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Profile of the Walras-Pareto Centre (CWP) for the history of economic and political thought

Originally founded in 1990 at the University of Lausanne by Pascal Bridel as a Centre for research into the history of economics with special attention to the Lausanne School of Economics, the Walras-Pareto Centre (CWP) merged in January 2014 with the Centre for the history of political thought (CHIPI) to gain its present form as a leading interdisciplinary Centre in the history of economic and political thought in Europe. The Centre studies both disciplines in relation to its teaching mission at the three universities in Francophone Switzerland (Geneva, Lausanne, and Neuchâtel), and Lausanne’s federal polytechnic university EPFL. We are interested in the historical development of economic and political ideas and methods, the institutional and material settings in which these ideas and methods are produced and used, and their social and normative implications and impact. We approach these three dimensions through historical and epistemological research along disciplinary lines, and through research that considers the economic and the political in their mutual interactions. In addition, the Centre considers the publication of key-texts in the history of both disciplines an important part of its mission, as shown by the edition of the Œuvres économiques complètes of Auguste and Léon Walras, the recent six volume edition of Simonde de Sismondi’s Œuvres économiques completes, an anthology (in Italian) of Adam Smith’s writings, or the English edition of Benjamin Constant’s political writings in the Cambridge texts collection on political thought.

Current research focuses upon the links between liberalism, democracy and the economic order as expressed in the French and Scottish Enlightenment traditions, classical and ordo-liberalism, and in the old and new Lausanne schools of economics. We investigate the debates about government debt, debates on the French Revolution and its impact on Europe, theories of (representative) democracy, and the short-lived, but consequential period of the Helvetic Republic (1798-1803). We study the meaning of economic expertise in the public sphere, especially in relation to controversies around libertarian paternalism, environmental politics, and discriminatory practices.

The Centre currently hosts three Swiss National Science Foundation funded programs: a study of lotteries as systems of direct democracy, a study on the metaphorical description and understanding of business cycles in the second half of the nineteenth century in Europe, and a Swiss-Russian project on the work of the Swiss-Russian economist Nikolaj Sieber.

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