. Before 1975, his activities were limited by the monopoly of CERES over industrial policy. The return of the Chevènementists to the minority allowed him to gain the position of secretary of the commission. [93] However, he was quickly replaced by Alain Boubil, a rising star of Mitterrandist economic expertise and senior civil servant from Planning, who claimed this domain of competency in the renegotiation of the Common Program in 1976-1977. [94] These disappointments did not prevent Claude Bernet from joining the cabinet of Pierre Dreyfus at the Ministry of Industry in 1981, but they are a reminder that in the PS of the 1970s, the dominant culture was fundamentally macroeconomic and macrosocial. Although many active members of the Industrial Policy Commission joined the cabinet of Pierre Dreyfus, many of the lesser experts were left with a bitter taste from their experience, and a feeling of uselessness. [95]

57We should not however deduce from these feelings the absolute disinterest of the leadership of the PS for the business sector. In this area, socialist leaders, and chief among them François Mitterrand and Michel Rocard, favored a more unofficial and informal channel for expertise.

A horizontal and unofficial channel of expertise: top executives and union leaders

58François Mitterrand regularly mobilized a strong network of chief executives in order to keep tabs on the industrial situation in France. The friendships he developed before and during the Second World War with several top executives – André Bettencourt, François Dalle, and Roger-Patrice Pellat, to name only the most famous [96] – represented the heart of this horizontal and unofficial channel of economic expertise, of which the main figure was the CEO of Schlumberger, Jean Riboud. [97] His arguments for the state as a moderately interventionist leader were more convincing to the first secretary of the PS than the Marxist-leaning voluntarism of CERES. He also offered the advantage of providing Mitterrand with a microeconomic perspective complementary to the Marxist-leaning macroeconomic analyses, or those inspired by the initial work of the Parisian branch of the Regulation department (Michel Aglietta, Robert Boyer) that provided him with official advisors. Throughout the decade, François Mitterrand never ignored the advice of his executive friends.

Figure 5

Situation of the unofficial experts by PS movement according to the axes defined by the MCA

Figure 5

Situation of the unofficial experts by PS movement according to the axes defined by the MCA

Note: square = CERES expert; triangle = Mitterrandist expert; cross = Rocardian expert.

59Michel Rocard was also able to form friendships with members of the corporate and finance world. The banker Claude Alphandéry and the industrialist José Bidegain, who were former members of the Club Jean-Moulin and prominent executives on the left in the 1960s and 1970s, were convinced by the seriousness of his economic proposals. [98] The “straight-talking“ Rocard was able to develop a modest but dynamic network in which the founder of the Les Arcs ski resort, Roger Godino, played a central role. As a counterpoint to this executive experience, Michel Rocard also relied on his friends in the unions, primarily the CFDT, as well as the secretary general of the FO Federation of Management, Robert Cottave. [99]

60This fourth stratum of expertise, which is more horizontal, breaks with the logic of concentric circles described above and confirms the inaccuracy of the idea that partisan economic expertise was seized by the “technocracy” of the Ministry of Finance. Its composition and functioning also show a strong level of involvement of expert discourse within the party. Outside the competition for positions of responsibility in the Party, Jean Riboud and Roger Godino could be much more critical of the Common Program than the ambitious young bureaucrats of the Economic Commission, who could not question it publicly under pain of excommunication.

61* * *

62Reducing experts to neutral agents and mere producers of scientific knowledge leads to overlooking the unusual nature of partisan work. Because of their position as mediators between technical knowledge and politics, “economists” in the guise of socialist experts could not escape the demands of their leaders. Their margins of action were limited by the major orientations of the Common Program and even more by the first secretary’s political reading of events. The networks of experts did not do everything; technical competence also had a role in upward mobility, as long as they avoided becoming too involved in the battles between movements. Since he was able to stay away from the bloody conflict between Mitterrandists and Rocardians at the Metz Congress and kept “friends” on the other side (he married Nathalie Duhamel, the first secretary’s press liaison), François Stasse was able to retain some influence in building the program for the presidential election in 1981. [100]

63The study of the committed “economist” in a political party like the PS adds to trans-disciplinary reflection on the question of the political role of economists in our contemporary democratic societies. It offers a rich vein of exploration in understanding the foundations of economic policy set in motion by the socialist government at the moment power changed hands in 1981. The voluntarist rhetoric employed by François Mitterrand and Pierre Mauroy in May-June was not accompanied by an invasion of the Marxist-leaning “economists” from CERES in the ministerial cabinets associated with developing economic policy. On the contrary, the head of state quickly made it known in Paris and in the European capitals that Jacques Delors was to be nominated as head of the Ministry of Finance, in order to diminish any fears of French withdrawal from European Community institutions. [101] Moreover, François Mitterrand, Pierre Mauroy, Jacques Delors, and Laurent Fabius were mainly surrounded by senior civil servants and state economists who had long been convinced that the solutions of the Common Program would not allow the country to rediscover full employment. As early as June 1981, Jacques Attali, special advisor to the head of state, claimed in a memo that the recovery policy would have no effect on employment in the upcoming eighteen months. [102] Pierre Mauroy’s economic entourage was on the same wavelength: in a note to the prime minister on 29 May 1981 approved by deputy cabinet director Jean Peyrelevade, Henri Guillaume, a technical advisor who had passed through the management of the Forecasting, INSEE, and Planning departments between 1968 and 1981, asserted that raising the minimum wage would only have a marginal effect on inflation but that in return, “its effect on growth and on employment [would be] minimal (zero in 1981, 10,000 additional jobs in 1982)”. [103] A recent doctoral thesis develops a similar observation in regard to the social policies implemented by the Mauroy government at the beginning of the seven-year term: moderation was dominant and there “was never reform without fear of austerity”. In ministerial cabinets, there was a fear that an overly-generous social policy would cause an insurmountable decline in public finances and the balance of payments. [104] Calls from deputies and the PS to fan the flames of recovery or to cap shareholder payments for the nationalized banks and companies went unheard. [105]

