Théorie économique, réalité industrielle et intérêt général. La recherche de l’optimum à Électricité de France (1946-1965)

Abstract : The Act of 8 April 1946 nationalized electricity in France and created a new public monopoly, Électricité de France. A small group of people, mainly from the corps des Ponts-et-Chaussées, was assembled to provide the public utility with a pricing policy. Marcel Boiteux, Gabriel Dessus et Pierre Massé, to mention only a few names, thought they would apply to the power sector the best economic theory of their time, Maurice Allais’ théorie du rendement social. The theory claimed that marginal cost pricing would bring the power sector to a state of maximum efficiency, that it would help governing the sector according to the public interest, and solve rationally the issue of nationalization and its aims. But the story turned out to be quite different. Pricing electricity did not mean applying to the sector the laws of efficiency through transfers of necessities. Rather, in a tentative, partial, progressive, often contradictory manner, the work allowed to describe and thus discuss possible exploitation projects. I propose to term this process the formulation of the optimum. Identifying such a process, I suggest, might contribute to the debate on the status of economics, the kind of truth it produces, and what we can expect from it, especially when it is closely associated with political decision making.
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Guillaume Yon. Théorie économique, réalité industrielle et intérêt général. La recherche de l’optimum à Électricité de France (1946-1965). Economies et finances. PSL Research University, 2016. Français. ⟨NNT : 2016PSLEM052⟩. ⟨tel-01668592⟩

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