X-Crise Research Paper

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X-Crise is an acronym for the Centre de Renseignements et d’Informations Sociales et Economiques, an association created by alumni of France’s elite Ecole Polytechnique; this association was later known as the Centre Polytechnicien d’Etudes Economiques (CPEE). X-Crise was formed in 1931 by Gerard Bardet, manager of the Bardet company, who became CPEE’s general secretary; Andre Loizillon, whose career in industry spanned companies from Shneider to Shell and who was CPEE’s treasurer for a while and a member of X-Crise’s transport workshop; and John Nicoletis, a consulting engineer and manager specializing in less-developed countries. X-Crise’s purpose was to examine the causes of the world economic crisis and propose possible solutions. From a membership of about twenty Polytechniciens in October 1931, it grew to close to two thousand members (not all Polytechniciens) in 1939, the year the association disbanded. As an open, tolerant, and scientific think tank, X-Crise gathered together liberals (in the French sense of the word; i.e., market-oriented economists) like Clement Colson, Jacques Rueff (both teachers at the Ecole Polytechnique), Alfred Sauvy, and Henri Michel; socialists personalities like John Nicoletis, the tireless Jean Coutrot, Jules Moch (a socialist deputy and close relative of Charles Spinasse’s), and the French historian Marc Bloch; and centrists such as Gerard Bardet, Auguste Detoeuf (Alsthom’s founder), and Andre Loizillon.

X-Crise was not a research center as one finds in universities. It was a network of Polytechniciens, graduates considered to be part of the elite of the French nation, together with some non-Polytechniciens, all united around a mission: to get France out of economic crisis through intervention both in government, as experts in macroeconomics, and in industry, as managers skilled in the scientific organization of work. But if some of these Polytechniciens had already applied the scientific organization of work to their own firms, none of them, initially, was expert in macroeconomics. Hence, X-Crise organized meetings and published working papers in the Ecole Polytechnique’s bulletin. Small workshops were created to focus on particular topics like econometrics (Fischman and Lendjel 2000b), transport, finance, foreign experiences, and the study of the present state of the economy. Their members were volunteers; while they published many reports in X-Crise’s bulletin, they were never academic researchers trying to obtain intellectual fame in France and abroad. Yet because X-Crise’s aim was also to help Polytechniciens become France’s macroeconomics experts, X-Crise became a magnet for innovative economic studies.

Two bodies of economic work that were very innovative for France in the 1930s have to be mentioned here: Maurice Potron’s (Abraham-Frois and Lendjel 2004), and the economic models of Francois and Georges Guillaume and Francois Moch (brother of the socialist deputy Jules Moch). Indeed, as early as 1911 Maurice Potron applied Perron-Frobenius’s theorems to a Leontief-type model, in order to find the conditions for the existence of a “satisfactory economic regime.” He also laid the foundations of input-output analysis in work published in 1912. The works of the Guillaume brothers and of Francois Moch provided one of the first economic models in France. The Guillaume brothers’ model (Guillaume 1932; Fischman and Lendjel 2000a) can be considered a draft of the French national accounting system. Moch’s model (Moch 1933-1934; Fischman and Lendjel 1999), designed to explain the positive consequences of a cut in working hours on the level of economic activity, presented some Keynesian arguments. Firstly, it pointed out the important role of demand as an economic motor; secondly, it demonstrated the need for the state to intervene in order to get the economy out of a downward economic spiral; and, thirdly, it made an argument quite close to the acceleration principle of R. F. Kahn that Keynes used. Guillaume and Moch attempted also to test their theoretical models with statistical facts. This led Moch to elaborate an econometric “method” of interpreting economic cycles.

Even in X-Crise, these works did not have a large audience. But they have had a great impact on subsequent thinking, as have other X-Crise writings and debates. Indeed, as Michel Margairaz wrote, there is “no doubt X-Crise has eased Ecole Polytechnique’s conversion to economics, as well as [that of] the State experts to macroeconomics, more or less explicitly inspired by Keynesianism” (Margairaz 1995, p. 181). In fact, before, during, and after World War II, some of X-Crise’s members—such as Charles Spinasse, Georges Boris, Jacques Branger, Jean Coutrot, Georges Guillaume, Louis Rosenstock-Frank, Alfred Sauvy, Jean Ullmo, Robert Gibrat, Lucien Romier, Robert Loustau, Gerard Bardet, Auguste Detoeuf, Louis Vallon, and Francois Divisia— had high positions in the country’s administration, especially in ministries in charge of economic matters. For example, X-Crise members served in the Ministry of National Economy (MEN in French)—a true instrument of political economy—in 1936; in the Vichy government in the public works department, in communications, and in the ministry of production; and, finally, in General De Gaulle’s administration.


  1. Abraham-Frois, Gilbert, and Emeric Lendjel. 2004. Les oeuvres economiques de l’abbe Potron. Paris: L’Harmattan.
  2. Brun, Gerard, ed. 1982. X-Crise, Centre Polytechniciens d’Etudes Economiques: De la recurrence des crises economiques: Son cinquantenaire, 1931–1981. Paris: Economica.
  3. Desaunay, Guy. 1965. X-Crise: Contribution a l’etude des ideologies d’un groupe de Polytechniciens durant la grande crise economique (1931–1939). Doctoral thesis, the Sorbonne.
  4. Fischman, Marianne, and Emeric Lendjel. 1999. X-Crise et le debat sur la reduction du temps de travail. In La reduction du temps de travail: L’espace des possibles, eds. Laurent Cordonnier and Nicolas Vaneecloo, 33–56. Special issue of the Cahier Lillois d’Economie et de Sociologie.
  5. Fischman, Marianne, and Emeric Lendjel. 2000a. X-Crise et le modele des freres Guillaume. In Les traditions economiques francaises: 1848–1939, eds., Pierre Dockes, Ludovic Frobert, Gerard Klotz, Jean-Pierre Potier, and Andre Tiran, 369–382. Paris: C.N.R.S. Editions.
  6. Fischman, Marianne, and Emeric Lendjel. 2000b. La contribution d’X-Crise a l’emergence de l’econometrie en France dans les annees trente. Revue Europeenne des Sciences Sociales 38 (118): 115–134.
  7. Guillaume, Georges, and Edouard Guillaume. 1932. Sur les fondements de l’economique rationnelle. Paris: Gauthier-Villars.
  8. Margairaz, Michel. 1995. Les autodidactes et les experts: XCrise, Reseaux et parcours intellectuels dans les annees 30. In La France des X: Deux siecles d’histoire de l’Ecole polytechnique, eds. Bruno Belhoste et al., 169–184. Paris: Economica.
  9. Moch, Francois. 1933–1934. Sur l’evolution des systemes economiques. Parts 1–3. Bulletin du C.P.E.E. 7 (October–November): 24–39; 8–9 (December): 34–44; 10 (February): 18–27.

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