64Focusing the analysis on the “economists” of the PS after Épinay contributes to dismantling the convenient but incorrect thesis of a sharp turn towards austerity in March 1983 by a socialist elite suddenly discovering the need to master public finances and the balance of payments in an open economy. [106] The famous “Delors Plan” [107] of 25 March 1983 completed a progressive transformation of the socialist elite economic culture that had begun, in my opinion, at the start of the 1960s under the influence of the economic experts of the CFTC/CFDT, the PSU, and the Club Jean-Moulin, the dissident margins of the “old”, Molletist SFIO aiming to renovate the non-communist left. While Marxist professions of faith continued to be a part of programs in the 1970s, they hid the arrival of “economists” in the PS who believed in the virtues of the regulatory and planning state but were also concerned with the major economic and financial balances. These actors were hugely skeptical about the ability of the Common Program, and above all nationalization, to reduce unemployment. As soon as they entered ministerial cabinets in the summer of 1981, these advisors were ideologically and culturally ready to apply policies inspired by neoliberalism [108] – although they did not necessarily perceive them as such – where modernization and restructuring of the industrial landscape, in particular in the export sector, took primacy over social reforms and the recovery of consumer spending.

65Adopting this type of policy was of course impossible in 1981; the “people of the left” had not voted for competitive disinflation and re-establishing the balance of payments. To maintain the support of its voters, finding a harmony between the public discourse of the government and the culture of austerity dominant in the cabinets responsible for economic policy had to be skillful and gradual. Between 1981 and 1986, the officialization of austerity measures by the president followed the rhythm of the electoral calendar and the major G7 summits, and François Mitterrand did not hesitate to announce the “Delors Plan” after the municipal elections of 6-13 March. More than an abrupt about-face, March 1983 was primarily a political turn for the Socialists toward a form of “pragmatic” [109] and “discreet” [110] neoliberalism. This gradual adjustment, accepted with difficulty, sounded the death knell of the voluntarist ideology that had been dominant since the Metz Congress (6-8 April 1979) and confirmed the victory of the “economists” who were most skeptical of the Common Program. It also prepared the public for Mitterrand and Fabius’s praise of industrial modernization, the market economy, and reduced intervention by a producing and regulating state. In justification, its promoters emphasized the need for the country to adapt to the changes in capitalism brought about by the “neoliberal turns” of the Thatcher and Reagan governments, and moreover, by the imperative to deepen ties with Europe, a new horizon determined by the head of state, which replaced the “Changer la vie” slogan of the previous decade. [111]

The English version of this article is published with the support of the CNRS

Methodological annex

The prosopographical survey

66Building the corpus of “economists” active in socialism in the 1970s relied on a combination of archives and oral sources. [112] The period of focus was the 1974-78 period, a time when the groups of economic expertise of the different movements within the PS (CERES, Mitterrandists, Rocardians) were the most stable, before defeat in the legislative elections of March 1978 and then the painful Metz Congress led to departures and reconstitution of the groups of expertise in each movement. In the prosopographical database, I included regular members of the official Economic and Industrial Policy Commissions of the PS, the Group of Experts of the First Secretary (GE), the Institut Socialiste d’Études et de Recherches (ISER), [113] and the Economic and Industrial Policy Commissions of different movements (mainly Rocardians and CERES). Reconstitution of the places of socialist expertise was made possible by cross-referencing the archives of the Socialist Party held by the Fondation Jean-Jaurès and the Office universitaire de recherche socialiste (OURS) with catalogued private collections (the PSU collection at the National Archives, the André Boulloche collection at the Municipal Archives of Montbéliard, and the Gilles Martinet and Alain Savary collections at the Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po) and personal papers graciously provided to the author (the personal papers of Michel Beaud, Gilbert Mathieu, and Philippe Humbert). The actors mentioned in the memoirs of PS leaders as having contributed to the development of their economic thinking were also included in the corpus, as well as those mentioned spontaneously by at least three witnesses interviewed in the context of a series of semi-structured interviews. The selection of the approximately 40 interviewees was planned to avoid favoring one movement over another, to prevent the over-representation of macroeconomic specialists in relation to their counterparts in industrial policy or socioeconomics, and to include PSU experts, who offered a welcome counterpoint. It also involved cross-referencing of the accounts of “politician-experts” and experts who were well-known by the general public (Michel Rocard, Jacques Attali) with those of their lesser-known colleagues who were nonetheless very representative of the three major sociological profiles – senior civil servants, academics, and private sector executives – highlighted by the MCA and the HAC. Finally, I note the inclusion in the database of the ten main experts of the PSU from the post-Rocardian period (in October 1974, most Rocardians left the party for the PS after the Assises du Socialisme debate), who represent the control group of this survey. A methodology similar to the one used in the case of the PS governed their selection: the lists of members of the organization’s Economic Commission, preserved in the PSU collections (1974-1990) held at the Centre d’histoire du travail (CHT) in Nantes, were cross-referenced against interviews held with around ten activists from the period (Michel Mousel, Jacques Sallois, Yves Barou, Bernard Billaudot, and Denis Clerc to name only the most well-known). Once the databases were established, different groups of variables were set up to situate the “economists” active in the PS and PSU in their professional and activist contexts.

