Abstract: Usinor and the French Steel Industry: From "Private" Monopoly to "Public" Competitor, 1948-2001

Eric Godelier


During the 1980s an intense debate began on the role the French state had taken in economic regulation and industrial structure. A close study of the steel industry—in particular of Usinor, one of the most important French steel companies—shows that the public sector has influenced private business. Just after World War II, there had been intense political and industrial debates concerning the necessity of nationalizing or reorganizing the steel industry. One argument for claiming financial support and resisting nationalization was that the steel industry should be viewed as a kind of "public service." From 1948 onward, Usinor, like most of the French steel industry, directly or indirectly received public financial support. Usinor recruited many senior managers (trained in some of the most selective schools) from within French ministries. Appointed to high-ranking positions in Usinor, they brought, apart from their technical and intellectual competence, a wide technocratic, social, and sometimes political network from French administration and society.

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