The aim of this conference is to challenge the classic narrative concerning the major economic changes that occurred during the last third of the 20th century by bringing together several disciplinary traditions. Its starting point will be France, which boasts a large body of literature, and the subsequent focus will be a comparison with other countries. The concepts of ‘financialization’ and ‘neoliberalism’ underpin numerous developments. In approximate terms, the former refers to the unprecedented rise in markets, financial actors, financial reasons for regulating economies, the management of organizations with increasing shareholder value, as well as the management of individuals’ daily lives (Epstein, 2005; Van der Zwan, 2014). Since the 1980s, the concept of ‘neoliberalism’ has been associated with a process in which the State has accompanied a new expansionist phase for shareholders and their representatives, holders of wealth, and specialists in the accumulation of financial capital. For this to happen, the state has had to create and maintain an institutional framework characterized by free trade and omnipotent markets within which property rights are guaranteed. These elements have ensured that the growth in ‘oligopolistic, monopolistic and transnational power held by a handful of centralized multinationals’ (Harvey, 2014, p. 124) has been reinforced, and explains why the two concepts frequently go hand in hand with globalization.
However, as neoliberalism and financialization tend to permeate the work of economists, historians, management experts and sociologists who have sought to portray the significant contemporary changes in capitalism, this has increasingly varied their scope. Indeed, the rift which was originally created by the School of Regulation between industrial Fordism and neoliberal financialization is now more nuanced (Aglietta, 1978). A new generation of neo-regulationists has been more flexible in its consideration of institutional transformations within the economy. Moreover, a large body of work has helped deconstruct the paradigmatic shift of the 1980s and its direct links to financialization and neoliberalism. This new paradigm would be the negation of the Fordist production regime. To speak of neoliberal financialization hence poses the risk of imagining a previously absent and now hegemonic finance, whereas historians, management experts, sociologists, economists and political scientists have been identifying the multiple dynamics of transitions, some of which are disadjusted or even contradictory.
Firstly, the concept of neoliberalism has been dismantled and reinstated within the long history of French economic policies by Richard Kuisel (Kuisel, 1984), François Denord (Denord, 2007) and Brigitte Gaïti, who saw a ‘discreet erosion of the welfare state’ from the 1950s onwards (Gaïti, 2014). Their research reestablishes the developments associated with neoliberalism within a broader chronology. In regard to the evolving structures of the so-called regulatory state, we should mention the work of Laure Quennouëlle-Corre (Quennouëlle-Corre, 2001), Benjamin Lemoine (Lemoine, 2016), Sarah Kolopp (Kolopp, 2013) and Michel Margairaz (Margairaz, 2019). These authors highlight previous trends toward deregulation while emphasizing the active role of administrative and political actors from the 1960s onwards. This is a far cry from the notion that agents were being forced to succumb to recent market constraints. As a result, the shift from regulation to deregulation at the beginning of the 1980s is largely nuanced, particularly through what was known as the “watershed austerity” of 1983 (Eloire, 2020), and should now be included in a much broader series of regulatory developments (Descamps & Quennouëlle-Corre, 2018). Thus, these authors have examined the chronological emergence of neoliberal concepts and their infiltration into the heart of state apparatus, and this has led to questions about the exact nature of the state, as well as the relationship between public and private actors.
Secondly, some elements from the end of the 20th century which have traditionally been associated with neoliberal financialization were identified in France by Pierre François and Claire Lemercier as early as the 1970s (François & Lemercier, 2016). Raghuram G. Rajan and Luigi Zingales Zingales highlight the extensive development in the 1960s of the financial sector in most high income countries. They assert, as does Antoine Bozio, that this development was only finalized in the late 1990s (Bozio, 2002; Rajan & Zingales, 2003). Quentin Belot emphasizes the role of industrial development and organizational construction in the financial mutations involving large groups (Belot Couloumies, 2021). Financialization has many links with organizational dynamics. Certain financial transformations in companies relate to the process of deindustrialization and cannot be attributed to the actions of new external financial actors (Labardin & Jerman, 2020). On the one hand, both the consistency of these broad categories and the paradigmatic shift of the 1980s have clearly been put into perspective; on the other hand, there are multiple transitions which help us rethink the permanencies, continuities and shifts in a more intelligent way.
There are also similarities and continuities in accounting and financial control. The fact that financialization as a phenomenon has been around for a long time has already been pointed out (Chiapello and Walter, 2016). The arguments used in the 1930s to ensure the introduction of budgetary tools in companies are the same as those used for their withdrawal at the end of the 20th century (Alcouffe et al., 2008). The latest developments in financial control, which are often associated with financialization, are part of a longstanding industrial history (Denord & Henry, 2007; Levant & Zimnovitch, 2013; Touchelay, 2005). In the aftermath of the Second World War, the French elite chose to modernize French economic structures according to the US model (Djelic, 2004).
From the 1930s onwards, the ideological context for the emergence of certain accounting methods (sometimes associated with financialization), was one of planning rather than free market (Berland, 1999). Finally, and conversely, the periods during which financial control was less formally developed do not necessarily coincide with a lack of consideration for the financial aspects of strategic planning (Lambert & Sponem, 2009). The evolution of the financial actors as well as the development of management systems therefore does not move linearly from a solely industrial to an essentially financial path. Financial control is as old as capitalism itself, and sometimes it is not clear what the difference is between the practices of financial accounting and financialization (Berland, 2018; Redon, 2018)).
Behind the major concepts of ‘financialization’and ‘neoliberalism’ are multiple phenomena whose temporal and geographical demarcations become blurred as soon as empirical research has clarified the focal point for both of these transformations. If the paradigmatic shift has been largely distinguished from the point of view of the state, this is less obvious for organizations themselves. The purpose of the conference is therefore to cross-reference historical, managerial, sociological and economic analyses through empirical work devoted to the cases of companies, banks, financial companies, markets and mechanisms that form part of the long-term dynamics of financialization in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. Although the starting point for this reflection is cases from France, we welcome contributions which refer to other countries and which could be used for comparison.
To underscore our theme, we are pleased to announce that our keynote address will be delivered on 6 October 2022 by Professor Neil Fligstein, Director of the Center for Culture, Organization, and Politics of the University of California, Berkeley.
Here are some examples of possible themes:
As these themes are not restrictive, we welcome proposals that address other topics. Similarly, different methodological approaches, both qualitative and non-qualitative, are possible.
Terms of submission
The expected format for the proposal is between one and two pages (fewer than 4,000 characters). The proposal must clearly state the issue being addressed, the sources used (archives, corpus, interviews, observation fields, etc.), the methods and the results. It must be sent no later than 3 June 2022 to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The committee’s response is expected by 28 June, and the selected complete texts (40,000 characters maximum, excluding references) will be expected no later than 5 September 2022.
Each presentation will last 20 minutes and will be followed by a discussion. The languages of the papers and presentations are French or English. Finally, please note that a registration fee for the Colloquium may be requested from participants at a later stage.
Quentin Belot, Marlène Benquet, Valérie Boussard, Théo Bourgeron, Nicolas Berland, Catherine Comet, Thomas Dallery, Fabien Eloire, Neil Fligstein, Patrick Fridenson, Pierre-Cyrille Hautecoeur, Pierre Labardin, Jean-Luc Mastin, Jeremy Morales, Pierre Penet, Nicolas Pinsard, Joel Rabinovich, Marie Redon, Béatrice Touchelay.