67The biographies of these “economists” were systematically researched in different editions of Who’s Who in France, in the numerous works by journalists on the PS of the period, [114] and in the biographical notices or curriculum vitae found in the archives of those in charge of the commissions (Albert Gazier, Gilles Martinet) at the time of admitting new experts. This type of document was also found in the confederal archives of the CFDT and its Federation of Finances. Also consulted were the catalog of former students of the École Polytechnique (online) and Sciences Po. In some cases, finally, useful information was gleaned from Nathalie Carré de Malberg, Michel Margairaz, and Fabien Cardoni (eds.), Dictionnaire Historique des Inspecteurs des Finances 1801-2009 (Paris: IGPDE, 2012).

List of database variables

68– Social properties: gender and age in 1975

69– Academic career and degrees: studied (or not) at the Institut d’Études Politiques (IEP or “Sciences Po”) in Paris; studied (or not) of the École des Hautes Études Commerciales (HEC); studied (or not) of the École Polytechnique; studied (or not) of one of the École Normales Supérieures (ENS) or another grande école (including the regional centers of the IEP); studied (or not) of the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA); obtained a doctorate or not; publication of a work on economics or not during the period studied.

70– Position and professional career: first profession after graduation; profession in 1975; inspector at the Ministry of Finance; worked or not in the Ministry of Finance during career; with the Ministry of Finance (or not) in 1975; professional situation after May 10, 1981.

71– Political and union membership: union membership (CFDT, CGT, CGT-FO, non-union member); membership in another party before joining the PS (SFIO, PSU, right-wing party, non-member of a party before 1971); date of joining PS; membership in a movement within the PS (Mitterrandist – including Delorists and Mauroyists –, Rocardians, CERES).

72– Expertise: membership in a movement; primary leader for whom the expert worked (Mitterrand, Mauroy, Rocard, Chevènement, Delors); main commission to which assigned (Economic Commission, Industrial Policy Commission, Group of Experts, ISER, informal expertise, other); specialty (political head of a group or commission, macroeconomics, socioeconomics, credit-taxation, industrial policy, energy, other).

Multiple Correspondence Analysis

73The use of MCA to examine this database aimed to highlight the socio-professional profiles of the “economists” engaged in socialism independent of the movement of which they were a member (Mitterrandists, Rocardians, CERES) and of their roles in the PS. As the active variables, I therefore chose the properties of the academic, social and professional careers of these “economists”. Using a procedure common to the French social sciences literature, following the MCA, I performed a hierarchical ascendant classification (HAC) using the Ward method to identify the properties that were most essential to the three clusters of experts identified on the factorial level. [115]

74It should be noted that some sociological variables (gender, Polytechnique, HEC, ENS, other grande école, first profession, Finance Inspector, working in the Ministry of Finance during one’s career, profession after 1981) were projected on the graph as additional variables and not active ones. This choice was justified by two reasons connected to the calculation of the MCA axes. First, the small numbers for some modalities of my sociological variables could have biased the analysis if said modalities had been made active. For example, the corpus only contained seven women. The factorial analysis would have lost much of its interest if the variable “gender” had been active, since one of the axes would have highlighted this strong inequality easily observed by means of qualitative analysis to the detriment of more interesting socio-professional correlations. The second reason was to avoid including in the calculations of the axes several variables that referred too strongly to the same phenomenon. This methodological prudence prevented the creation of “artificial proximities and oppositions, or even defining an entire axis without supplying any interesting information”. [116] In the context of this study, for example, making active the variable “At the Ministry of Finance in 1975” and “Worked at the Ministry of Finance during career” would have artificially multiplied the weight of this socio-professional property.

The ten active variables of the MCA

75– Social properties: age in 1975 (three modalities: 20-35 years old; 35-50 years old; more than 50 years old).

76– Academic career and degrees: IEP Paris (two modalities: yes/no); ENA (two modalities: yes/no); doctorate (two modalities: yes/no); publication of a work on economics during the period (two modalities: yes/no).

