Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Economists and Societies

Economists and Societies: Discipline and Profession in the United States, Britain, and France, 1890s to 1990s

Marion Fourcade
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 384
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Economists and Societies
    Book Description:

    Economists and Societiesis the first book to systematically compare the profession of economics in the United States, Britain, and France, and to explain why economics, far from being a uniform science, differs in important ways among these three countries. Drawing on in-depth interviews with economists, institutional analysis, and a wealth of scholarly evidence, Marion Fourcade traces the history of economics in each country from the late nineteenth century to the present, demonstrating how each political, cultural, and institutional context gave rise to a distinct professional and disciplinary configuration. She argues that because the substance of political life varied from country to country, people's experience and understanding of the economy, and their political and intellectual battles over it, crystallized in different ways--through scientific and mercantile professionalism in the United States, public-minded elitism in Britain, and statist divisions in France. Fourcade moves past old debates about the relationship between culture and institutions in the production of expert knowledge to show that scientific and practical claims over the economy in these three societies arose from different elites with different intellectual orientations, institutional entanglements, and social purposes.

    Much more than a history of the economics profession,Economists and Societiesis a revealing exploration of American, French, and British society and culture as seen through the lens of their respective economic institutions and the distinctive character of their economic experts.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3313-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  7. INTRODUCTION Economics and Society
    (pp. 1-30)

    Economists are everywhere. They manage monetary policy, measure the value of government programs to the last dollar, and routinely offer expert testimony in political hearings and in the courts. They also consult for companies, divining the future of industrial competition, calculating the costs and benefits associated with different courses of action, designing legal standards or the nuts and bolts of financial markets. From their vantage point in the media they comment authoritatively on economic ups and downs, housing booms and dot-com busts, global competition and exchange rate movements. And they can be found on best-seller lists, too, arguing that the...

  8. CHAPTER ONE Institutional Logics in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 31-60)

    As suggested in the introduction, the long-term development of economics exhibits several interrelated trends that cut across national boundaries: economics attained autonomy as a discipline; it became more formal in its presentation; it expanded its influence into both the administrative and the corporate domains; and it partly converged in scientific form and method. These trends, however, evolved unevenly in the United States, Britain, and France: marketization has been much less pronounced in France than in America, for instance. Furthermore, we may trace similar trends back to different institutional mechanisms and groups of actors. The reason, this book contends, has to...

  9. CHAPTER TWO The United States: Merchant Professionals
    (pp. 61-128)

    American economics arose in the context of the broad institutional patterns described in the preceding chapter—the fragmented and professionally-oriented nature of the state bureaucracy, the regulatory emphasis on market competition, and the disciplinary organization of higher learning. As will be shown throughout this chapter, professionalized social science in the United States emerged simultaneously with professionalized civil service. Consequently, economics was not much constrained by the process of state-building; rather, it was part of it. In America, administrative institutions helped define economics as a specialized professional undertaking based on a skill monopoly. They did so, first, by seeking to anchor...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Britain: Public-Minded Elites
    (pp. 129-184)

    Perhaps more than anywhere else, economic concerns and knowledge are part and parcel of British public culture. The country is famous for the level and quality of economic reporting in the generalist press, as well as for its specialized financial and economic publications, such as theEconomistor theFinancial Times, which have been around for well over a century (the former since 1843, the latter since 1888) and are widely read both at home and worldwide. Many commentators would argue that this public interest for economics has been partly nourished by a century-long debate about the causes of Britain’s...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR France: Statist Divisions
    (pp. 185-236)

    In late twentieth-century France, the field of economics was undergoing something of a schizophrenic crisis. In 2000, a rebellion erupted among economics students, many of them from the École Normale Supérieure, who were denouncing the overuse of mathematics, the hegemony of neoclassical theory, and the lack of practical relevance in the teaching of economics.¹ The movement, which called itselfautisme-économie,² spread rapidly to the universities and soon received the support of prominent intellectuals and left-wing newspapers (such asLe Monde Diplomatique) and sympathetic coverage in the general media. A petition circulating widely in France and abroad gathered hundreds of signatures,...

  12. CONCLUSION: Economists and Societies
    (pp. 237-262)

    The most inescapable narratives about the history of economics in the twentieth century have to do with the discipline’s increasingly assertive scientific style and growing methodological consensus, on the one hand, and its jurisdictional expansion and internationalization, on the other. Economists have abstracted economic processes into ever more sophisticated mathematical models, by and large based on constrained behavioral assumptions, such as the postulate of calculative agents who are able to rank their preferences. Academic, political, and economic institutions have rewarded formal and econometric technique above all other forms of scientific practice in economics, helping make them the dominant methods in...

  13. Appendix
    (pp. 263-268)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 269-314)
  15. References
    (pp. 315-368)
  16. Index
    (pp. 369-386)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 387-388)