The political implementation of ideasBy Mathieu Fulla
This article uses the social history of economic ideas and applies it to the case study of the French Socialist Party (PS), from its “rebirth” under François Mitterrand in 1971 to the latter’s victory in the 1981 presidential election. This theoretical approach offers two methodological interests. First of all, it highlights an original configuration within the PS, in which the ideas it promoted were considered as a crucial weapon in the political contest. Most of its ruling elites took an interest in theoretical issues, which convinced them to systematically justify their political decisions by mobilizing a (more or less) complex theoretical apparatus. Second, the social history of economic ideas developed in this article is also a contribution to the wider debate on expertise and experts engaged in politics. Examining the economic history of the PS through the lens of its experts questions the widespread belief depicting the Western parties of government as “political corporations” only concerned with gaining power. Throughout the 1970s, the PS was also a receiver, a producer, and a mediator of heterodox economic ideas, such as the American neo-Marxism or the French “regulation theories.” Yet the party’s use of various forms of media (including conferences, books, brochures, newspapers, and journals) to promote its rejuvenated economic program underscores the existence of a strong concern for ideas, which existed neither in the previous period under Guy Mollet’s leadership nor afterwards.