CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1Why write the history of a discipline like political science? [1] It has few practitioners in France, and nothing like the powerful academic, social, and political standing of its American counterpart, or the latter’s place within influential foundations and think tanks. And the discipline’s history can seem rather dull: few big names, no real shared founding figures, no landmark works. Nor can this history shed much light on the present, as political science originated from academic, social, and political configurations very different from our own. Retracing the emergence of French political science tells us little about its recent structuration. Admittedly, the discipline’s key institutions played a role, and have endured to this day. The Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (National Foundation of Political Sciences, FNSP, also referred to as the Foundation) and the Institut d’Études Politiques (Institute of Political Studies, IEP, also referred to as the School) were founded by ordinance in 1945 from the ruins of the École Libre des Sciences Politiques (Free School of Political Sciences). Five other political studies institutes were created elsewhere in France between 1945 and 1956. Both the Association Française de Science Politique (French Political Science Association, AFSP) and the Association Internationale de Science Politique (International Political Science Association, AISP), the two of them to some degree organically related, were launched in 1949, and under their aegis the Revue Française de Science Politique (French Political Science Review, RFSP) published its first issue in 1951, two years later. Research units were soon created, with the Foundation’s backing: the Centre d’Études des Relations Internationales (International Relations Study Center, CERI) in 1952; the Centre d’Études d’Afrique Noire (African Studies Center, CEAN) in 1958; the Centre d’Études de la Vie Politique Française (French Political Life Study Center, Cevipof) in 1960, which replaced the Centre d’Études Scientifiques de la Politique Intérieure (Center for the Scientific Study of Domestic Policy); and the Centre d’Études sur le Politique, l’Administration et le Territoire (Politics, Administration, and Territory Study Center, CERAT) in Grenoble in 1963. [2] Degrees were awarded, most notably IEP Paris’s famous troisième cycle (postgraduate degree) of 1956, which we will return to below. This flurry of new institutions in the decade following the war primarily sprung up around the FNSP and IEP in Paris and, to a lesser degree, around the IEP in Bordeaux and Grenoble. The Faculty of Law in Paris hesitantly introduced political science into its bachelor’s degree course in 1954, followed by a Diplôme d’Études Supérieures (Master of Advanced Studies, DES) in 1956; as at Sciences Po, these institutional constructions were not, for the moment, based on any specific research, or any group of researchers identifiable as political scientists. [3] As Yves Déloye remarks in the valuable virtual archives available on the AFSP website, the dynamics of the discipline’s creation involved a self-fulfilling prophecy, the main agents of which were the leaders of these new institutions. [4]

2This circumstance means a shift in our terms: writing the history of French political science allows us to discuss an atypical case, in which a science’s emergence and institutionalization were to some extent officially driven. The FNSP was created by ordinance in 1945 with the general objective “to promote the progress and dissemination in France [...] of the political, economic, and social sciences », [5] and had reached a curious position by the end of the 1940s: while its library, research units, courses, journals, associations, and funding were in place, it had no readers, researchers, teachers, or authors. Yet it worked as a whole, and endured: the discipline developed, the RFSP appeared regularly, study days and symposia multiplied, the range of political science courses grew, and the research units filled up with young researchers. This is the enigma we aim to unravel. More broadly, we aim to contribute to a sociology of science that examines this striking reversal of the usual chronology in which science and its “discoverers » come before the institutionalization of the discipline. We seek to understand how a disciplinary edifice can be constructed and maintained without scientists to populate it, and how the institutional markers of science come into contact with the scientists and knowledge they require. The story of the emergence of French political science has much to tell us about the capacity of institutions to produce—and, moreover, to define—science, knowledge, and scientists.

3We suggest that the period 1945-68 examined in this article covers the first configuration within which the discipline emerged, the moment when the new FNSP and the related IEP Paris came on the scene. [6] Until that point, universities had barely taken notice of the nascent social sciences. The first degree-granting courses in sociology and economics only appeared at the end of the 1950s. (While there were doctorates and four chairs in sociology at the time, a bachelor’s degree in sociology was not offered until 1958, and in economics not until 1960.) Political science only played a peripheral role in law courses when it was introduced in 1954. [7] These new disciplines mainly developed outside the university: at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research, CNRS) where the first sociology research center, the Centre d’Études Sociologiques (Center for Sociological Research), headed by Georges Gurvitch, was founded in 1946 [8]; within Section VI of the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), renamed “Sciences économiques et socials » (Economic and Social Sciences) in 1947 and placed under Fernand Braudel’s leadership [9]; at new institutions such as the Institut National d’Études Démographiques (National Institute of Demographic Studies, INED), created in 1945, where developing post-war demographics was influenced by the work of Adolphe Landry and of Alfred Sauvy [10]; and in the research offices of the Ministry of Finance and Planning, where a new approach to public economics and national accounts was taking shape. [11] The terms of the 1945 ordinance meant that the Foundation was required to support the political sciences, which appeared within a context where emerging social sciences were proliferating and the institutions meant to oversee them were fragmenting.


You always have to see Sciences Po’s history in relation to that of other institutions, and there has always been a relationship of rivalry and emulation between the sixth section [of the EPHE] and Sciences Po.
(Politix interview with Louis Bodin) [12]

5The thin walls between these institutions set the stage for intense competition. But matters also played out internally: the FNSP—whose gradually emerging task was the defense of a single discipline, even if it was the plural “political, economic, and social sciences”—found itself in tension with the IEP, which had a tradition (inherited from the École Libre des Sciences Politiques) of accommodating people who held various different ways of looking at the social world, without distinguishing between them. Senior officials, politicians, lawyers, geographers, economists, and journalists all coexisted within the School’s teaching body. This model was challenged in the 1950s as the social sciences moved toward specialization—at least in the independent institutes, if not in university faculties—and the ministry was sympathetic toward demands to create a “social sciences faculty” that could be overseen by the EPHE. The IEP was threatened by these new, unpredictable competitors, and the alliance between its director, Jacques Chapsal, and the FNSP’s secretary general—first Jean Meynaud, and after 1954 Jean Touchard—can be understood as a response to this, one which sought recognition of their authority over political science (up for grabs at the time, unlike in sociology), and to occupy the space opened up by the 1945 ordinance. In 1947, UNESCO called on Europeans to take stock of their social sciences. The heads of Sciences Po were immediately drafted for the task, and urgently founded two national bodies, the Association Française de Science Politique and the Association Internationale de Science Politique, both based at their site in Paris. The RFSP was created off the back of this. This transnational alliance undoubtedly helped realize some of the opportunities contained in the 1945 ordinance, and set French political science on the same track as its older American sibling.

6One of the issues arising from this institutional inflation concerns its consequences for research: What did a political science course or a political science article look like in the 1950s and ’60s? How is a science constructed when only the institutional edifices designed to shelter it exist? What groups were active in this process, and what sort of science were they able to construct in the national and international academic post-war context?

7We will only tell half the story if we consider only the academies, courses, journals, research units, and the competition running through them. By turning to the hard sciences, where they doubtless expected to find the greatest autonomy, sociologists of science have given the lie to the purity of scientific discovery, and instead uncovered impure alliances, comings and goings between laboratories, the social world, professional groups, religious authorities, the economic and political world, popularizing works, and scientific journals. [13] Bruno Latour’s hypothesis that a discovery does not convince people because it is true, but becomes true when it takes hold—that is, when it rallies an increasing number of protagonists to it—may help solve our puzzle. [14] There were no researchers and no research, as we have said, but there were undoubtedly groups available to commission, produce, receive, and use them. It is the social makeup of the alliances, the way in which phenomena of reciprocal enrollment emerged, and the points of contact between groups with a scientific, administrative, or political interest in political science that should claim our attention. This will allow us to see how the discipline was formed in the institutional configurations that followed the Liberation (liberation of France at the end of the war), and in the highly distinctive alliances that occurred throughout the 1950s and’60s. Political science, like the other social sciences emerging at the time, gained power and influence through the aspirations of certain groups of so-called “modernizers”, who based their growing authority on a new social expertise in which maps, graphs, and statistics were given unprecedented weight.

8More than any university department at the time—considered by many in these groups to be disconnected from the world—Sciences Po was a place where such encounters were possible. Teachers at IEP Paris, the heads of the FNSP, researchers from the Foundation’s research units, and those working in universities and secondary schools who had been seconded to the IEP in Paris or elsewhere, including lawyers, sociologists (Henri Mendras and Jean Stoetzel), historians and geographers (André Siegfried), philosophers (Robert Dérathé and Raymond Aron), economists (Jean-Marcel Jeanneney), senior civil servants (Wilfried Baumgartner, Pierre Laroque, and François Bloch Lainé), politicians (Michel Debré), journalists (Jacques Fauvet and Hubert Beuve-Méry), and others from France or abroad (Peter Campbell, Harold Lasswell, and Philip Williams)—all rubbed shoulders at Sciences Po, even if they did not always meet (a point we return to below). The distinctive feature here is that the injunctions to produce research made and heeded in these hybrid institutions were based not just on the institutions’ social effectiveness, but also on their capacity to win recognition from scholars in France and abroad.

9We consider the challenges faced by the pioneers of the discipline, partly in succession, in three stages. Firstly, we look at political science through the development of the courses it soon became necessary to offer at the IEP and in the Faculty of Law from the 1950s onward, and the selection of articles sought by the RFSP, which was founded in 1951. We uncover a situation of intellectual bricolage and respecialization dominated by insiders from Sciences Po. This situation involved accommodating to the legacy of the École Libre des Sciences Politiques, appealing to professors from a wide range of disciplines, borrowing from networks of foreign political scientists, and calling on senior civil servants and politicians. Secondly, we examine a subsequent period of specialization, rather than respecialization, characterized by the launch of a research training program in the form of a dedicated troisième cycle, created in 1956, and by the development of FNSP’s Parisian research units, with CERI created in 1952 and Cevipof in 1960. [15] We then look at the training of the first political science cohort, followed by the conditions in which this group built alliances with new groups of leaders in politics, economics, and the media from the mid-1960s onward—alliances that helped to consolidate and steer the new discipline.

A Discipline in Search of Content: Constructing Courses and Developing a Journal

10The expected chronological link between research and teaching supposes a prior body of research, concepts, and hypotheses, which are gradually stabilized, fixed, sorted, and ordered by textbooks that organize shared topics and issues into chapters, shedding light on ideas in circulation and communicating studies and their results. Teachers then rely on these textbooks, which form the basis of a program guiding the courses offered in a given discipline or sub-discipline. But, as we know, this order is often disrupted. Teaching can develop autonomously, independently from research; or, as in the present case, teaching across very varied content can be established and provided by non-specialists even when genuine research is not yet available or usable.


