Institutions and “Science”: The Contest about Pluralism in Economics in France

Bernard Chavance & Agnès Labrousse (2018)

Review of Political Economy, 30(2), pp. 190-209.

 Abstract. For a long time, France was a country in which various approaches to economics coexisted. This pluralism began to dwindle in the mid-1990s. Since then, France has witnessed the increasing and now overwhelming domination of mainstream economics. This article, drawing on a study of the evolution of the recruitment of professors of economics in France, documents the situation and links the observed trends to the changing institutions governing the discipline (a centralized system evolving under the influence of international norms and instruments). It is demonstrated that far from being fair and neutral devices, the rules and instruments governing economics—notably the ranking lists of economic journals—incorporate specific worldviews strongly biasing the assessment of research toward the mainstream. This article documents the tentative use of ‘voice and exit’ by the French Association of Political Economy to reform the economics discipline. Furthermore, it discusses the arguments proclaimed by Jean Tirole to prevent the French Ministry of Higher Education from creating a new university section called ‘Economy and Society’ to reinstate pluralism: they fall back on a monistic view of science that is questioned notably by developments—both factual and conceptual—in science studies and epistemology.

Keywords: France, heterodox economics, pluralism, research evaluation

Link to the review


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