Raymond Barre, professor-turned-French PM and inventor of 'competitive deflation'

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Raymond Barre served as conservative prime minister of France between 1976 and 1981 during the first episode of an economic crisis whose repercussions are far from over. Little known outside of France, the late Barre was an economics professor who became a politician almost by accident, a statesman who was better at wielding power than winning it. Historian Christiane Rimbaud has recently published a biography of the man who was the first to liberalise France's highly administered, regulated and planned post-war economy. Her book is reviewed here by Mediapart economics writer Philippe Riès, himself once a student of Barre’s, and who argues that the conservative was a much more nuanced political figure than he is often depicted.

 

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There are many good reasons why a biography of Raymond Barre makes for a fascinating read. He was a university professor with an idiosyncratic political profile,  a man who found himself holding the reins of power without really having sought such a position, in effect the polar opposite of all those who have thought of nothing but power while shaving [1] ever since the first down appeared on their juvenile faces.