77– Position and professional career: profession in 1975 (eight modalities: banker, public sector executive, private sector executive, chief executive, member of parliament, political or union employee, academic, other); At the Ministry of Finance in 1975 (two modalities: yes/no).

78– Political career: worked for PSU (three modalities: yes/no/unknown [NA]); worked for CFDT (three modalities: yes/no/unknown [NA]); worked for SFIO (three modalities: yes/ no/unknown [NA]).

79The thirteen other variables in my database were treated as additional variables: they did not contribute to building the axes but were situated in relation to them and to the active variables. They relate to the social properties of the “economists” not included among the actives, to their situation in the PS in the 1970s on both the political and technical level (specialty, assignment to a study commission), and to their career after 1981. The additional variables that were the most interesting in the context of this study were not sociological in nature but instead those that related to political involvement and the tasks accomplished by the “economist” in the party. They indicate in particular that the three major socio-professional profiles identified by the factorial analysis are distributed in a very similar way in the three main movements – Mitterrandists, CERES, Rocardians – contributing to the production of the economic discourse of the PS of Épinay. They also confirm the dynamics of colonization of the official Economic Commission of the organization by senior bureaucrats of the Ministry of Finance (who joined ministerial cabinets in large numbers in 1981) during the 1970s as well as the possibilities of social advancement for some executives and chief executives from the private sector, who were in some cases rewarded for their party involvement by being named to the presidency of a bank or a company nationalized in February 1982.

The thirteen additional variables of the MCA

80– Social property: gender (two modalities: male/female).

81– Academic career and degree: HEC (two modalities: yes/no); École Polytechnique (two modalities: yes/no); ENS (two modalities: yes/no); other grande école (two modalities: yes/no).

82– Position and professional career: first profession (eight modalities: banker, public sector executive, private sector executive, employee/laborer, teacher/journalist, engineer, academic); Ministry of Finance inspector (two modalities: yes/no); worked in the Ministry of Finance during career (two modalities: yes/no); professional situation after 10 May 1981 (8 modalities: banker or private sector executive/ministerial cabinet/senior civil servant/chief executive/member of parliament or minister/political or union employee/nationalized bank or company president/other).

83– Political situation and expertise in the political socialism of the 1970s (PS and PSU): expert movement in 1975 (four modalities: Mitterrandists [117]/Rocardians/CERES/PSU); proximity to power (three modalities: strong/medium/weak); primary place of expertise (seven modalities: PS Economic Commission/PS Industrial Policy Commission/Group of Experts of the First Secretary/unofficial expertise/PSU Economic Commission/political leader/other); specialty (eight modalities: credit-taxation/international economy/energy/macroeconomics/industrial policy/political leader/socioeconomics/other).

Table A.1

Individual values of the first axes of the MCA[118]

Axis 114.5%
Axis 211%
Axis 310%
Axis 48.3%
Axis 57%

Individual values of the first axes of the MCA[118]

Table A.2

Coordinates and contributions of the active modalities on the two first axes of the MCA[119]

Coordinate Axis 1Coordinate Axis 2Contribution Axis 1Contribution Axis 2
Age: 25-30-0.530.15255.10.56
Age: 35-500.390.201.720.58
Age: over 501.05-1.005.426.61
IEP Paris0.610.016.180.01
IEP Paris: no0.55-0.015.550.01
ENA: no0.540.096.570.24
Doctorate: no-0.20-0.321.133.7
Econ. works0.410.852.2012.28
Econ. works: no-0.24-0.501.297.24
Banker in 19750.35-
Public sector executive in 1975-0.870.1010.820.18
Private sector executive in 19750.42-0.690.883.06
Chief executive in 19751.051.012.893.50
Member of Parliament in 19750.97-0.701.571.08
Political or union employee in 19750.440.570.581.30
Academic in 19750.941.453.7911.76
Other profession in 1975-0.100.300.020.22
At Ministry of Finance in 1975-1.370.4013.241.53
At Ministry of Finance in 1975: no0.35-0.103.400.39
CFDT: no0.40-0.522.746.04
Unknown if member of CFDT-1.14-0.134.630.07
PSU: no-0.01-0.2802.62
Unknown if PSU member-0.930.670.960.67
SFIO: no-
Unknown if SFIO member-0.850.110.680.01

Coordinates and contributions of the active modalities on the two first axes of the MCA[119]

Figure A.1

figure im6

Figure A.1

Additional MCA variables
Figure A.2

The ten main “economists” of the PSU (additional individuals) projected on the MCA graph

Figure A.2

The ten main “economists” of the PSU (additional individuals) projected on the MCA graph

The hierarchical ascendant classification (HAC)

84Many sociologists and statisticians have highlighted the use of combining factorial methods with techniques of automatic classification, as these techniques allow one to nuance and complete the results obtained for example by an MCA. [120] The HAC performed according to the Ward method in the context of this study allowed me to provide a more solid demonstration than a simple MCA of the main socio-professional properties explaining the division into three classes on which the political typology presented in the last section of this article was based. While the choice of the Ward method can be explained in part by the fact that it is now the most widely – or even the only one – used in France, in particular because the statistical analysis programs used by researchers primarily offer this method, scientific reasons also justify its application. The generalized Ward criteria appear to be particularly compatible with MCA, because based on “a similar notion of inertia” which gives the MCA-HAC connection major mathematical coherence. [121] The following tables present respectively the percentage of individuals presenting the modalities of the most represented variables in each of the three classes presented in the article (cla/mod) and the percentage of the principal modalities shared by all the individuals of the class (mod/cla).

