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French Political Economy and Positivism


  • Christophe Salvat

    () (TRIANGLE - Triangle : action, discours, pensée politique et économique - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - IEP Lyon - Sciences Po Lyon - Institut d'études politiques de Lyon - Université de Lyon - UJM - Université Jean Monnet [Saint-Étienne] - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)


This paper deals with French political economy under the Second Empire. It suggests that having been seriously weakened by internal dissents over the suitability of the historical method in economics, French political economy managed to reinvent itself during the last decade of Napoléon III's reign. Threatened by the emperor's personal suspicion towards free trade and the intellectual domination of positivism, economists experienced in the 1850s one of the most difficult periods in their history. Yet, a decade later the tables seem to have turned. The institutional changes, brought forward by Victor Duruy, and the intellectual ascendance gained by economists such as Baudrillart, Wolowski or Dunoyer contributed to modernize and legitimize the outmoded and unimaginative political economy inherited from Say. They notably found in the history of economic thought a way to comply with the positive standards of the time but also to give back to political economy the respectability it had lost.

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  • Christophe Salvat, 2015. "French Political Economy and Positivism," Working Papers halshs-01109614, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:halshs-01109614
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    Victor Duruy; Napoléon III; History of economics thought; Positivism;

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