Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

The crisis of French planning as crisis of a development model

Caldari Katia, University of Padova

In 1979 Jean Fourastié published the book Les Trente Glorieuses which is focused on the extraordinary changes and economic growth that occurred in France in the period 1946-1976. The years 1953 - 1957 are even labelled as the period of the “French miracle” that was essentially due, as Pierre Dockès explains (2019: 81), to the launch of private investments and the purchase of durable goods. Those are also the years in which France was experimenting economic planning as a major instrument of economic policy. Planning was introduced immediately after WWII with the creation of the General Planning Commissariat (CGP) in 1946 and was supported by the reconstruction project carried out within the Marshall Plan. The first Plan, known as the “Monnet Plan” from the name of the first General Commissioner, was elaborated for the period 1947-1953 and focused on the reconstruction of the country’s economic and productive system. Such was its success that the CGP was retained, and planning became a usual manner of state intervention. The CGP remained formally active until 2006 when it was replaced by the Centre d’Analyse Stratégique. However, as the name of the new agency may suggest, over time the CGP underwent an important metamorphosis in its character, transforming from an institution of economic and political strategy (as it was at the beginning) into a research and study centre. The first steps of this change were taken in coincidence with the fourth and fifth Plans that were launched respectively for the periods 1962-1965 and 1966-1970. If in 1961 economic planning was conceived of as an “ardent obligation”, since 1965 its crisis became openly discussed. There are many factors that may explain the decline of French planning and that literature has largely investigated. However, in our opinion, there is a further, more subtle and deep cause. The fourth and fifth Plans were drawn up under the guidance of Pierre Massé who was General Commissioner from 1959 to 1966. Massé intended to give planning a “new look”, making it a tool not so much for a kind of economic growth inspired by the American model which was establishing itself in that period. Massé wished for a different model of economic development. His idea of development, which actually permeates the texts of the fourth and fifth Plans, found a sounding board in the debate on incomes policy that developed in those years. Aim of this paper is to show how an important cause of the decline of French planning and the failure of the project advocated by Massé lie in that idea of development.

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Economic planning, French CGP, economic development

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