Table A.3

Main socio-professional properties of the cluster of “senior civil servants of the Ministry of Finance and state economists” highlighted by the HAC[122]

Public sector executive in 197572%93%
To Min. of Finance in 197579%52%
IEP Paris55%83%
Ministerial cabinet after 198157%76%
20-35 years old49%83%
PS Economic Commission48%64%
Specialty: macro50%55%
PSU: no37%86%

Main socio-professional properties of the cluster of “senior civil servants of the Ministry of Finance and state economists” highlighted by the HAC[122]

Table A.4

Main socio-professional properties of the cluster of PS “economic theorists” highlighted by the HAC[123]

Econ. work published in the period46%100%
Academic in 197591%66%
Career after 1981: other62%25%

Main socio-professional properties of the cluster of PS “economic theorists” highlighted by the HAC[123]

Table A.5

Main socio-professional properties of the cluster of “political and union employees, chief executives, and private sector executives” highlighted by the HAC[124]

35-50 years old62%42%
Over 50 years old96%29%
Private sector executive in 197592%27%
Member of Parliament in 197589%9%
Political or union employee in 197588%16%
Chief executive in 1975100%16%
Banker in 197592%12%
Banker/private sector executive in 197581%15%
Chief executive after 1981100%16%
Political or union employee after 198188%8%
Member of Parliament or minister after 198170%18%
First profession: private sector executive90%20%
First profession: engineer83%22%
First profession: employee/laborer77%11%
Specialty: industrial policy76%28%
Specialty: energy100%10%
PS Industrial Policy Commission77%19%
Informal expert94%9%

Main socio-professional properties of the cluster of “political and union employees, chief executives, and private sector executives” highlighted by the HAC[124]

85The HAC finally allows us to identify the profile of “mean” individuals (ind§para) for each of the three classes, in other words experts situated at the center of the cloud of points for their class, along with the “ideal-type” individuals (ind§dist.), which are the furthest from the other classes and accentuate the distinguishing characteristics between these classes. [125]

Table A.6

“Mean” and “ideal-type” individuals for each class highlighted by the HAC

Senior civil servants and state economistsJérôme Clément; Thierry Le Roy; Pierre Antonmatteï; Jean-Claude BoulardPierre Hilaire; Jean-Philippe Saint-Geours; Frédéric Saint-Geours; Patrick Ponsolle
Economic theoristsMichel Beaud; Jean Matouk; Gérard Fuchs; Alain BoublilJacques Attali; Michel Charzat; Jean-Hervé Lorenzi; Pierre Lalumière
Political and union employees, chief executives, and private sector executivesJosé Bidegain; Marcel Assoun, Loïk Le Floch-PrigentJean Barets; François Dalle; Jean Riboud; Henry Hermand

