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

The 40-hour workweek and the rise of economic expertise in France

Brisset Nicolas, Université Côte d'Azur
Fèvre Raphaël, Université Côte d'Azur

In June 1936, the 40-hour workweek was introduced at the initiative of the Front Populaire government. The article suggests considering the debates surrounding this reform of working time as closely linked to the emergence in France of an economic expertise that aspires to guide public action. Indeed, the intervention of economists at the time of the preparation, the implementation, but also the abrogation (in 1938) of the 40 hours allowed them to progressively acquire an expert status vis-à-vis the government. This rise in expertise was achieved both by the entry of economists into certain ministerial cabinets and by the holding of a lively debate among professionals in specialised journals (Revue d'économie politique, X-Crise). This gradual emergence of economic expertise also benefited from the debate on the 40-hour workweek insofar as it legitimised the creation and funding of institutions devoted to economic documentation, statistical information and business cycle forecasts. These new tools were intended to contribute to the 'rational' production of public decisions at a time when the economy was becoming a central issue of national policy (creation of the Ministry of the National Economy).

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Alfred Sauvy ; expertise ; Popular Front ; French economics ; working time

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