We have used the archives of Jean Touchard, Jacques Chapsal, Serge Hurtig, and François Goguel, held at Sciences Po’s Centre d’Histoire (History Center) and its Mission-Archives. We also used IEP and FNSP documents including course handouts, student reports, and study day transcripts. Our particular focus was on documents from discipline-specific events where speakers were asked to reflect on the history and present state of political science, such as the AFSP’s study days, the Entretiens du Samedi, and the symposia honoring Jean Touchard, Jean Meynaud, and Nicole Racine. We also used a series of interviews, primarily with people who were young researchers and teachers in the 1950s and’60s, focusing particularly on those working at Cevipof. These interviews were carried out by members of the Politix editorial board in the mid-1990s. We thank Thibaud Boncourt for his work decrypting ancient cassette tapes, and the AFSP for its financial and intellectual support. [16] These interviews are archived on the AFSP website, and we simply cite them here as “Politix interview“. We also made use of a series of studies of the discipline during the period of its emergence, which we locate in the relatively brief period 1945-68, as well as significant research carried out on the AFSP’s virtual archives ( and the Sciences Po history site (!/fr/). These offer accounts of the emergence of the discipline, a chronology, bibliographies, and biographies of the most important actors.

11We begin by looking at some of the practical dilemmas faced by those who have to put together degree courses, recruit teachers, and find articles to fill academic journals—as well, of course, as those faced by the individuals who have to give these courses and write these textbooks and articles. It is in the collective, institutional resolution of these initial challenges that a discipline is forged. The ways in which these problems were solved varied greatly across institutions. The heads of Sciences Po—i.e., the heads of both the FNSP and the IEP—threw themselves into a wholly unexpected disciplinary activism while aligning themselves with the legacy of the École Libre des Sciences Politiques and its vague multidisciplinarity. By contrast, with the exception of a few lawyers whose motives we will discuss below, the Faculty of Law paid as little attention as possible to the new subjects opened up by the ministry. Later, at the start of the 1960s, it was primarily from the Foundation’s research units that the first cohort of researchers emerged, having received their training in the political science troisième cycle first offered in 1956. These early political scientists took over from a generation of historians, lawyers, and philosophers, who often came from universities but maintained close links to Sciences Po, having specialized to a degree in what was in the 1950s sometimes called “political studies”.

Constructing a Course in Political Science

12In 1954, the bachelor’s degree in Law was overhauled. It made room for introductory political science courses: an “Introduction à la sociologie politique” (Introduction to political sociology) was offered in the first year, “Méthodes des sciences sociales” (Methods in the social sciences) in the third, and “Histoire des idées politiques” (History of political ideas) and “Grands problèmes politiques contemporains” (Major contemporary political issues) in the fourth. A political science DES was created in 1956 not only within the law faculties but also at the FNSP, which now had a troisième cycle in research and political studies that could lead to a research doctorate in “political studies” thanks to an agreement with the arts faculty. Designing classes, writing textbooks, and otherwise supporting new courses became the order of the day.

13Speaking at an AFSP study day on 19 June 1980, Albert Mabileau, director of IEP Bordeaux from 1967 to 1978, saw the law course reforms and the creation of a political science troisième cycle as the initial conditions for an irreversible link-up between law and political science. The course quickly encountered a degree of success: “in 1965, there were already fourteen law faculties offering the political science DES”. But, he adds, this did not mean that lawyers were specializing in political science, let alone converting to it:


Political science is not always taught with the skill it demands, either because of the lack of specialized teacher training or because the youngest teachers of the lowest rank are used. [17]

15In fact, the problem of developing political science courses had been solved in law schools long before: rather than calling upon truly specialized knowledge, the heads of teaching at the Faculty of Law in Paris instead commissioned textbooks from specialist legal publishers. Here it is worth quoting Madeleine Grawitz, whose social sciences research methods textbook was published by Dalloz in 1964 and remained a standard work for many years:


Dalloz weren’t that worried: they just asked the professor giving the classes to write the textbook. A young agrégé, Roger Pinto, had just arrived in Paris [...] and was giving a course on social science methods [...] so they asked him to do the textbook. Pinto didn’t know a thing about it [...], and asked me [...] and I jumped at the chance. Pinto had already started, and I hadn’t understood what he meant. Then one day Dalloz asked us just to produce a single volume. Pinto was an internationalist, he was doing lots of consulting, and that was a lot more interesting for him than social sciences—so he said that he was dropping it.
(Politix interview with Madeleine Grawitz)

17Madeleine Grawitz—a woman, agrégée in law, with a passion for psychology and sociology—was an exceptional case. [18] The early textbooks by law faculty staff were a motley bunch, demonstrating in almost all cases nearly unmodified bias toward the law. [19] This is hardly surprising, since these university textbooks were produced in a very particular way: with no pre-existing framework or prior research, written by lawyers who were trying, at best, to “modernize” their discipline and, at worst, to annex a new branch for their discipline or, perhaps, for some, to oppose private law. [20] Many put together courses on political institutions that were only vaguely different from courses on constitutional law, simply waiting to rise in the ranks and move on. The tone of discussion at the 1969 AFSP study days was gloomy. [21] Some still complained that French political science production had been reduced to textbooks. This was ultimately the result of creating a discipline in the early 1950s that was taught without a specific pre-existing research context and adopted at the end of the decade by law faculties where most of those required to teach it had little ability or, often, desire to do so. These textbooks—combined with the pedagogic autonomy of university teachers—settled the question of political science teaching in law schools until at least the early 1970s. There was no real possibility of disciplinary stabilization or specialization taking hold in such circumstances. Instead, it was at Sciences Po that the elements of the discipline were first established, as demonstrated by the concern shown by the new institutions’ leaders (and not just their teachers) with defining the specific content of political science courses.

18The task of drafting and teaching courses was pursued differently at the IEP and the FNSP than it was at the law schools. These institutions’ collective governing bodies held lengthy discussions about which topics to include, including proposed content and lesson plans to follow. The starting point was also different. Presenting the IEP Paris program in 1960, Jacques Chapsal reported that, of 120 courses, “thirty are in political and administrative sciences, twenty in area studies, twenty in international relations, ten in history and geography, ten in social sciences, and thirty in economics”. By his reckoning, “about 60% of courses involve political science in the broadest sense”. [22] This program, which apparently gave pride of place to the social sciences, was unique within French higher education. In it we can see traces of what Jean Leca called the “Boutmy model”—that is, a model where political science was above all conceived as “the political sciences”, something practiced by “crossroads” scholars existing between sociology, history, demography, geography, and economics. Such scholars had gathered at the École Libre des Sciences Politiques, which “aimed less at encouraging a new paradigm” and more at “maintaining a pluralist debate between people coming from different perspectives within the intellectual, political, administrative, and economic environment of the time”. [23] The IEP had no permanent staff, with its teachers working primarily in universities (40.6% in 1955, 32.5% in 1971), the senior civil service (44% in 1955, 45% in 1971), or management (11% in 1955, 20% in 1971). [24]

19When developing courses, the directors of the FNSP initially tried to stick as closely as possible to developments within social and political demands and their accompanying fields of expertise. From the mid-1950s, however, they steered teaching toward a number of specialized courses. They wanted to make the Foundation scientifically competitive both nationally and internationally, and to claim authority over any future political science. The creation of a troisième cycle postgraduate program in 1956 was the occasion for numerous internal meetings and discussions between boards of directors, teaching committees, and the teachers themselves. There were four directors of studies for the new degree: two from the university—Maurice Duverger and Jean-Baptiste Duroselle—and two from secondary education—Alfred Grosser and René Rémond. These four were the first contributors to the project, which was supervised by Jean Touchard, the secretary general of the FNSP. The plans they produced were extremely detailed: for instance, the general seminar, “Méthodes et technique” (Methods and technique), consisted of twenty topics with two sessions each. First came “document studies”: sources with Jean Meyriat, historical documents with Pierre Renouvin, legal documents with Georges Vedel, statistical documentation with Jean Fourastié, press analysis with Jacques Kayser, literature with Jean Touchard, and content analysis. There then came what were called “direct studies”: polls with Jean Stoetzel, urban surveys with Paul-Henri Chombart de Lauwe, rural surveys with Henri Mendras, monographs with Alain Touraine, attitude scales with Jean Stoetzel, organizational studies with Maurice Duverger, electoral sociology with François Goguel and Georges Dupeux, religious sociology with Gabriel Le Bras, and so on. Here we can see both the precision of the curriculum and the number of teaching staff involved. The same applied to “section seminars” (domestic politics and international politics) and “specialized seminars” where general hypotheses, research topics, and available methodologies were presented. The steering committee met on 9 March 1956, with Le Bras as chair. It was not a puppet commission meant simply to endorse the project. Indeed, numerous amendments were required after it met. The program was considered too cumbersome, the curriculum architecture too complex. The general seminar had to be reoriented even more toward methods, and particularly their practical use—map-making, statistical tables, and so on. The research directors’ role was made clearer: they were to co-ordinate speakers in order to avoid, in the committee’s phrase, a “parade of celebrities”, and otherwise dedicate themselves to their role as guardians of research. After the project was overhauled according to the committee’s recommendations, a steering committee for graduate studies in political science was held on 9 May 1956. Most of the founders of the AFSP and the leaders of the FNSP and the IEP were there. On this occasion, research topics were put within a hierarchy, and the committee ended by providing its instructions for selecting students. The program was then reviewed almost every year, with alumni returning as speakers at the general seminar—in 1963, for example, Alain Lancelot and Jean Ranger led the session on electoral sociology and geography.

20The collective construction of these new degrees was complex. Efforts by the Sciences Po leadership to control it remind us that, in spite of the IEP’s flexibility and autonomy, teachers did not have total freedom when developing their courses, especially if the courses were strategically important to the institution. But the establishment of a political science troisième cycle gave the leadership of the IEP and the FNSP the chance to move away, at least selectively, from the “Boutmy model”, or to signal that they were moving away from it. The task was to specialize, to train political science researchers, and to establish the pioneering nature of Sciences Po in the eyes of both ministers and international research bodies.

