I am a Science and Technology Studies scholar interested in the status of economics in our societies. I am particularly interested in the debates surrounding the idea of the performativity of economics, i.e. the use of economics to alter the world. To tackle these big questions, my work focuses on the economics and engineering nexus. Asking when, why, how and to what extent economics became closely linked to engineering practices, my research seeks to flesh out the epistemological and political challenges associated with such an identity shift for the economic profession.
My current project expands the work done in my PhD dissertation on the managers of the state-owned monopoly for the production of electricity in France in the two decades following the Second World War. These managers identified themselves as engineer-economists. Available literature on the engineering and economics nexus shows how, in Cold War America, the market was redefined as an information processor, a computational mechanism able to tell the truth about consumers’ preferences. The encounter with the computer paved the way to the dominant contemporary form of economic engineering, focused on the information processing properties of algorithms for the computing of short-term market equilibrium prices. The French engineer-economists I study used similar marginalist tools, but their aims and accomplishments were different. They developed linear programming techniques in order to make choices on the design of power plants, and marginal cost pricing in order to shape the users’ behaviours according to the long-term technical choices made for the whole country. The French episode supplements the available literature on the engineering and economic nexus. In this case, economic engineering encompassed politically informed choices on future modes of production and consumption and realised these choices through the construction of public infrastructures. The tension between these two versions of economic engineering is still running today.
EC311 - History of Economics: How Theories Change
Read Dr Guillaume Yon's CV: Dr Guillaume Yon CV [PDF]