Underlying Economic Theories of EDF (Électricité de France)

Special Report: Putting the Economy in Order
The Pricing Policy of Électricité de France and the Reconstruction of the French National Economy: From Nationalization to the 1960s
By Guillaume Yon

The economic policy carried out in post-war France is usually qualified as Keynesian. However, recent work draws attention to the ambivalences and contradictions of this particular historical configuration. By building on such hypothesis, the article focuses on the pricing policy of Électricité de France, a public monopoly that covered a whole area of the economy : the production, transportation and distribution of electricity for all citizens of the nation, without exception. The inquiry proposes to suspend the rhetoric used by the actors, who considered the issue as a technical problem of economic efficiency, in order to demonstrate that pricing deployed a very specific ordering of the French economy. Conducted by Marcel Boiteux and Pierre Massé, the operation relied on the Corps de l’État and the economic theory developed by one of their tutelary figure, Maurice Allais. It established EDF’s Economic Studies Service as a central aggregator that directed the flows of materials in order to fully use the production capacities, as in time of war. But – and this is a characteristic of the studied configuration – the long-term planning created a market within the state monopoly and prices became a mean to discipline the consumers-citizens. The article thus shows that in the 1950s other economic agencements existed alongside Keynesianism and argues for a plural vision of the French economy of that time.

Go to the article on Cairn-int.info