21Pilot projects and plans for new courses were discussed, ranked, and amended collectively. This was the case for a course on “Science politique et sciences sociales” (Political science and social sciences) proposed for the autumn of 1960. Three proposals were in competition: one by Viet, which began with types of political regime and government structures before moving on to political actors, opinion, and citizen participation; one by Meyriat, which covered “Les éléments de la vie politique” (The elements of political life), “Les acteurs de la vie politique” (The actors of political life), and “Les cadres de la vie politique” (The frameworks of political life); and one by Meynaud, consisting of “Citoyens, participations, opinion publique et comportements politiques” (Citizens, participation, public opinion and political behavior), “Partis politiques et groupes de pression” (Political parties and lobby groups), and “Structure des gouvernements, Processus de décision” (Government structure and decision processes). The plans were public, and were discussed in correspondence and in teaching meetings. Meynaud’s plan was chosen. Comments included this highly detailed feedback from Goguel:


On reflection, the plan that seems best to me is Meynaud’s, because it’s concrete; nothing seems more dangerous in political science to me than overambitious, more or less philosophical theoretical constructions [...]. Personally, though, I would move the course’s current introduction to the end, so that we avoid any temptation to define an ideal political science that is unrelated to actual content. [25]

23The few textbooks written by staff from the FNSP were very different from those by lawyers, mentioned above. Differences with the law faculty are clear in both Meynaud’s textbook and Duverger’s (written in his role as the FNSP’s director of the troisième cycle). In an article on Meynaud’s work published in the RFSP, Pierre Duclos mentions his textbook, Introduction à la science politique (Introduction to Political Science) (published in Les cahiers de la FNSP, no. 100, in 1959) and points out that despite Meynaud’s extensive bibliography, this latter deliberately ignored Georges Burdeau’s book. [26] Another illustration is provided by the review of two textbooks by Duverger and Burdeau in the first issue of the RFSP in 1959 (no. 1), which was devoted to the new constitution. The two books had nearly the same title: Méthode(s) de la science politique (Method(s) in Political Science), with Burdeau’s in the singular and Duverger’s in the plural but were treated rather differently, to put it mildly: Burdeau came in for scathing criticism. Viet, who also taught at IEP Paris, notes that Burdeau’s book was ultimately the result of an editorial commission, one which arose from the new presence of political science in law degrees and the creation in 1956 of a political science troisième cycle. In Viet’s view, Burdeau wrote his textbook based on “the concerns of the jurist he is proud to be”. Further on, Viet emphasizes the book’s juridical and institutionalist character, with only three of its five hundred pages discussing political parties, only one discussing pressure groups, and only two discussing electoral behavior. He remarks, too, on Burdeau’s distaste for American political science. A final barb makes it clear this distaste was perhaps nothing more than ignorance: in reference to Burdeau’s attempted comparison of the ideas put forward by Alfred Knopf in The Political System (1952) with those defended by David Easton in 1953, Viet notes sharply: “These are one and the same book, Easton’s, published by Knopf in 1953”. [27] By contrast, Grosser’s treatment of Duverger’s work is quite different. A “remarkable methodological exposition”, the textbook is praised for its lengthy discussion of polls, quantitative analyses, mathematics, and analyses based on social psychology. [28] Grosser particularly appreciates Duverger’s extensive use of Anglo-American sociology and the way he approaches political science as a social science. In sum, Duverger’s textbook (seen here as a teacher in the Sciences Po troisième cycle) is precisely the opposite of Burdeau’s.

24These contributions to the RFSP, some of them complimenting or criticizing others’ work, clarify the task of regulation, innovation, and compromise carried out by this journal from its founding in 1951.

Developing a Political Science Journal

25One way to get a flavor of the individuals with an early involvement in the discipline is to look at the authors of the RFSP’s early publications. This has already been studied. Thierry Vedel’s master’s dissertation in political studies was supervised by Georges Lavau, the director of the journal at the time, and defended at IEP Paris in September 1981. Its title is “Une image de la science politique à travers la Revue française de science politique” (A picture of political science across the French Political Science Review). [29] Vedel identifies three periods, each named after the journal’s editor at the time: the Siegfried period (1951-8), the Touchard period (1958-70), and the Lavau period (1971-80) (Vedel’s dissertation was written in 1981, and concludes its discussion in 1980. Lavau continued to run the journal until his death in 1990.) Across these three periods, there are striking contrasts in the distribution of authors’ institutional and social statuses, and—in brief, since this is reasonably predictable—a gradual professionalization and specialization among the writers. We need to look more closely at this movement, and particularly at its first two periods, 1951-8 and 1958-70.

26Looking back at the 1950s, it is clear that running a journal without an existing cohort of specialist authors was a tricky undertaking. Rereading the early issues reveals the outlines of the groups that were available to occupy this terrain. It comes as no surprise that the RFSP set itself the generous scope of a crossroads-discipline. It had no methodological or conceptual requirements, and opened up its pages not only to researchers and teachers, but also to politicians, journalists, and senior officials discussing so-called political subjects. In this sense, the authors of the journal in its early days had much in common with the IEP’s faculty. There was a large nucleus of authors who were more or less closely connected to IEP Paris. In some cases they came from humanities or law faculties (16% of articles), or else from the IEPs outside Paris: 15% of articles were written by authors from the IEPs in Paris and elsewhere. Lawyers were involved, although they did not predominate; together with economists and social scientists, they represented 11.3% of authors. The large number of senior civil servants, politicians, and journalists in the journal’s early years was another sign of the porosity of the emerging discipline. We leave aside for the moment the reasons for this openness, which may have included recruitment strategies or editorial necessity turned into scientific virtue; more simply, it may mark the strength of the long-standing networks shared by the School and the political and administrative elite. In some cases, these senior officials and politicians were one-off authors. Some edited particular issues: Pierre Laroque, a conseiller d’État and the “father of social security”, wrote several book reviews and edited the second issue of 1953, on “Les élections sociales comparées aux élections politiques” (Trade union elections compared to political elections). Similarly, the second issue of 1956 was devoted to regional planning, foreshadowing the Délégation Interministérielle à l’Aménagement du Territoire et à l’Attractivité Régionale (Interministerial Delegation of Land Planning and Regional Attractiveness, DATAR) and the policies to be implemented early in the Fifth Republic. Its contributors included Michel Debré; Henri Rochereau, the former conservative deputy and mayor in the Vendée and future Minister of Agriculture in Debré’s government; Guy de Carmoy, inspecteur des finances, a member of the OEEC since 1948 and professor at IEP Paris since 1950; and Jean-François Gravier, a geographer, former member of the Fondation Carrel, a member of the post-war Commissariat Général du Plan, and the author of Paris et le désert français.

27In his comparison of the RFSP and Political Studies, Thibaud Boncourt estimates that 16% of the authors who published in the French journal between 1951 and 1957 were non-academics; in contrast, there were no non-academics publishing in the British journal in the same period. [30] The RFSP published “smart texts” rather than scientific ones, as Jean-Luc Parodi said in his interview with Boncourt on 21 June 2006. It was written by and for “enlightened citizens”, as Leca explained in an interview with Boncourt on 25 June 2006, and departed from the norms of a scientific journal. This is hardly surprising, given the reverse chronology we have seen already, where institutions, journals, and courses preceded research. The discipline that followed came in the rather forced form of a “crossroads-science”—a form partly imposed and, in all likelihood, partly also desired by some senior figures at Sciences Po, who saw the IEP and the sheer diversity of the courses it offered as the embodiment of this “interdisciplinary” synthesis.

28But the tension with an alternative model is tangible when reading the abstracts in the journal, even during the first decade of its existence. Vedel notes that the universities provided the largest number of the journal’s authors, with a quarter of the articles. There were few to no political scientists in France, and most were recruited from networks of mainly Anglo-American academics linked to IEP Paris. Jean Leca relates this to the “backward creation” of political science: the reliance on established political researchers in the Anglo-American world (whose articles were often translated) to provide scientific content reflected the RFSP’s other disciplinary production strategy. [31]

29The reviews section, which became established from the final issue of 1951, is also very helpful for our purposes. It demonstrates both the undefined, “crossroads” character of this new discipline and individual efforts to make it more robust and specific, particularly by basing it on foreign scholarship. The books reviewed were highly diverse. On the one hand, reviewers considered work by authors in related disciplines: law, philosophy, and history, as well as politics and the media, including texts by Debré and Beuve-Méry, which Goguel reviewed. On the other hand, they also looked at work by foreign political scientists. Some—often active members of the IEP and the FNSP such as Serge Hurtig, Alfred Grosser, Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, and Georges Lavau—published numerous reviews of American, English, or German political science books, helping to import key foreign works that could also serve as possible models of scientificity. The reviews section gradually became the most international section of the journal.

30Things changed in the second period, which ran from the 1960s to the early ’70s. The triptych of authors—professors from different disciplines, foreign scholars, and non-academics—evolved, with senior civil servants, politicians, and journalists fading away, and young researchers from the first political science research centers arriving in their stead. According to Vedel, 6% of contributions came from CNRS researchers, compared to 3.8% of articles in the previous period; 16.3% came from CERI, and 10.1% from Cevipof. The replenishment of French political science, as we will see, thus largely took place within the Foundation’s research units. The “Forces politiques” (Political forces) and “Conflits internationaux” (International conflicts) sections demonstrated and accelerated this process. The “Forces politiques” section was introduced in the second issue of 1963, and was primarily given over to young research alumni from the troisième cycle and members of Cevipof. The first batch included Lavau and Grosser, as well as two former students from the troisième cycle, Michèle Cotta and Jean-Luc Parodi, and a young sociologist named Guy Michelat. In 1964, the journal switched to publishing six issues a year, and included the new section on “Conflits internationaux” with more articles published by CERI researchers. This new pool of political scientists now welcomed by the journal had received their training from the troisième cycle.

31The developments of the 1960s remain more difficult to interpret. Behind the opposition between the discipline as a crossroads (“political sciences”) and an independent entity (“political science”) lay competing models of academic curricula, recruitment strategies, research approaches, and methods of writing articles. The reader is struck by the emergence of a new generation of researchers in the 1960s: one of the products of this urgent institutional demand to provide science. Although the teaching offered did not greatly change, disciplinary specialization took root within the Foundation’s first research units.

A Discipline in Search of Science

32IEP Paris intended to create a number of political scientists and the research that came along with them—something rather unexpected, if we see the institution primarily as a school for power, providing a patina of general knowledge to the sons (and daughters) of the elites and offering them the conditions of social reproduction with very low fees. [32] Setting aside the personalities involved, that was the intention underlying the implicit “contract” between Chapsal, the school’s director, and Meynaud and then Touchard, the Foundation’s secretary generals. The negotiations and positions taken by the heads of the IEP—particularly regarding the Association Internationale and American foundations, but also university competitors and the Ministry of Education—forced them (in spite of themselves, in some cases) to innovate, to glorify research, and to emphasize empirical study, investigation, and methods. At CERI and Cevipof in particular, a generation of researchers came to embody this undertaking, which emerged around 1945 and was complete by the 1960s. We will hear more from them below.

The Discourse of Method and the Rhetoric of Science


We had the sense we were inventing everything [...]. We had the sense that there was nothing beforehand, that we were there, and that our mission was to invent. We had to be inventive.
(Politix interview with Jean-Luc Parodi)

34The creation of a troisième cycle was a strategy that guided the Foundation and the IEP toward autonomous training in their discipline. It increasingly became a matter of demonstrating in various forums—lecture halls, colloquia, congresses, research units, the media, polling companies, and so on—the pre-eminence and truly scientific progress made by the Foundation and the School in political science. Once again, the succession of events was unusual: the discipline was defined in response to institutional imperatives to limit potential competition from universities, especially from the École des Hautes Études, but this “pretext” took on a life of its own, affecting pedagogy, the methods and hypotheses that were chosen, and how research units were organized and studies were conducted.

35In a memo written in 1958, Stanley Hoffmann provided an update on the organization of political science courses at Harvard. This served as the basis for a discussion about teaching reform at the IEP. The emphasis was on the methodology that would strengthen the discipline and distance it from non-academic bodies of knowledge.


