International ties, financial reforms and the French treasury (1960s–1990s)By Sarah Kolopp
Are 1980s French financial reforms the result of international pressures? Classic accounts of French financial reforms portrayed them either as determined by international constraints, or shaped by domestic power struggles. This article seeks to move beyond this debate by examining the circuits of exchange that tied together national and international dynamics in the run-up to France’s financial reforms, with a focus on the Treasury—the department usually presented as a key actor behind the French neoliberal turn. It shows how and why the Treasury, which was relatively marginalized from international symbolic import-export circles in the 1950s, developed new international connections in the 1960s. These new international networks and ties, it argues, did not act as conduits of automatic policy transfers, but helped shift high officials’ priorities and attention toward what was being done, said, and debated in other countries and in international forums. At a time when post-war embedded finance was being contested in international financial circles, the Treasury’s new “international focus” changed the terms of domestic financial conversations in less dirigiste and more market-friendly ways.