“Mean” and “ideal-type” individuals for each class highlighted by the HAC


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    Interview with Christian Goux, 6 August 2009.
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    François Mitterrand, letter to Gilles Martinet, 22 October 1976, 1, Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po (CHSP), Fonds Gilles Martinet, MR9, dossier 5.
  • [57]
    Jean Poperen, “Qu’est-ce que la social-technocratie? Réflexions sur la social-technocratie et sur l’autre terme de l’alternative: la stratégie unitaire”, supplement to Cahiers de l’ERIS, 1974, 1.
  • [58]
    Jean Deflassieux, account in Thierry Pfister, Les Socialistes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1977), 50-1.
  • [59]
    Philippe Reinhard, “Essai de zoologie politique: les jeunes loups du PS”, Structures, 3, 1977, 17-18 (17).
  • [60]
    François Mitterrand, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, “Circulaire no 169” addressed to the federal secretaries, 1.
  • [61]
    Gilles Martinet, report on the meeting of the central group of the PS study commissions, 10 May 1978, 4, CHSP, Fonds Gilles Martinet, MR8, dossier 6.
  • [62]
    Letters from Paul Lussault, Secretary of the Socialist Federation of Indre-et-Loire, to Gilles Martinet, 12 October 1975 and 17 September 1976, CHSP, Fonds Gilles Martinet, MR9, dossier 5.
  • [63]
    Jean-François Bizot, Au Parti des socialistes (Paris: Grasset, 1975), 274.
  • [64]
    Patrick Hardouin, “Les caractéristiques sociologiques du Parti socialiste”, Revue française de science politique, 28(2), 1978, 220-56 (229).
  • [65]
    Frédéric Lebaron, “La dénégation du pouvoir”; Mariana Heredia, À quoi sert un économiste?
  • [66]
    “Christiane Doré, ‘banquière’ et militante socialiste de la consummation”, L’Unité, 26 February 1982; “L’organigramme du parti”, Le Poing et la Rose, 71, 1978.
  • [67]
    Patrick Hardouin, “Les caractéristiques sociologiques du Parti socialiste”, 228-32.
  • [68]
    Hervé Hamon and Patrick Rotman, L’Effet Rocard (Paris: Stock, 1980), 124.
  • [69]
    Jean-Pierre Fourcade, letter to Raymond Cabaret (secretary general of the Union des Fédérations de Fonctionnaires et Assimilés of the CFDT), 25 February 1975, Federal Archives of the CFDT, Fonds de la Fédération des Finances, 1R 83. Interview (by telephone) with Hubert Prévot, 5 November 2010.
  • [70]
    “Liste des membres adhérents à la section CFDT de l’Inspection générale des Finances”, undated [probably 1977-1978], Federal Archives of the CFDT, Fonds de la fédération des finances, 1R 84.
  • [71]
    Monique Dagnaud and Dominique Mehl, L’élite rose, 116.
  • [72]
    Fédération des Finances CFDT, “Compte rendu de la réunion du Comité fédéral”, 7-8 October 1974, 1, Federal Archives of the CFDT, Fonds de la Fédération des Finances, 1R 139.
  • [73]
    Interview (by telephone) with André Bellon, 2 January 2012; letter from Jean-Pierre Revoil (CGTINSEE correspondent) for the national offices of the CFDT and CGT-INSEE, 21 January 1974, Federal Archives of the CFDT, Fonds de la Fédération des Finances, 1R 93.
  • [74]
    Massimo Asta, “Jean Pronteau”, Le Maitron. Dictionnaire biographique: Mouvement Ouvrier, Mouvement Social, <> (last accessed 3 April 2017).
  • [75]
    The archives of CGT-Finances are not filed with the Departmental Archives of Seine-Saint-Denis, unlike those of many federations. My repeated attempts with current union leaders bore no fruit. Similarly, the archives of FO-Finances also seem not to have been preserved.
  • [76]
    Hélène Hatzfeld, “Les relations entre le Parti socialiste, la CFDT et le mouvement social de 1971 à 1981”, PhD thesis, 1987, Sciences Po Paris.
  • [77]
    The Fisher exact test performed on a tabulation combining in rows the variable “CERES” and “Other movements”, and in columns the variables “Passed through SFIO: yes” and “Passed through SFIO: no” reveals a strong correlation (probability of less than 1% that the variables are independent). The same is true when constructing the tabulation “Rocardians”/“Other movements” in rows and “Passed through PSU: yes”/:Passed through PSU: no” in columns (probability of less than 1% that the variables are independent).
  • [78]
    Marc Lazar, “Le Parti socialiste et l’État” in Noëlline Castagnez and Gilles Morin (eds), Le Parti Socialiste d’Épinay à l’Élysée, 1971-1981 (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2015), 247-60 (260).
  • [79]
    Account of François Stasse (under the pseudonym of Jacques Gallus) quoted in Hervé Hamon and Patrick Rotman, L’Effet Rocard (Paris: Stock, 1980), 186.
  • [80]
    Full details of the variables and the main statistical results of the analysis (values of the first axes, coordinates, and contributions of the modalities to the axes) are provided in the methodological annex available on the RFSP website.
  • [81]
    Due to the small numbers in certain cases, I did not submit this table to a chi-2 test but to a Fisher exact test, recommended in cases of small sample size. The results of this test revealed no significant correlation between one or the other of these movements and the proportion of ENA graduates within them (probability greater than 20% that the variables are independent).
  • [82]
    The Fisher tests performed for cases of percentages moving away from the mean (PSU and senior civil servants, Mitterrandists and academics, Rocardians and political employees) revealed no significant correlation between these variables. The probabilities of independence of the variables calculated for each case of the table remains quite superior to 5%.
  • [83]