Almost all the social sciences—political science, sociology, political economy, and so on—are questioning their respective frontiers and the methods of research they should be using. These methods are being dramatically reinvented, and their development is such that a layman untrained in these techniques will soon be unable to claim a knowledge of the social sciences, much less contribute meaningfully to them. [33]

37The institutional project developing within Cevipof, CERI, and the political studies troisième cycle was the construction of the scientificity of political science. This model came from America, where a flourishing, influential political science had been developing for a long time, and where robust methods of analysis, models, and theorizations had helped to solidify and specify scientific production. [34] The American model functioned as a distinctive global brand, one that was not just organizational and pedagogical but also epistemological. The use of polls by David Easton, Seymour Lipset, and many others can be seen from this point of view, and used to understand Chapsal’s argument for behavioralism—unexpected in such an institutionally focused man, but linked to his new role as president of AISP. In a memo, Chapsal argued that the study of “political behavior” was the very mark of political science, and wanted “the behavioral approach to be integrated in future into political science more generally”. This interchange between institutional concerns and scientific choices is remarkable; once again, it reflects what we might call the fetishization of method and the research unit.

38During the discussion around the creation of the troisième cycle, some people took the claim to scientificity very seriously. Duverger, for instance, who was seconded to the Foundation as a director of studies, used the opportunity to repeatedly demand the assistants and working conditions he considered proper to a social science research unit. He laid out his conditions for participating in the troisième cycle in a letter to Chapsal. [35] First of all, he expected research assistants. For Duverger, the troisième cycle’s expected scientificity was connected to material equipment as a guarantee of robust methodology: “To create an advanced course in political studies, with international standing”, Duverger required “a fairly complete set of scientific equipment: a sufficient complement of machines for producing questionnaires (punching machines, card sorters, etc.) [was] essential, as well as a calculating machine, a photocopier, map-making equipment, and so on”. The vocabulary of the hard sciences is unexpected from a lawyer—one trained at law school and who had at that point barely utilized, let alone “practiced”, this register in his own publications—but is used throughout: as he writes in his conclusion, “[w]e ought to put together a genuine’research laboratory’ for the study of domestic political life”.

39As we have seen, developing the curriculum for the troisième cycle, particularly its general seminar, was marked by a methodological bias that subsequently became ubiquitous among members of the Foundation, its directors of studies, and the pedagogical management committee for the degree. Very little training was offered in the social sciences, and there was very little discussion of, for instance, current ideas in American political science. Instead, the program was immediately caught up in an obsession with “fact-gathering”, as well as exercises in statistical, cartographic, and survey methods. Trainee researchers in the troisième cycle were required to produce data, to go into the field, and to conduct studies. Jean Charlot describes being taught by this method:


As a generation, we were largely self-taught, except for the troisième cycle year. We did interesting things during that year—things people didn’t always do. For instance, [...] I knew how to make a map, I knew how to make a graph, [...]. I learned how to work on data with punch cards, sorters, the whole lot.
(Politix interview with Jean Charlot)

41The Sciences Po leadership supported this move toward specialization in empirical methods, even if it went against their own way of conceiving knowledge. We can see this in Lancelot’s tribute to Touchard, who Lancelot says knew how “to push himself”:


Modern political science, constructed on the model of American political science, wasn’t really Jean Touchard’s cup of tea. Yet it came to occupy a huge place in the Foundation’s research and publications [...]. Jean Touchard was trained in literature and the history of ideas, and wasn’t particularly prepared for quantitative data analysis—and even less so for information technology.

43In closing, Lancelot mentions an ironic remark by Touchard: “Mister Lancelot and Mister Ranger [...] have set up an IBM machine between themselves and the voters. The results are rather curious”. [36] Touchard’s recruitment of Michelat is another example of these strange alliances. [37]

Guy Michelat

Guy Michelat began carrying out research as a temporary lecturer at the Centre d’Études Sociologiques, including a large survey of children’s publishing, with 5,000 interviews. “I conducted a factor analysis in 1955 or 1956 [...]. It took a month or two [...]. We did it with calculating machines“. During his military service he met Jean-Paul Thomas, who was then in the troisième cycle at Sciences Po. Thomas was conducting a study on officers by taking biographical notes. “So I told him, when you’ve got a corpus like that to deal with, that’s not the way to go about it. You’ve got to do quantitative analysis. He had no idea, so I started showing him what to do“. When asked how his quantitative skills were viewed at Sciences Po, he replied that he was seen as “weird“, but added: “They told themselves it was necessary to do things like that. When they read American journals, they saw things [...] like that in them. So they said to themselves, right, we have to do the same thing“, and since “there was nobody who knew anything about these techniques [...]“. A little later, he added: “Lavau and Duverger were in favor of modern techniques, it’s true. The Americans were doing it, so we had to do it“. Michelat went on to say that this recognition of the quantitative aspect of the work, and of surveys, did not become the FNSP’s new Bible. Instead, he understood the position of Sciences Po’s leadership as follows: “It’s good that there are people doing these things and that we’re diversifying [...] with the idea that we cover more ground“ (Politix interview with Guy Michelat). Many praised Michelat’s role. Jean Ranger described the path toward using surveys in studies, an innovation at the time, as follows: “It was introduced very marginally through Stoetzel and Hassner’s contribution to the 1956 Cahier, which was about elections. For us, the person who introduced it wasn’t so much Dupeux but Michelat, who was on site“ (Politix interview with Jean Ranger).

44As Roland Cayrol says, even if it remained unfinished, the project of “making soft sciences into hard sciences” was shared by the researchers of the 1960s. From 1956 on, each election or referendum offered opportunities to carry out collective studies and surveys, observe campaigns, and analyze content, alongside other methodological innovations.

An Example: The 1965 Presidential Campaign

Researchers at Cevipof undertook a major study into the 1965 presidential election, which was published in the RFSP and the Foundation’s Cahiers. We asked Parodi how the researchers followed the campaign. He described an initiative—an “invention“—on their part. Pushed to say more about it (“How did you decide to do that?“), he responded: “It was always the same thing—it was a matter of’let’s try it and see“ [...] There was always the fieldwork side of things [...]. But it was always a matter of: “Let’s go [...], we need data, data, data. And so [...] we went looking for data. So we were ethnologists. But then there was the idea of reporting our sources [...] and so the film and recording creative side of things began to become more prominent. Still, it was very ethnological“. (When asked sharply, —Without an ethnologist among you?“ Parodi confidently replied: —Without an ethnologist“.) He remembers this scientific period as a golden age—“We were inventing, making concrete things, real things“. This stood up to all of our questions: —Did you think of yourselves as scientists, as doing social science?“ “Completely, completely“, he told us. “That’s exactly what we were“ (Politix interview with Jean-Luc Parodi).

45Researchers from other disciplines were sometimes harsh in their judgment of this developing political science, which focused more on accumulating data than on conceptual analysis and epistemological reflection. This is true of Henri Mendras, who was closely connected to Sciences Po at the time, where he was teaching, but who firmly approached our interview with him as a sociologist:


At the time I had a very clear idea of the difference between the sort of sociology [...] we wanted to do at the Centre d’Études Sociologiques (Center for Sociological Research, CES) and political science—which we thought of as, you know, a bit like journalism or literature.
(Politix interview with Henri Mendras)

47Most of the political scientists trained during the early years of the troisième cycle admitted in interviews to their lack of concern at the time for concepts or theories, and their huge appetite for methodology. Producing and analyzing survey data, immersing themselves in congresses, meetings, and campaigns, making maps, and filming—all these things helped build the brand of the political science researcher as the antithesis of the law professor. Ranger here refers to “jurists” to emphasize the difference between them and the young Cevipof researchers who marched under the banner of a triumphant empiricism:


They looked to us like gentlemen [...] who didn’t really grapple, to say the least, with concrete data. They were very speculative [...]. They made us laugh. It was wishy-washy. That was the difference between speculative thought and the sort of science we wanted to do. We were very rigid in our approach of the facts—it was facts, facts, nothing but facts [...].
(Politix interview with Jean Ranger)

49Far from the “science of models” promoted by some senior figures at the FNSP, the young students working in the research units adopted an uninhibited empiricism, trying out an entirely new way of being a researcher in the academic world.

A New Model of Researcher

50In interviews, Cevipof researchers—Michelat, Ranger, Parodi, Charlot, Cayrol, and Colette Ysmal—reiterated over and over that one joined Sciences Po very informally, given the nod by Chapsal or, especially, by Touchard. Social life within the research units was not hierarchical, and was characterized by a lack of competition—arising from the fact that careers in political science did not yet exist, and from a set of relationships centered on Touchard, who acted as father and patron to this little group, which grew rapidly over the 1960s. Describing the sociological characteristics of this small group is a complex task. Many came from families with a history of working in public institutions: Parodi and Racine, the children of very senior civil servants, rubbed shoulders with Mabileau and Lancelot, who came from military families, and Cayrol, the son of an education official posted to Morocco. Their presence at Sciences Po undoubtedly indicates the use of substantial social resources, even if for some of them the social distance that had to be crossed was very large—Charlot, for instance, describes in his interview his provincial, Breton background and his ignorance of the institution’s importance. The uses made of it—namely, taking a risk by choosing a new path with uncertain prospects, a profession without a related career and with very little money or prestige attached to it—require consideration in greater depth.

51This model of researcher, which comes across coherently throughout the interviews, was constructed in contrast to the forbidding mandarin-like character of relationships at the Faculty of Law. Parodi, one of Duverger’s assistants, sometimes went with him to the seminar he ran at the law faculty; never hesitant to contradict or argue with his superiors, he was astonished to discover that the assistants there were required to remain silent. The freedom of expression that permeated the Foundation’s research units led him to make several missteps in the legal world:


I said what I thought about the textbooks. I wrote a vicious review of Pierre Avril’s. It ended: “a book that tells us more about what it was like to live through the Fifth Republic than about the Fifth Republic itself“ [...]. A complete freedom of expression, but a degree of naivety, too.
(Politix interview with Jean-Luc Parodi)

53Duverger, who in some respects was part of the Sciences Po project, was treated as a department mandarin by this new generation of researchers. Here is Ranger again, describing his admiration for Touchard and Goguel—“There was a complete freedom of tone, entrepreneurial qualities, initiative”—and remarking in contrast:


On the other hand, Duverger was a mandarin [...]. You only had to see how he treated [Jean-Marie] Cotteret and [Claude] Emeri.
(Politix interview with Jean Ranger)

55More broadly, these new researchers working in the Foundation’s research units all described their early experiences as a golden age. Touchard hired all of them very soon after they completed the troisième cycle; they were all the same age, sharing the same offices, and talking, drinking, and working in complete freedom. [38] “We saw each other all the time”, explains Cayrol. “We talked all the time. We ate together all the time. It was a kind of family, a community”. Their positions were permanent, at a time when low job security was the rule in the world of junior researchers, at least until the beginning of the Fifth Republic. Some institutes, such as the CNRS, INED, and the FNSP initially defined their positions as temporary. Those with doctorates who wanted a career were advised to join the university: “That was still the point of reference”. [39] Instead, they chose to stay. To emphasize how firm his choice was, Cayrol stressed that many of his acquaintances did not understand what he was doing: “Lots of people said to me,’It’s good to do research when you’re starting out. After that, it’s either better to teach, or to get out of there and do something active in the real world.’” For Cayrol and the others, “it was for life, certainly, absolutely” (Politix interview with Roland Cayrol). In response to Touchard’s assumption, “You’re not going to be a researcher your whole life”, Parodi—like Cayrol, Mendras, and Michelat—answered: “But of course I am!” He was “happy as a lord”. Others, he said, “found compensations and success on the outside [...] Cayrol, for instance, at the Club Jean Moulin; Tavernier and Adam were very active in the CFDT” (Politix interview with Jean-Luc Parodi).

