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The French Economists and Politics, 1750-1850: The Science and Art of Political Economy


  • Philippe Fontaine


This article provides an account of the 'depoliticization' of political economy, which centres on the definition of the discipline by subject matter. Such definition rests on a bipartite division of the discipline into science and art - a division that determines the scope of political economy. In fact, the development of French political economy between 1750 and 1850 shows that, unlike their predecessors, J.-B. Say and his followers succeeded in keeping economics separate from politics. In so doing, they did not regard the progressive exogenization of political variables as merely instrumental and transitory. To the contrary, Say and his followers believed that such exogenization remains the best way to build and develop economic science without having its autonomy threatened. Identifying political economy with its subject matter, they acknowledged that strict limitations may exist in the use of economic tools.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippe Fontaine, 1996. "The French Economists and Politics, 1750-1850: The Science and Art of Political Economy," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 29(2), pages 379-393, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:29:y:1996:i:2:p:379-93

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    Cited by:

    1. Roger E. Backhouse & Steven G. Medema, 2009. "Retrospectives: On the Definition of Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(1), pages 221-233, Winter.
    2. Enrico Colombatto, 2014. "Hayek and economic policy (the Austrian road to the third way)," Chapters,in: Elgar Companion to Hayekian Economics, chapter 15, pages 343-363 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Enrico Colombatto, 2004. "Hayek and Economic Policy (The Austrian Road to the Third Way)," ICER Working Papers 18-2004, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.

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