Affirmation et transformations des sciences économiques en Suisse au XXe siècle. Compte-rendu de thèse publiée

Thierry Rossier

Research output: Book/ReportPhD thesis


This dissertation focuses on the “rise” and transformations of economic sciences (economics and business studies) in Switzerland over the 20th century. It relies on a biographical database divided into five benchmarks (1910, 1937, 1957, 1980, 2000) of university professors (N=561). First I show that economic sciences rise as a discipline and in the institutional hierarchy of academia. In particular in terms of academic capital (positions of vice chancellors) of the professors, the economic sciences have become the most important among all the disciplines in the recent period. Second professors of economic sciences have become the most represented professors among the Swiss economic elites (the CEOs of large corporations). Some also pursue careers among political elites (national elected officials) and administrative elites (federal high civil servants). I observe a standardization of the careers of professors between two types of profile: purely academic and partially extra-academic. Third I show a process of "nationalization" of professors’ profiles after 1918 and of reinternationalization after 1945. I observe a definitional shift of the internationality of scientific "excellence" from the German-speaking and French-speaking countries to the USA. Finally I notice that scientific capital (citations in prestigious journals) is linked to cosmopolitan capital (internationality) and opposed to more national academic, economic and political capitals. Fourth this opposition is confirmed by the study of the interactions between the different capitals of the professors. I identify on the one hand a scientific and international pole and on the other a “society” pole, characterized by national academic, political and economic capitals. The scientific pole increasingly uses mathematics, and each of the two poles has its own research areas. I observe that dominance among professors, besides the use of mathematics and the study of particular objects, is also reflected in a relatively sustained interdisciplinarity, particularly with the "hard" sciences. In conclusion I argue that it is by this division of labour between two poles of professors, those linked to scientific practice and international excellence, and those related to the administration of universities, corporations and the state, and by historically
strengthening this division, that professors of economic sciences are "everywhere" and that the discipline has been able to reinforce its power in Swiss society.
Original languageFrench
Place of PublicationLausanne
PublisherUniversité de Lausanne
Number of pages311
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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