56This model of researcher entirely constituted in opposition to the model of university teachers, particularly those from law faculties, became more fragile over time. This happened in two ways. The first was scientific, as new tensions arose around the analysis of political behavior and competition. Those who followed electoral campaigns, party congresses, and civic political attitudes in a narrative fashion were challenged by those such as Dupeux, Lancelot, and Charlot who used surveys, collective studies, percentages, and tables. This was a point of tension that gradually developed among Cevipof researchers, especially between the “political life” researchers, who saw a multiplicity of points of view as an intellectual safeguard and who sometimes came from the old days of Sciences Po, and the others with their polls, correlations, and tables. [40]


Like Grosser, I have some difficulty reconciling two concerns: introducing students to the concept of French political life, and giving them a training in political science. [41]

58Hurtig’s note, written in January 1960, sums up the tensions researchers and teachers were feeling at the time. But the conflict shifted, and empiricists—young Cevipof-style researchers—were criticized in turn for their lack of interest in theoretical models. In the late 1960s this tension led to some bitter judgments on the state of the discipline.

59It was without question Lavau who hardened and complicated the terms of the conflict. His aim was to connect method to more theoretical work. In 1963, he created the new section in the RFSP discussed above, “Forces politiques”. Its contributors were largely Cevipof researchers, and he regularly complained that their work was too journalistic. Without putting a date on it, everybody recalled his final judgment on the section as “journalism gone cold”, which ultimately led to its demise. Lavau holds a special position in the history of the discipline. He was a lawyer and left-wing activist who left IEP Grenoble for Sciences Po in 1962, becoming part of the Foundation’s mentorship team. He adopted a scientific position distinct from the syncretism of those like Touchard, and along with others such as Grosser and Hurtig set out to spread the ideas of American political science, discussing and using them in his own work, classes, and research, and in his reviews in the RFSP. In 1969, during a study day on the state of French political science, Lavau built on Hurtig’s claim that political science was “nomothetic”, attacking certain features that the discipline had retained in France. [42] His aim was to align it with the American model, and he despaired in the face of its lack of theoretical resources and its modest ambitions, which were limited to mere description.


Our tendency in France, at least when we analyze French political phenomena [...] is to emphasize the phenomenon of “political life“[...] We could almost draw a strict opposition between the term “sociology“ and the term “political life“ [...] When Robert Lane writes a book called Political Life, it isn’t a study of the ups and downs of political struggles in the United States. Instead, it is a theoretical discussion, based on studies, of the influence of personality and psychological factors on political behavior. Another even clearer example: when David Easton writes a theoretical work called A Systems Analysis of Political Life, it is in fact a general model, the most general one possible, which enables us to study practically all mechanisms and political processes in all societies from any angle. But in France we focus on the phenomenon of political life, and so remain at worst at the level of narrative and description—and, at best, at the level of an intelligent explanation of certain series of political events. What is most often missing is a general framework of interpretation and explanation, one that is comparative and generalizable.

61Lavau then launched into a plea for moderate use of models, something that “doesn’t get good press in France”. He repeatedly told some of his interlocutors—including Duverger, whom he clashed with verbally throughout the day—that French debates were outdated, ignoring new developments in the United States. Commenting on a comparison made by Duverger between “very general theories and theories of medium or intermediate rank”, he remarked dryly: “This is an old debate, one that took place between Merton and Parsons at least fifteen years ago”.

62Secondly, the Cevipof-CERI model of the 1960s became more fragile when these early researchers, recruited at a very young age, were faced with the lack of possible career paths within a world undergoing a different sort of professionalization. The agrégation du supérieur civil service teaching examination, based on the legal model, was largely closed to them. Their only possible opportunities for progression were elsewhere, in polling institutes or the media. Gathering data, monitoring campaigns, drawing up maps, conducting surveys—the knowledge accumulated in the troisième cycle found new and unexpected uses a few years later when these researchers had to invent new ways of continuing their otherwise blocked careers (as Parodi said, they had to find “compensations”). They had to leave Sciences Po and its research units and actualize one of the properties of this site of disciplinary emergence—namely, its status as an elite network, visible in the composition of its faculty. This was when the political science invented at Sciences Po restructured itself more clearly as an applied science. Up to now, we have argued as though the Foundation was able to create a discipline and produce researchers simply by mobilizing institutional and financial resources. Now we must step back and recall just how conducive the period 1950-60 was for the emergence of the applied social sciences. [43] Both the control exercised by the FNSP and the IEP and the limited academic options faced by this first generation of political researchers helped build a discipline that was strongly connected to social and political demand, both in its contents and in the modes of professionalization developing within it.

A Discipline and Its Allies

63In the middle of the twentieth century a renewed production of expertise took place in many social worlds. The creation of the INED, the Insee (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies), and, after Liberation, the Commissariat Général du Plan (Planning Commission) was one such vector within the world of administration and public policy. [44] Studies have shown a collective rise in more qualified social groups—including doctors, farmers, researchers, engineers, and senior civil servants—who were interested in new, better-equipped social expertise that could help reform a country they felt was under-performing and uncompetitive and simply reproduced outdated privileges. Described collectively as “modernizers”, they intended to use scientific objectivity to transform the world. Within public policy, the technocratic pull felt by part of the upper administrative ranks affected the Mendés-France administration, and appeared to solidify in the early days of the Fifth Republic. Again, it was a matter of making government scientific, free from electoral and clientelist concerns and geared toward forecasting and rational action. [45] The goal was to shore up an objective capacity for action within the social world. The rise of the social sciences occurred within this movement. This was the moment when an applied section of the social sciences—across economics, sociology, and political science—was born.

64Leaders and teachers at the FNSP and the IEP were closely associated with this project in various capacities: as columnists in Le Monde, as members of Gaullist cabinets and the Club Jean Moulin, as close associates of Mendès-France, and as experts within the research offices of specific ministries. [46] The benefits of the new scientific direction that came with the Foundation’s creation were (apparently quite literally) discovered. In June 1950, at a meeting of the FNSP’s board of directors, Siegfried celebrated the Foundation’s greater than expected influence:


We are gradually realizing that the Foundation has become a source of political studies, and that people naturally turn to us when they need a study conducted. This makes me particularly glad because at the Foundation’s creation we conceived it more as an administrative institution. [47]

66Grasping the evolution of international relations in a polarizing world; analyzing the twists and turns of national political life; understanding, for example, where the RPF’s voters came from in 1947, or the MRP’s in 1945-6; measuring the Poujadists’ breakthrough movement in 1956; analyzing shifts within the electorate and the parties at the beginning of the Fifth Republic—rather than an editorialist’s lofty vision, all these demanded scientific analysis backed up by the tables, maps, and statistics these new scientists were understood to provide. From the late 1940s on, some at Sciences Po shared the modernizers’ concern for intervening in the world. The clash between political science and social demands for expertise occurred within a convergence on a research program which focused on the study of current events.

Current Events as a New Field of Research


From 1958 on, the national media, press, radio, and television all wanted to speak to the Foundation’s researchers. [...] We covered the November 1958 elections. We were the first, the pioneers [...] Then there were all the major Fifth Republic consultations, the most current and the hottest topics. It was Jean Touchard who gave Stanley Hoffmann the idea of publishing a Cahier from the Foundation on the Poujadist movement—on the present moment, that is, on what was happening right then. That showed the possibility of a scientific approach to the most controversial and the most passionately debated political facts. [48]

68Expertise in reform presupposes a body of scientists engaged in the social world, anxious to produce powerful diagnostics and eager to guide the action. “Current affairs” was a field left untouched by university researchers, and one in which new actors were therefore free to invest their energy. This was a prospect that brought together geographers, economists, sociologists, and lawyers who were close to the FNSP and engaged in various ways in the emergence of the earliest form of political science. Déloye very precisely identifies and documents what he calls the “pull toward presentism” that characterized this political science. [49] This focus on current affairs and the issues of the present—which came with a desire to provide diagnoses, and so to change things—can be seen in every one of the social science disciplines gathered at Sciences Po.

69For instance, several lawyers led the claim to be able to analyze policy, including Duverger, Vedel, and Burdeau, all of whom were relatively young constitutional scholars in the 1950s and’60s, some of them looking forward to a bright future, and some already established in or outside the university. Bastien François shows how Duverger, following someone like Burdeau, tried very early on to remake the law by blending it with political science expertise that might be able to incorporate concrete political practices. Duverger argued that this emphasis on political science would function as a sort of “stop-gap”, a remedy for the loss of credibility and “out of touch” character that was affecting the ability of constitutional law to judge—or simply even describe—the rules of the political game. [50] Since the 1930s, institutional debates on state reform and the restoration of government effectiveness and parliamentary discipline had been particularly complex. The double election in 1947, which fell outside the rules established by the constitution, and the unfolding of ministerial crises outside the constitutional framework, revealed the law’s inability to explain, let alone predict, political phenomena. Similarly, interpreting the Constitution of the Fifth Republic and de Gaulle’s behavior—his refusal to convene an extraordinary parliamentary session in 1960, or the highly disputed use of Article 11 in 1962—posed numerous problems for constitutionalists, devaluing their own expertise. Since the 1930s, and particularly since the end of the war, constitutionalist discourse had appeared out of touch, unable to explain institutional phenomena by constitutional reason alone. Duverger quickly recognized this misalignment, and did so more impressively than others. (After the war, barely thirty, he took over as head of IEP Bordeaux and began writing regularly for Le Monde, a departure from the distance normally associated with a lawyer’s duties.) His aim was to renew political analysis in the name of science, using, as he noted rather ostentatiously, “the greatest possible degree of quantification and mathematics”, and to provide new, specialized knowledge about political life, paying attention to the practical functioning of party organizations and political groups’ strategies. [51] These were the conditions under which a lawyer could hope to become (once again) an expert in deciphering political and institutional strategies and prospective constitutional engineering.

70This interest in current affairs—that is, in scientifically-guided reform, or modernization—influenced many teachers at IEP Paris from the 1950s onward. We also encounter it in some economists: in his book of interviews with Jean Lacouture, Jeanneney deplored how closed-off university departments were, pointing out that the bachelor’s degree programs still used in the 1950s dated from before 1914. When he arrived at the department in Paris in 1951, Jeanneney also took over the Institut de Recherche Économique et Sociale (Institute of Social and Economic Research) created by Charles Rist, which had survived with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Jeanneney managed to make the FNSP’s links with, and funding for, the institute more regular. With an emphasis on documentation, the center hired a statistician and a graph designer. The insistence on scientific apparatus was now tied to the explanation of current events, reforms to be undertaken, and advice to decision-makers. In his memoirs, Jeanneney describes the state of mind with which he approached an economist’s work, quoting at length from the introduction to his first class, given in 1952-3:


Science must be wholly independent of political passion, but it must be able to be used for developing policy. For that to be the case, it must be based on facts. Histories of old facts—in some cases, very old facts—can certainly provide valuable material, but the more recent past is indispensable because it is there we find the data underlying the problems facing politicians and the choices available to them. It is from there that the future emerges. Any forecast implies a knowledge of the past that extends up to the limit of the present.

