History of the Market Concept in France Publication date : March 22, 2017
David Spector is a scientist at the CNRS and associate professor at the Ecole d'Economie de Paris. A specialist in issues related to competition, he previously taught at the London School of Economics and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He lives in Paris.
How do we account for the rejection of the market in France?
Rejecting the usual explanations (passionate equality, statist tradition…), David Spector shows that the hostility goes back a long way. Rooted in left-wing Republican tradition, it targets the very idea of a market. This intellectual rejection is so deeply embedded in the heart of the left that it leads to paradoxical convergences with the right and to policies that are against the interests of the most disadvantaged.
To understand the driving forces behind this, David Spector offers us an intellectual and political history of the concept of market forces in France. This history calls for a detour via Great Britain, where the 19th-century free trade movement is born of leftish liberal thinking marked by a strong egalitarianism. At the same time in France the free trade advocated by the Second Empire was opposed by the mass of small peasants. The divorce between the left and liberalism would be sealed for a long time.
Rejection of the Anglo-Saxon model and of the theories of the liberal socialist Léon Walras; refusal to consider the law of supply and demand; the influence of German sociology: this history of ideas shows how the Left was intellectually deprived of the means of reconciling itself with the idea of market forces. We can therefore understand the difficulty of carrying out public policies likely to reduce inequalities (in terms of pensions, taxation, etc.), since they are part of an intellectual framework considered as liberal.