Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tribute to Gérard de Bernis

My beloved master, Professor emeritus Gérard Destanne de Bernis, passed away on Christmas Eve. He was an exceptional man in many respects, by his monumental work, his political engagement in ideas he believed in and his intellectual honesty. His writings and lectures were a testimony of his brilliance.

He had a strong influence from F.Perroux, a great French economist, who achieved an original synthesis of Schumpeter and Marx and elaborated a critique of the general equilibrium theory. His main contribution  to economic theory was to introduce the concept of 'regulation' - which was developed by French philosopher Georges Canguilhem- just as   scientific concepts elaborated by physicists and mathematicians to explain dynamic phenomena. In fact, he developed a general theory to explain the dynamic of capitalism and its crises in a historic context. This was a lifetime endeavour: his main writings date from the 70s and the 80s, in particular his impressive text-book on international economics.

His development theories will be largely influenced by Perroux' ideas on the role of power, domination and assymetries as well as structuralist economists (Gunnar MyrdalPrebischFurtado). He introduced the concept of "industrializing industries", close to the idea of 'growth pole' developed by F.Perroux. The idea is that certain industries may drive the entire development of an economy due to stronger linkage effects with other industries as well as growth enhancing effects. From a general perspective, de Bernis will defend a model of 'endogenous' development  open to international trade, but this openness will have to be controlled by the State to protect domestic industries from external domination of foreign capital, at least at their early stage of development. His ideas were put in practice to a large extent in the 60s in Algeria and Tunisia. 

Nevertheless, Prof. de Bernis was not a pure academic. His research work was entirely conceived as being instrumental to the critique of 'mainstream' economic analysis and policy. He was, in that respect, an"organic intellectual" (Gramsci) fully committed to the ideals of justice and  equity though he always acted as a free public thinker.  Many of his students and companions will recall him as a relentless worker for this cause.

He was profoundly inspired by Christian values, which mean in their essence the pursuit of social justice and the liberation of men from any form of exploitation. He was an ethical economist with a strong belief in human action to change the existing order. He had a nature that was worthy of  admiration and profound respect and those who knew him will keep his memory alive.


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