    Jean-Hervé Lorenzi, account cited in Frédérique Jourdaa, La planète Attali (Paris: Seuil 2010), 139-40.
  • [84]
    The individuals presented in the four figures of my political typology are projected on the factorial plan determined previously. The “economists” of Pierre Mauroy and Jacques Delors were grouped in the Mitterrandist group because the followers of these three men followed the same political line at the Épinay Congress and the Metz Congress (6-8 April 1979), where the Mauroyists formed a (fleeting) alliance with the Rocardians. This political definition of the Mitterrandist movement applies to the following figures. It is nonetheless important to distinguish the experts of Jacques Delors and Pierre Mauroy since their approach to economic questions was somewhat different to that of the followers of François Mitterrand. The Delorists are distinguished in italics and the Mauroyists in bold in the four figures of my political typology. A presentation of the cultural differences between “economists” of the PS is, however, beyond the scope of this article. For a detailed presentation of the different economic cultures contributing to political socialism in the 1970s, see Mathieu Fulla, “Le Parti socialiste face à la question économique”, 612-42.
  • [85]
    Interview with Georges Gelly, deputy secretary (Mitterrandist) of the Economic Commission between 1974 and 1977, 5 January 2012.
  • [86]
    Interview with Michel Beaud, 2 April 2009.
  • [87]
    Robert Chapuis, Si Rocard avait su (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007), 63.
  • [88]
    Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. by Steven Rendall (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011), 8.
  • [89]
    Frank Georgi, “‘Le monde change, changeons notre syndicalisme’: la crise vue par la CFDT (1973-1988)”, Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire, 84(4), 2004, 93-105 (97).
  • [90]
    Interview with Jean-Pierre Hoss, 5 May 2010.
  • [91]
    Interview (by telephone) with Denis Piet, 8 February 2012.
  • [92]
    Gilles Martinet, letter to Alain Touraine, 3 July 1980, 1-2, CHSP, Fonds Gilles Martinet, MR26, dossier 7.
  • [93]
    Interview with Claude Bernet, 17 February 2010.
  • [94]
    Alain Boublil, Le socialisme industriel (Paris: PUF, 1977).
  • [95]
    Letter from the “Electronics Branch” of the PS Commission on Industrial Policy to Gilles Martinet, 27 May 1978, 1, CHSP, Fonds Gilles Martinet, MR10, dossier 1.
  • [96]
    Jean Lacouture, Mitterrand: une histoire de français (Paris: Seuil, 1998), t. I, 37-8 and 52.
  • [97]
    Alain Boublil, Le soulèvement du sérail (Paris: Albin Michel, 1990), 23.
  • [98]
    Claude Alphandéry, account in Hervé Hamon and Patrick Rotman, L’effet Rocard, 172.
  • [99]
    Interview with Robert Chapuis, 12 May 2011.
  • [100]
    Interview with François Stasse, 17 May 2010.
  • [101]
    Pierre Favier, 10 jours en mai (Paris: Seuil, 2011), 134.
  • [102]
    Michel Margairaz, “L’ajustement périlleux entre relance, réforme et rigueur”, in Serge Berstein, Pierre Milza, and Jean-Louis Bianco (eds), François Mitterrand. Les années du changement, 1981-1984 (Paris: Perrin, 2001), 333-43 (336).
  • [103]
    Henri Guillaume, note to the prime minister, “Objet: incidence des mesures immédiates sur l’économie française”, 29 May 1981, 2, CAS-FJJ, Fonds Pierre Mauroy, 1FP1_195.
  • [104]
    Matthieu Tracol, “La rigueur et les réformes: histoire des politiques du travail et de l’emploi sous le gouvernement Mauroy (1981-1984)”, PhD thesis, 2015, Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne.
  • [105]
    Mathieu Fulla, “Des élus godillots? Les députés socialistes face aux nationalisations de 1981-1982”, Vingtième Siècle. Revue d’histoire, 133(1), 2017, 71-82.
  • [106]
    Since the end of the 1990s historians and a few economists have attempted to deconstruct the thesis of a 180-degree turn taken by the government in March 1983. This interpretation, however, still remains marginal. See the contributions of Michel Margairaz, Jean-Charles Asselain, Olivier Feiertag, Daniel Lefeuvre, and Robert Salais in Serge Berstein, Pierre Milza, and Jean-Louis Bianco, François Mitterrand, 333-505; Vincent Duchaussoy, “Histoire de l’organisation et de la gouvernance de la Banque de France (1936-1993): la construction d’une institution de marché?”, PhD thesis, 2013, Université de Rouen; Antony Burlaud, “Les socialistes et la rigueur (1981-1983)”, Master’s diss., 2011, Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne; Mathieu Tracol, “La rigueur et les réformes”. In a recent overview of French history from the 1980s until the present day, Ludivine Bantigny defends the argument of a progressive turn, triggering the spread to larger circles of this new approach of the “turn towards austerity”. See Ludivine Bantigny, La France à l’heure du monde. De 1981 à nos jours (Paris: Seuil, 2013), 31-3.
  • [107]
    Presidency of the Republic, Press Service, “Programme d’action en dix points pour le rétablissement des équilibres extérieures de la France”, 25 March 1983, CAS-FJJ, Fonds Pierre Mauroy, 1FP1_427.
  • [108]
    Study of the relationship between the socialist elite and the neoliberal experiences of the 1980s, not only in the UK and US but also – and perhaps especially – in Germany, is beyond the scope of this article.
  • [109]
    Marion Fourcade and Sarah L. Babb, “The rebirth of the liberal creed: paths to neoliberalism in four countries”, The American Journal of Sociology, 108(3), 2002, 533-79 (562-8).
  • [110]
    Philippe Bezes, Réinventer l’État. Les réformes de l’administration française (1962-2008) (Paris: PUF, 2009), 229-43.