72Further on, he comes back to his concern for social utility:


The training I was planning seemed to me useful for senior officials advising ministers and implementing economic policies, for parliamentarians whose job it was to support or attack these policies, for journalists who criticized and discussed them, for business leaders who needed to better understand their economic environment, and more generally for any citizen interested in voting in a considered manner. [52]

74Jeanneney was in the business of collecting facts, and bringing economics to bear on current issues. Like Duverger, he wrote for Le Monde, which he says “welcomed him warmly”. [53] He too was consulted as an expert by the governments of the Fourth and Fifth Republics.

75Historians, who had been very visible when political science was first being constructed at Sciences Po, were also distinguished by their interest in current affairs. Scholars such as Duroselle and Remond, who published a “Plaidoyer pour une histoire délaissée: La fin de la IIIe République” (Plea for an abandoned history: The end of the Third Republic) in the RFSP in 1957, argued that professional historians had abandoned recent history. [54] This forgotten history was primarily political, and very contemporary. The distrust felt by the Annales school or the structuralists toward the notion of “political event” or “decision-maker” is well known. The devaluation of contemporary political history was part of the same movement: as a history of the ephemeral, of the short-term, of the event, there were concerns that it would wipe out any longer, and supposedly deeper, historical perspective. It was not just historians but lawyers, journalists, and senior civil servants who tried to draw attention to these neglected objects and territories, each in their own way, each hoping to lay claim to a new capacity to intervene.

76A group of journalists from Le Monde, L’Express and L’Observateur—Philippe Devillers, André Fontaine, Pierre Viansson Ponté, Jacques Fauvet, and Raymond Barrillon—was thus able to claim jurisdiction over discussions of political life and international events. The members of the group divided the areas of investigation among themselves: some looked at the history of the army, political life, and state secrets, and others at international relations and decolonization. In 1962, Jean Lacouture took over a collection at Le Seuil he called “L’histoire immédiate” (Immediate history). This small group was part of a network of alliances with the FNSP and the IEP. [55] They gave classes, belonged to the AFSP, wrote for the RFSP or the FNSP collections, and had their books reviewed in them. The analysis of political news developed within a situation of competitive co-operation. Duverger, for example, published his book on Les partis politique (Political parties) in 1951, the same year in which Fauvet published a book on Les forces politiques de la France (Political forces in France). In 1947, he published a book on Les partis dans la France actuelle (Parties in France today), and in 1954, René Rémond’s thesis on Les droits en France (Rights in France) was picked up by Aubier.

77The field of current affairs is also linked to the “concrete”, with collecting “facts”. It is far removed from abstract theoretical constructions, seen as disconnected from the real. The effort the Foundation put into analyzing contemporary issues positioned the university as a foil: its researchers attacked public law scholars, laboring over exegeses of inoperative constitutions, historians and economists whose analyses ended with the First World War, and even sociologists who remained locked away in their ivory towers. Parodi drew a distinction between those sociologists attached to Sciences Po—who divided up the “domains of the real [...] with Mendras taking farmers and Dumazedier taking leisure”—and “closed-off” university sociologists: “Gurvich and his nine definitions of social class! [...] You had to recite them back to him in the exam!” (Politix interview with Jean-Luc Parodi).

78The empiricism of researchers in the FNSP research units was as much linked to these immediate post-war alliances as it was to the institutionally organized reliance on the model of behavioralist American political science. Teaching at the IEP had long drawn its materials from its close connection with current events and issues, which fit with elites’ own concerns about decision and action; the school had been doing so for a long time, and the social makeup of its teaching body was both a condition and a sign of this. The FNSP, as well as its research units, journal, and symposia, now specialized and “scientificized” these institutional arrangements. Hence their watchword: “We have to produce data on contemporary issues”—on parties, elections, international conflicts, and so on. Researchers trained at Sciences Po rallied to this call, and entered the world of polling, organizations, and the media more readily because their career paths were partly blocked by the institution’s non-university status and the fact that their research units were not part of the CNRS.

79Referring to Cayrol, a member of the Club Jean Moulin, Parodi made such scientific engagement with the world into a methodological principle:


We are ethnologists of politics—that is, we have to get to know the tribe, have to go and see it. [...] Tavernier and Adam spend all their research time at the CFDT. To work well you need a field, networks, people willing to talk, and so on.
(Politix interview with Jean-Luc Parodi)

81As Cayrol said:


Working on the presidential election was first of all a way for us to “go and see“—that is, we lumbered ourselves with meetings, with internal meetings, got ourselves invited to secret things the press weren’t allowed to [...] I remember this period as something like an immersion in political reality [...] and we were less interested in writing than in understanding what was happening.

83To conclude with a question he asked himself:


What sort of work can we do on contemporary issues?
(Politix interview with Roland Cayrol)

Current Affairs as a Meeting Ground

85The scientific claim to the territory of current affairs encountered expectations that had arisen in the social and political world. The places this convergence was expressed were, in part, those created within Sciences Po. We find traces of these affinities in the early issues of the RFSP, where the need to construct a useful social scientific expertise hung over several of the contributions and reviews. Pierre Laroque, a senior civil servant, closed all contributions with a call to develop political science as an aid to decision-making, and two articles in the inaugural issue of the RFSP set the tone, with Sauvy and Vedel presenting a manifesto for improved leadership training and for constructing a shared scientific knowledge. Another example is provided by the issue on land-use planning published in 1956, which brought together geographers, politicians, and senior civil servants to work on future public policies. The true encounter between political science and the world, however, came at the beginning of the Fifth Republic. The technocratization of politics and the proliferation of public modernization policies under the aegis of the Planning Commission and individual ministries reinforced the applied dimension of the social sciences. The scientific activism of Sciences Po, which was able to secure post-war autonomy for this new discipline, was converted into a tool for intervening in the social world, one used in political, administrative, economic, and polling organizations. A concern for method and data-driven empiricism had been tools for making the discipline scientifically autonomous. In the context of modernization, they became a vector for the discipline’s immersion in non-academic social worlds hungry for new knowledge.

86The most remarked-on point of interest shared by researchers, politicians, and journalists was, of course, the use of polls. Loïc Blondiaux has shown that polling and the definitions of democracy and public opinion it involves became prominent in the Fifth Republic after a number of abortive attempts in the Fourth. [56] The Foundation’s researchers played an innovative, active role in establishing surveys at the heart of political analysis. In 1957, Armand Colin published a 500-page book edited by Duverger, Goguel, and Touchard and based on an AFSP study day on the 1956 elections. For many researchers at Sciences Po, this was a landmark publication. In his review in the RFSP in 1959—when knowing where the Poujadistes had come from or where the Gaullist voters of 1951 had disappeared were no longer particularly pressing issues—Meyriat acknowledged a number of methodological innovations for the time, and particularly the one that shaped the contribution of Jean Stoetzel and Pierre Hassner—namely, a two-stage opinion poll within a constituency. He (also!) offered a close discussion of the method’s shortcomings, touching particularly on the low number of respondents. In fact, everything had changed by the time Meyriat wrote this review in 1959: the use of surveys was becoming more widespread, and polling companies, newspapers, partisan groups, and political science research units found themselves working together in a sort of cross-promotion. From spring 1959 onward, France Soir regularly published an indicator of General de Gaulle’s popularity put together by Ifop. De Gaulle’s victory—which seemed to play out beyond parties, a direct conquest of popular opinion—made polls a particularly useful tool: useful for the Gaullists themselves, who were able to demonstrate their new power, the direct link between the head of state and the French people, and to test it, but also useful for the associated pollsters and political scientists to whom people now had to turn for explanations of the new balance of political power. The Gaullist Republic enshrined a tool that had been unavailable—except among the Mendésists at L’Express—under the Fourth Republic’s parliamentary rules, where explorations of the shape of a body of opinion that its representatives had supposedly tamed were seen as useless and even undemocratic. In an article in the RFSP in 1961, Jacques Marette, then a Gaullist senator, explained the benefits of polls connected to a telephone interview campaign conducted in a rather unpredictable by-election in Paris’s 9th arrondissement. One of his conclusions was the “effectiveness, even in France, of modern electoral methods and techniques inspired by the great Anglo-American parties”. He felt this effectiveness was clearly established, and far better than, for instance, that offered by the studies from the intelligence services. [57] Once again, we find praise for surveys and the American model in the RFSP—but this time, significantly, coming from a political professional. Marette also spoke at an AFSP study day in March 1966 on polling and political science run by Stoetzel. He put a price on party demand for polls—a political party should, he said, spend “around a fifth of its budget” on polling—and called for a political science made “for immediate use rather than theoretical research” (p. 20). Many Cevipof researchers collaborated with polling institutes with increasing regularity. Lancelot, for instance, worked with Sofres from 1967 onward. In the 1960s, journalists, political scientists, and party organizations all became converts to polling, even those who were most hostile to this sort of opinion research. The Communist Party got involved in 1966, commissioning Michelat, at Cevipof, and Michel Simon, a sociologist and the leader of the Parti communiste français, to run a large Ifop survey on voting intentions and attitudes. Researchers at Sciences Po existed outside of academic competition, with their careers unable to progress within the Foundation, but were trained to carry out surveys and handle figures; in this sense, they were particularly well situated to turn polling into the chief tool of a new approach becoming prominent in the world of research and especially in the social and political world.

87* * *

88Political science would have undoubtedly existed without the FNSP. But it developed with remarkable speed, and with a specific empirical and epistemological orientation, thanks to Sciences Po’s distinctive position both in the world of academic training and in the French project of social and political modernization, where science was a tool for decision-making, prediction, and government. In this first configuration of the discipline, political science became a mixture of hyper-scientific rhetoric, constructed from punch cards, quantitative surveys, polls, and statistical tables, as well as theories borrowed from across the Atlantic. The work it produced, however, was still largely descriptive. Touchard, Lavau, and Duverger all expressed these tensions in their own way. They were constitutive of the discipline and, undoubtedly, of its social success. By mobilizing the language of science, the discipline could claim the support of American foundations and networks of American political scientists, as well as political and media leaders interested in a renewed scientific expertise as part of post-war modernization. Many factors—its position as an elite institution and the networks it maintained with leaders in politics, the media, the civil service, and economics; its international scientific networks; its status, which was more flexible than that of the university; and its attractiveness to some of its members—put Sciences Po, led by the pairing of School and Foundation, in a position to shelter, promote, and develop a political science whose features subsequently owed much to these institutional conditions. The ambition to conduct scientific work, to produce research, and to foster studies developed on the condition that it restrict the famous “Boutmy model”. A team of post-war leaders set about doing so.

