Between “economic beliefs” and party constraints

The political implementation of ideas
The origins and structuring of the economic section of the PCF (1947–1961)
By Nicolas Azam

In 1947, the French Communist Party (PCF) set up an economics department to collect information for its leaders. The creation of this body and its journal, Économie et Politique, occurred in a context marked by the rise of the figure of an expert with specialized knowledge and the dissemination of economic belief, i.e., the imposition of an understanding of the social world through an economic lens. However, this innovation threatened the internal balance within the PCF, where most of the political staff came from the working class and were attached to certain fundamental doctrinal principles. Depending on their resources and the political situation, the members of the economics department were more or less inclined to comply with the party’s existing standards, restricting them to a role of illustrating its partisan positions. This article shows the efforts made by members of the economics department to accommodate the party rules and to harmonize them with the knowledge they had gained from other areas. It explains the conflicts within the economics department and how they were politicized when they became embedded in the struggles within the political leading group.

  • intra-party division of labour
  • orthodoxy and heterodoxy
  • economic expertise and its political uses
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