  • [111]
    My deepest thanks to Claire Lemercier for her vital assistance in the quantitative analysis of the data that served as the primary material of this article, as well as to the anonymous reviewers of the Revue française de science politique who provided feedback on this text.
  • [112]
    For a detailed presentation of the written and oral sources used, I refer you to Mathieu Fulla, “Le Parti socialiste face à la question économique: une histoire économique du politique (1945-1981)”, PhD thesis, 2012, Sciences Po Paris.
  • [113]
    Created in early 1974 by Gilles Martinet, the ISER was presented as an organization focusing its work on the history of the socialist movement and the problems posed by the construction of a socialist society. A panel of prestigious academics served on the council of the Institute, in particular Jean Bouvier, René Dumont, Christian Goux, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, and Alain Touraine. After becoming secretary general for Research following the Pau Congress, Gilles Martinet handed over the presidency of ISER to Jean Pronteau after one year. Despite its undeniable academic activity, which could be observed in the Bulletin Mensuel from 1976 onwards, the influence of the Institute in the production of economic discourse in the PS was marginal.
  • [114]
    In particular: Philippe Alexandre, Le roman de la gauche (Paris: Plon, 1977); Georges Ayache and Mathieu Fantoni, Les barons du PS (Paris: Fayolle, 1977); Philippe Bauchard, La guerre des deux roses: du rêve à la réalité, 1981-1985 (Paris: Grasset, 1986); Jean-Pierre Bedeï and Jean-Paul Liégeois, Le feu et l’eau. Mitterrand-Rocard: histoire d’une longue rivalité (Paris: Grasset, 1990); Jean-François Bizot (in collaboration with Léon Mercadet and Patrice Van Eersel), Au parti des socialistes (Paris: Grasset, 1975); Claude Bunodière and Lyne Cohen-Solal, Les nouveaux socialistes (Paris: Tema, 1979); Albert du Roy and Robert Schneider, Le Roman de la Rose: d’Épinay à l’Élysée, l’aventure des socialistes (Paris: Seuil, 1982); Daniel Hubscher and Annie Philippe, Enquête à l’intérieur du parti socialiste (Paris: Albin Michel, 1991); Thierry Pfister, Les socialistes (Paris: Albin Michel, 1977).
  • [115]
    On the interest of automatic classification methods for social science research, see Olivier Martin, L’analyse de données quantitatives (Paris: Armand Colin, 2007 [1st edn 2005]), 111-14; Claire Lemercier (with Pauline Milani and Séverine Sofio), “Tutoriel FactoMineR pour l’analyse des correspondances multiples avec une petite annexe sur la classification automatique”, <> (last accessed 3 April 2017); Jacques Cellier and Martine Cocaud, Le traitement des données en histoire et sciences sociales. Méthodes et outils (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2012), 133-67 and 236-41.
  • [116]
    Claire Lemercier and Claire Zalc, Méthodes quantitatives pour l’historien (Paris: La Découverte, 2008), 66.
  • [117]
    Including the few “economists” close to Pierre Mauroy and Jacques Delors.
  • [118]
    Values rounded to one decimal place.
  • [119]
    Values rounded to two decimal places.
  • [120]
    Ludovic Lebart, Alain Morineau, and Marie Piron, Statistique exploratoire multidimensionnelle (Paris: Dunod, 2004 [1st edn 2000]), 185.
  • [121]
    Lebart, Morineau, and Piron, Statistique exploratoire, 189-90.
  • [122]
    Read as: 72% of the PS “economists” occupying the profession of public sector executive in 1975 are found in this cluster, 93% of the “economists” in this cluster were public sector executives in 1975. The percentages are rounded to the nearest integer.
  • [123]
    Read as: 76% of PS “economists” with a doctorate are found in this cluster. 91% of the “economists” in this cluster held a doctorate degree. The percentages are rounded to the nearest integer.
  • [124]
    Read as: 62% of PS “economists” between 35 and 50 years old in 1975 are in this cluster. 42% of the “economists” in this cluster were between 35 and 50 years old in 1975. The percentages are rounded to the nearest integer.
  • [125]
    Claire Lemercier, “Tutoriel FactoMineR”, 21.

While the issue of expertise has been extensively investigated by scholars since the late 1990s, the “politically committed experts” who are active members of a party remain largely unstudied. This article, drawing on quantitative and qualitative analysis of 196 economists, takes a sociological approach towards analyzing the role of those who constructed the French Socialist Party’s economic program and discourse during the 1970s, when the party led by François Mitterrand aimed to seize power. It shows that, contrary to the clichés disseminated through the media, senior civil servants did not have a monopoly of expertise. It also highlights that the socialist economic experts’ work had to follow the strategic framework defined by the party’s most prominent politicians.


  • expertise
  • sociology of elites
  • political parties
  • socialism
  • state
  • French fifth republic
  • “neoliberal turn”
Mathieu Fulla
Matthieu Fulla teaches at Sciences Po Paris and is a permanent member of the Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po (CHSP). He recently published Les socialistes français et l’économie: une histoire économique du politique (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2016). His research focuses on the history of left-wing movements in western Europe in the twentieth century, and their relationship with the economy (Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po, 56 rue Jacob, 75006 Paris).
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