89The hypothesis that the autonomization of science and scientists comes about through broad linear and cumulative movements has to be revised to emphasize more unstable, reversible situations, ones sensitive to public policy, to demand and resources, to scientific competition, and to the organization of research and higher education. We have described the initial configuration by which political science emerged in France, dominated by the FNSP and its networks of modernizers, American foundations, and Gaullist authorities. These were the paradoxical conditions of the discipline’s emergence and rapid “scientificization”. Between 1967 and 1969, signs that this initial configuration was becoming less stable began to multiply. In 1967, Touchard expressed concerns about the state of French political science in a note to the CNRS, and a similarly alarming picture was painted the same year at the IPSA congress in Brussels, which called French political science “backward”. This set the Foundation’s leaders the goal of increased professionalization, with recruitment regulated by an agrégation open to researchers. [58] May 1968 had a traumatic effect on the leadership of Sciences Po, which fell back on its role as an elite institution and sidelined research. (An expansion project, which was to move the preparatory year to the new buildings at La Folie-Nanterre, was abandoned.) Touchard was deeply affected by May 1968, and by the distrust directed at him both by researchers and, through Chapsal, by the IEP’s leadership. From then until his death in 1971, he wrote disillusioned, alarmist memos about the state of the discipline. Budgets were in deficit, and the flow of new research began to dry up. [59] In March 1969, a gloomy picture emerged from discussions during an AFSP study day, with Grosser and Lavau both particularly pessimistic about their discipline’s scientific underdevelopment and isolationism. [60] This was the moment where the Foundation’s researchers turned resolutely toward polling institutes and the media, abandoning a discipline that reconstituted itself within the university around the agrégation and other scientific innovations.

90The influence of Sciences Po on the development of political science weakened in the late 1960s as another configuration began to emerge. The end of the initial configuration was signaled by the institutional split between the IEP and the FNSP, marked by conflict between Chapsal and Touchard and Chapsal’s refusal to follow Touchard’s initiatives in favor of research; by the rebellion of FNSP researchers against Touchard’s authority and their increasing unease about their limited professional opportunities; and by the FNSP’s failure to impose on the Ministry of Higher Education and lawyers a model for the agrégation du supérieur that could take the place of the researchers’ course. [61] The discipline was still divided between Sciences Po and the universities, but the FNSP was no longer able (or willing) to play a unifying role. Professional hierarchies were transformed, with careers and knowledge now oriented toward the model of the law professor, which had been reconfigured to some extent during the period. This marked the end of an era.

91It is difficult to see the subsequent reconfiguration as a sign of disciplinary autonomization. But during this period, from 1970 to the 1980s, career models evolved and the institutions where researchers might work diversified and developed separately. [62] Soon, the practice of political science at Sciences Po or in the universities presupposed a whole set of different careers, bodies of knowledge, references, methods, and networks. Jean Ranger, for instance, explained that “we were incapable of interesting the next generation, which turned toward something completely different” (Politix interview). Political scientists in the university experienced a different history, to which Sciences Po researchers recruited and socialized in the early days of the discipline adapted. [63] It is in this light that we should consider Cayrol’s answer to a question during an interview in the mid-1990s:


I think, for the era of the political science you’re working on, this is basically a good time to do a study, because it’s dead. I think the political science that emerged in that period is over. I think it was killed by the evolution of Sciences Po, by this sort of progressive sociologization of political science research units, and by the political science agrégation—and so by the critical discourse of which you are the most bearable representatives.


