Development and Underdevelopment in the History of Economic Thought

François Perroux Reader of Karl Marx

Nicolas Brisset, Univerité Côte d'Azur

The post-WWII period marked a turning point in the reception of Marxist thought by French economists: frank hostility was gradually replaced by sheer enthusiasm. This hostility towards Marxism until 1945 is not surprising. Indeed, French economic thought asserted itself in opposition to all types of socialism in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the discipline found its way within the faculties of Law and not the faculties of literature like the other social sciences, and Law in France was a predominantly conservative discipline driven by both anti-Durkheimism and anti-Marxism. Besides, a certain number of economists who participated in the diffusion of Marxist economic thought in France after the WWII, such as Henri Denis, Jean Lhomme, François Perroux, and Jean Marchal, belonged before and during the war to frankly anti-Marxist movements and institutions. To take just one example, these economists participated under the Vichy Regime to the French Foundation for the Study of Human Problems (known as the “Carrel Foundation”), of which Perroux was the General Secretary, and which hosted the Centre d’échange de théorie économique, directed by Henri Denis. In this article, we are interested in the evolution of the reception of Marxism by French economists, and thus aim at completing the more general history of the development of Marxism among French academics. To do so, we will examine François Perroux’s changing relationship to Marx’s work, organized around four main periods spanning some fifty years (1920s-1970s). Indeed an incisive critic of Marx’s writings before the war, then head of the scientific institution of the Vichy regime, after the war Perroux became an instrumental figure in the dissemination of Marx’s thought in France, notably by signing the preface to Marx’s economic works at the Pléiade, and by the foundation of the ISMEA (Institut de sciences mathématiques et économiques appliquée) which published the journal Études de marxologie. By following th

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Keywords: François Perroux ; Karl Marx

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