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The Economic Driven by Politics as Values: The Example of Pharmaceuticals in France


  • Andy Smith


Considering that the definitions of politics which dominate political economy are actually synonyms for other terms (politicians, powering or strategising), and in order to focus research more sharply upon the political itself, this article proposes a robust alternative: politics as the mobilisation of values to change or reproduce the institutions that orientate economic activity. Drawing upon constructivist strands of institutionalism, political sociology and industrial economics, this definition is used to build an analytical framework for understanding the ‘political work’ which determines the policies of both firms and public regulatory authorities. Specifically, using this ‘politics as values approach’, a fundamental tension within capitalism between the values of Freedom, Security and Equality is closely examined. This is tackled by studying conflicts within the definition of these three values during the regulation of specific industries, together with their prioritisation. To illustrate the heuristics of this analytical framework, the case of recent change within the regulation of medicines in France is then developed. Far from simply resulting from a drug ‘scandal’, this approach shows that this change was caused firstly by a value-driven conflict within pharmacology and, secondly, by its impacts upon the way administrators, journalists and politicians have reframed the Freedom–Security–Equality value hierarchy.

Suggested Citation

  • Andy Smith, 2017. "The Economic Driven by Politics as Values: The Example of Pharmaceuticals in France," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(6), pages 611-627, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:cnpexx:v:22:y:2017:i:6:p:611-627
    DOI: 10.1080/13563467.2017.1286638

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