  • [1]
    This article’s history is just as chaotic as the one we attempt to describe. It started life with a series of interviews conducted by the journal Politix in the 1990s, and was written in tandem by Loïc Blondiaux and Brigitte Gaïti, who worked on the archives of Sciences Po, graciously made available by Dominique Parcollet. In spite of this work and several texts on these topics, the article was seriously delayed. For personal reasons, Loïc Blondiaux had to withdraw as an author. The article would not be what it is without him, our many discussions, and the articles he has written on related subjects. Relief came from Marie Scot, who has also done much work on the history of Sciences Po and political science, having helped develop the archives on Sciences Po’s official website (!/fr/home) and written a master’s thesis in modern history on “L’influence intellectuelle et idéologique américaine sur la formation des élites en France: Le cas de l’IEP-FNSP 1945-1960” (American Intellectual and Ideological Influence on Elite Education in France: The IEP and FNSP, 1945-1960), 2001, Paris 8 University. Our article does not systematically present the literature on the history of French political science. For this, we refer the reader to a very thorough bibliography produced by the AFSP—more precisely, by Yves Déloye—available online at
  • [2]
    See Anne-Cécile Douillet and Jean-Pierre Zuanon, Quarante ans de recherches en sciences sociales: Regards sur le CERAT 1963-2003, Grenoble, Presses Universitaires de Grenoble, 2004.
  • [3]
    To avoid unwieldiness and repetition we sometimes use the term “Sciences Po”, rare at the time, to refer to the complex formed by IEP Paris and the FNSP.
  • [4]
    “Les ‘années folles’ (1949-1958)”, AFSP virtual archive,
  • [5]
    For a comparative perspective, see Hans-Dieter Klingemann (ed.), The State of Political Science in Western Europe, Opladen, Barbara Budrich, 2007. See also the case of neighboring Switzerland: Philippe Gottraux, Pierre-Antoine Schorderet, and Bernard Voutat, La science politique suisse à l’épreuve de son histoire: Genèse, émergence et institutionnalisation d’une discipline scientifique, Lausanne, Réalités sociales, 2000.
  • [6]
    The division used here is different from the one proposed by Pierre Favre, who locates the emergence of the first forms of objectivation of the political and transformations of ways of thinking—rather than the construction of a scientific space, with degrees, researchers, journals, and research units—in the years 1871-1914. See his Naissances de la science politique en France 1870-1914, Paris, Fayard, 1989.
  • [7]
    Here we consider the emergence of a scientific discipline around a number of teaching and research institutions, but we should again recall that, since the nineteenth century, hybrid bodies of knowledge had been growing up around the development of universal suffrage by the elites. See Yves Déloye, “La construction politique d’une ’science électorale’ en France sous la IIIe République: Facteurs et acteurs d’un métissage politico-scientifique”, Revue internationale de politique comparée, 19(3), 2012, 37-66.
  • [8]
    See Johan Heilbron, “Pionniers par défaut? Les débuts de la recherche au Centre d’études sociologiques”, Revue française de sociologie, 32(3), 1991, 365-79. In the same issue, see also Jean-René Tréanton, “Les premières années du Centre d’études sociologiques”, 381-404; Loïc Blondiaux, “Comment rompre avec Durkheim? Jean Stoetzel et la sociologie française de l’après-guerre, 1945-1958“, 411-41; and Jean Stoetzel, “L’esprit de la sociologie contemporaine”, 443-56, which is taken from a lecture given in 1946 at the University of Bordeaux, where Stoetzel had just taken up his post. See also Jean-Christophe Marel, “Le déploiement de la recherche au Centre d’études sociologiques, 1945-1960”, Revue pour l’histoire du CNRS, 13, 2005,, accessed 21 March 2018.Online
  • [9]
    See Brigitte Mazon, Aux origines de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales: Le rôle du mécénat américain 1920-1960, Paris, Éditions du Cerf, 1988.
  • [10]
    See Paul-André Rosental, L’intelligence démographique: Sciences et politiques des populations en France (1930-1960), Paris, Odile Jacob, 2003.
  • [11]
    See François Fourquet, Les comptes de la puissance: Histoire de la comptabilité nationale et du Plan, Paris, Recherches, 1980. On the establishment of economics within teaching and research institutions, see Lucette Le Van-Lemesle, Le juste ou le riche: L’enseignement de l’économie politique, 1815-1950, Paris, Comité d’histoire économique et financière de la France, 2004. On the place of economics teaching at Sciences Po, see Emmanuel Dreyfus, “L’enseignement de l’économie à Sciences Po (1945-1989): Idées économiques et formation des élites”, Ph.D. diss., 2011, Paris-Sorbonne University.
  • [12]
    These interviews—which we call “Politix interviews”, as discussed in the presentation of our sources at the end of the introduction above—are now available on the AFSP’s virtual archives. Bodin was previously editor of the journal Esprit and Touchard’s assistant at the FNSP, where he was in charge of publications.
  • [13]
    We refer readers to Olivier Ihl, Martine Kaluzynski, and Renaud Payre’s work on the science of government. For an overview, see Olivier Ihl and Martine Kaluszynski, “Pour une sociologie historique des sciences de gouvernement”, Revue française d’administration publique, 102, 2002, 229-43.
  • [14]
    Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1987.
  • [15]
    We somewhat neglect the CERI in this article, as the conditions under which it was created and developed are analyzed at length in Nicolas Guilhot’s article in this special issue. We are guilty of a certain Parisian focus in our reconstruction of this history, largely sidelining certain actors who played an important role within the IEPs in Grenoble and Bordeaux. One of our arguments here, however, is that the discipline’s development played out within the alliance between the FNSP and IEP Paris, embodied between their founding and the end of the 1960s by Jacques Chapsal and Jean Touchard.
  • [16]
    Unfortunately, the tapes are not precisely dated. The interviews took place between 1994 and 1996.
  • [17]
    “La science politique française et les structures universitaires”, AFSP study day, “Regards sur la science politique française”, 6. Archives AFSP, Fonds Jean-Luc Parodi, 2AFSP2.
  • [18]
    “In those days I hated law. If you had told me then that one day I’d be an agrégée, I would have jumped out the window [...] In the end, I studied law and did the bachelor’s degree in the philosophy of law to please my mother, and did the degree in philosophy to please myself [...]. Then I got sick [...]. What was there to do in the mountains? No philosophy agrégation, no books, nothing. I was just above Grenoble [...]. So I said to myself, ’Well, I’ll sign up at the law school, that ought to be at least a little interesting’” (Politix interview with Madeleine Grawitz).
  • [19]
    Georges Burdeau, Traité de science politique, Paris, LGDJ, 1949-57. Simply listing the volume titles gives an idea of this bias: Le pouvoir politique (Political Power, volume 1), L’État (The State, volume 2), Le statut du pouvoir dans l’État (The Status of Power in the State, volume 3), Les régimes politiques (Political Regimes, volume 4), L’État libéral et les techniques politiques de la démocratie gouvernée (The Liberal State and the Political Techniques of Governed Democracy, volume 5), La démocratie gouvernante, son assise sociale et sa philosophie politique (Governing Democracy, Its Social Basis, and Its Political Philosophy, volume 6), and La démocratie gouvernementale, ses structures gouvernementales (Governmental Democracy, Its Structures of Government, volume 7). We can also cite Burdeau’s Méthode de la science politique, Paris, Dalloz, 1959; Marcel Prélot, Cours de science politique: Licence 3e année, Paris, Les cours de droit, 1958; and Georges Vedel, Introduction à la science politique, Paris, Les cours de droit, 1957.
  • [20]
    This was Alfred Grosser’s argument at an AFSP study day on 8 March 1969, during a debate on “L’état de la science politique en France” (The state of political science in France, AFSP, Entretiens du samedi, 10, 1969). He drew a contrast between modernizing law professors, who were willing to work within their discipline in order to enlarge it, and traditionalists who saw lawyers as the “natural” choice for teaching social sciences (5-6). We will consider how this hypothesis can be refined with the example of Maurice Duverger.
  • [21]
    AFSP, “L’état de la science politique”.
  • [22]
    2SP41, Miscellaneous, “La science politique en France 1945-1958”, Paris, 1960. This is an introduction to the French literature intended for foreign readers.
  • [23]
    Jean Leca, “La science politique dans le champ intellectuel français”, Revue française de science politique, 32(4-5), August-October 1982, 653-78, particularly 658.
  • [24]
    Occupational statistics given in the Livret de l’étudiant des professeurs de l’IEP. See Marie Scot, “Enquête sur la multipositionnalité des professeurs de l’IEP 1955-2008”, commissioned by Bruno Latour, scientific director of Sciences Po, 2009.
  • [25]
    2SP3. Goguel proposes adding “a comparative study of the functioning of parliamentary assemblies”.
  • [26]
    Pierre Duclos, “Le paradoxe du political scientist”, Revue française de science politique, 10(1), February 1960, 114-29.
  • [27]
    Jean Viet, “Burdeau (Georges)—Méthode de la science politique”, Revue française de science politique, 9(1), book review, February 1959, 261-3.
  • [28]
    Alfred Grosser, “Duverger (Maurice)—Méthodes de la science politique”, Revue française de science politique, 9(1), book review, February 1959, 263-5.
  • [29]
    Vedel’s subtitle is “Étude quantitative (1951-1980) pour contribuer à une histoire de la science politique en France” (A quantitative study [1951-1980], toward a history of political science in France).
  • [30]
    Thibaud Boncourt, “The Evolution of Political Science in France and Britain: A Comparative Study of Two Political Science Journals”, European Political Science, 6(3), 2007, 276-94.
  • [31]
    Jean Leca, “Les cinquante ans de la RFSP: Une relecture cavalière des débuts”, Revue française de science politique, 51(1-2), February 2001, 5-17. The Anglo-American researchers included Harold Lasswell, Peter Campbell, Crawford B. Macpherson, Maurice G. Kendall, Philip Williams, and Stanley Hoffmann, who had been attached to the FNSP and had left for Harvard, subsequently acting as an intermediary between France and the United States.
  • [32]
    See Alain Garrigou, Les élites contre la République: Sciences Po et l’ENA, Paris, La Découverte, 2001.
  • [33]
    2SP11, Dossier “Réforme des études IEP 1958”, sub-dossier “Suggestion ayant servi de base aux discussions”.
  • [34]
    Scot, “L’influence intellectuelle”.
  • [35]
    Letter from Duverger to Chapsal, 18 April 1955 (2SP2, Dossier 1.3, “Création d’un diplôme supérieur d’études politiques 1955”, sub-dossier “Notes des directeurs d’études”).
  • [36]
    From Alain Lancelot’s contribution to the symposium in honor of Jean Touchard, held on 19 October 2001, at Sciences Po. Reproduced in Les Cahiers du Cevipof, 45, March 2007, 44.
  • [37]
    On Guy Michelat’s career and research, see the texts collected by Jean-Marie Donegani, Sophie Duchesne, and Florence Haegel (eds), Aux frontières des attitudes entre le politique et le religieux: Textes en hommage à Guy Michelat, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2002.
  • [38]
    Lavau, Cevipof’s director, cursed this system: “I’m very discouraged by the researchers (it’s a job where you don’t have to do a damn thing)” (letter from Lavau to Touchard, 27 May 1964, Fonds Touchard 6SP3, Cevipof dossier).
  • [39]
    Paul-André Rosental, “Le premier monde de la recherche: La gestion du personnel dans l’Ined d’Alfred Sauvy (1945-1962)”, Genèses, 51, 2003, 128-46, particularly 134.
  • [40]
    See Brigitte Gaïti, “Enseigner la vie politique française: Entre chronique et concept”, in Pierre Favre and Jean-Baptiste Legavre (eds), Enseigner la science politique, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1998, 175-201.
  • [41]
    Serge Hurtig, note on the “Conférence de section générale”, 26 January 1960.
  • [42]
    AFSP, “L’état de la science politique”, 13-14.
  • [43]
    We return to this point because, while the literature on it is considerable, it is not typically oriented toward the development of political science, which at this stage was hardly distinct from sociology, urban sociology, national financial planning, and other forms of social expertise with a scientific character. See, among others, Alain Drouard, Le développement des sciences sociales en France au tournant des années soixante, Paris, CNRS, 1983, and Philippe Bezes, Michel Chauvière, Jacques Chevallier, Nicole de Montricher, and Frédéric Ocqueteau (eds), L’État à l’épreuve des sciences sociales: La fonction recherche dans les administrations sous la Ve République, Paris, La Découverte, 2005.
  • [44]
    See Vincent Spenlehauer, “L’évaluation des politiques publiques en France, avatar de la planification”, Ph.D. diss., 1998, University of Grenoble 2.
  • [45]
    See Delphine Dulong, “Quand l’économie devient politique: La conversion de la compétence économique en compétence politique sous la Ve République”, Politix, 35, 1996, 109-130.
  • [46]
    See Philip Nord, “Reform, Conservation and Adaptation: Sciences Po, from the Popular Front to the Liberation”, in Sudhir Hazareesingh (ed.), The Jacobin Legacy in Modern France: Essays in Honour of Vincent Wright, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 117-46, and France’s New Deal: From the Thirties to the Post-War Era, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2010, 67ff.
  • [47]
    Minutes of the FNSP board of directors, 30 June 1950, 20-22, volume covering 1946-50.
  • [48]
    “Témoignage de René Rémond”, symposium in honor of Jean Touchard (19 October 2001), Les cahiers du Cevipof, 45, 2007, 24.
  • [49] Déloye refers here to Norbert Elias’s work: “The retreat of sociologists into the present”, Theory, Culture & Society, 4, 1987, 223-47.
  • [50]
    See Bastien François, “Maurice Duverger, la gloire avant l’oubli (en France)”, Revue internationale de politique comparée, 17(1), 2010, 23-38.
  • [51]
    Maurice Duverger, An Introduction to the Social Sciences, New York, Praeger, 1964.
  • [52]
    Jean-Marcel Jeanneney, Une mémoire républicaine. Entretiens avec Jean Lacoutre, Paris, Seuil, 1997, 92 and 93.
  • [53]
    Ibid., 97.
  • [54]
    Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, “Les thèses d’histoire contemporaine: Aires cultivées et zones en friche”, Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, 14(1), 1967, 71-77; Charles Ridel, “L’enseignement de l’histoire et les historiens de l’ELSP, 1871-1914”, DEA diss. supervised by Pierre Nora, 1996, EHESS; and Marie-Estelle Leroty, “L’enseignement de l’histoire à l’ELSP et à l’IEP de Paris 1943-1968”, DEA diss. supervised by Jean-François Sirinelli, 2000, Sciences Po Paris.
  • [55]
    See Brigitte Gaïti, “Jean Lacouture biographe”, Politix, 27, 1994, 76-93.
  • [56]
    Loïc Blondiaux, La fabrique de l’opinion: Une histoire sociale des sondages, Paris, Seuil, 1998, particularly part five.
  • [57]
    Jacques Marette, “L’UNR et l’élection législative partielle du 9e arrondissement (4-11 juin 1961)”, Revue française de science politique, 11(4), August 1961, 819-40.
  • [58]
    On this moment of anxious self-reflection on the part of the Foundation’s leaders, see Déloye’s presentation and references,
  • [59]
    See Fonds Touchard 6SP2, Financial Management.
  • [60]
    For instance, Grosser: “In general, I’m pessimistic about the future of French political science [...] Internationally, French political science goes backward year after year” (AFSP, “L’état de la science politique”, 21)
  • [61]
    See Marc Milet, “L’autonomisation d’une discipline: La création de l’agrégation de science politique en 1971”, Revue d’histoire des sciences humaines, 4(1), 2001, 95-116.
  • [62]
    From this point of view, the interviews with Pierre Birnbaum carried out by Jean Baumgarten and Yves Déloye are useful for understanding his distinctive career as a sociologist and a political scientist, moving between the IEP Paris, the CES, the CNRS, and the department in Bordeaux. He defended his thesis in 1966 in front of a jury composed of Raymond Aron, Alain Touraine, and Georges Lavau, a mark of certain alliances that were still possible outside of university departments. See Pierre Birnbaum, Les désarrois d’un fou de l’État, Paris, Albin Michel, 2015, 47-65.
  • [63]
    This is undoubtedly the source of many of the misunderstandings that characterize the interviews Politix conducted with researchers in this period, as shown by certain poorly asked questions, certain remarks and silences, and certain missed opportunities to deepen the discussion.

This paper describes the development of political science as an academic discipline in post-war France. In just a few years, Sciences Po, a professional school rather than a research institution, established by Executive Order in 1945 in order to “promote research”, has offered academic programmes and degrees, founded an academic journal and a professional association, and created several research centres in political science. The post-war French academic context accounts for Sciences Po’s disciplinary investment, backed by the US philanthropic foundations which provided money, scientific recognition, and epistemic models. Focusing on empirical methods and on the study of politics, the academic discipline has been caught between contradictory demands: scientific autonomy vs. social and political demands for expert knowledge in a post-war context of staterebuilding and economic and social modernization


  • research
  • disciplinary autonomy
  • data production/collection
  • modernization
  • scientific recognition
  • academic journal
  • Sciences Po (IEP-FNSP)
Brigitte Gaïti
Brigitte Gaïti is Professor of Political Science at Panthéon-Sorbonne University and a member of the Centre Européen de Sociologie et de Science Politique (European Centre for Sociology and Political Science, CESSP). She has recently published “L’érosion discrète de l’État-providence dans la France des années 1960: Retour sur les temporalités d’un’tournant néo-libéral’”, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 201-2, 2014, 58-71; and, an analysis of political crises based on Michel Dobry’s work, “Les temporalités renversantes de la sociologie des crises politiques”, in La logique du désordre: Relire la sociologie de Michel Dobry, ed. Myriam Aït Aoudia and Antoine Roger, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po, 2015, 125-52. Her research looks at political crises, regime changes, and charismatic phenomena. (CESSP, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, 17 rue de la Sorbonne, 75231 Paris cedex 05,
Marie Scot
Marie Scot is a junior lecturer (PRAG) at Sciences Po Paris and a researcher at the Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po (Sciences Po History Center, CHSP). Her publications include La London School of Economics and Political Science: Internationalisation universitaire et circulation des savoirs en sciences sociales 1895-2000, Paris, PUF, 2011, and La London School of Economics and Political Science et le Welfare State, Science et politique en Grande-Bretagne, 1940-1979, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2005. With Vincent Duclert she is co-editor of the complete works of Élie Halévy: Correspondance et écrits de guerre 1914-1919, L’ère des tyrannies, and Histoire du socialisme européen, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2016. Her research looks at the history of sciences and scientific institutions in France, Great Britain, and the United States, as well as intellectual history and the history of political ideas. (CHSP, Sciences Po Paris, 56 rue Jacob, 75006 Paris,
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