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France

Manufacturing consent: Economic thought control in France

From time to time, the question is understandably posed, why if austerity and neo-liberal policies are so patently failing in Europe, has there not been more of a challenge to them.

Well one simple answer lies with economists, the experts who ought to know if the policies of cuts, deregulation, privatisation and so on, are working, and identifying alternatives that may be more effective in restoring growth, generating wealth, tackling unemployment, poverty, debt etc.

According to Benjamin Coriat, a member of the group of the campaigning Économistes Atterrés, (Economists Aghast), among the 120 professors of economics hired by French universities since 2005, only six could be identified with heterodox thought, that’s less than 5 %.

A survey, covering the period 2000 to 2011, by the Association française d’économie politique (French Association of Political Economy or Afep)  confirms this. It found that the methodology and research topics of the new professors were in 84% of cases dedicated to mainstream economic thought.

Institutionalists, conventionalists, regulationists, Austrians, Marxists, all these heterodox schools of thought, which are far from being at the margin of economics, are either not at all represented, or at least under-represented in universities,’ says André Orleans, president of the association. ‘Economics requires debate, yet today the American model of thinking has became the sole standard!’

What’s more, future PhD students in economics are  less and less interested in strains of economics that clash with today’s orthodoxies, because they know that at the end of the day jobs will be assigned only to defenders of the dominant thought.

Despite having largely succumbed to the laissez faire orthodoxy promoted by the European Commission and Europe’s self-serving elites, a move that has led to Francois Hollande becoming the most unpopular French President in history the current Socialist Government at least seems to have noticed this heavy bias towards these policies in French universities.

This summer the Ministry of Higher Education tasked the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences or EHESS) to investigate. Something applauded by Orleans, who, however, points out. ‘The only problem is that, among the 10 members of the taskforce, none represents the heterodox point of view!”

Sources include Humanite

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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