Abstract: Le bataillon sacré de la productivité and French Modernization, 1945-1954

Régis Boulat


The productivity campaign in France has its origins in the Monnet Plan for modernization. Jean Monnet and his staff (Rostislaw Donn, René Magron) recognized in 1946 that the plan must go further than applying measures to rationalize production, and must take into consideration the questions of raising production per man hour, the attitude of workers, their purchasing power, and labor-management relations. Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) officials like James Silberman were thinking along the same lines and urged the French to develop a concrete program. In April 1949, the Monnet Plan established a "Provisional Productivity Committee" headed by Professor Jean Fourastié (1907-1990), a leading French authority on the subject, to map out a long-term program. As the productivity campaign became a formal part of French economic policy, a decree established a permanent National Productivity Committee (NPC), making the minister for Economic Affairs, Robert Buron, chairman, and attached to the NPC a government-subsidized operating agency called AFAP (Association Française pour l'Accroissement de la Productivité). This paper focuses on the few individuals who took to heart the concept of productivity held by the economist Jean Fourastié and managed this French productivity program between 1945 and 1954: for Robert Buron, they constituted the "bataillon sacré de la productivité."