Quantification and Modelling in Economics (STS)

Semester 4

Francesco Sergi

The purpose of the seminar “Quantification and modelling in economics (STS)” is to analyse two historical and social processes: on the one hand, the process of quantification of the economic and social reality; on the other hand, how quantification is used to shape real-world policies. By relying on the analysis of different historical episodes (from the XIXth century to present-day examples), the seminar illustrates that data (the consumer price index, climate change scenarios from IPCC, macroeconomic forecasts, …) are the results of debates and conventions across different social groups (academics, policymakers, statisticians, staff of of policymaking institutions, journalists, politicians, computer scientists …) driven by distinct (and somehow antagonist) social endeavours. The seminar also presents the different functions of modelling, such as providing “mediation” or “building bridges” between different social groups, between theory and data, between the quantification of the present and the quantification of possible futures.

The seminar takes the perspective of a social history of quantification, inspired from the work of Michel Armatte and Alain Desrosières (who had been in charge of this seminar in the past). As a result, the seminar also provides an introduction to Sciences and Technology Studies (STS).

The seminar relies on readings, presentations by students, and discussion of research articles in French and in English (see bibliography). Specific themes are addressed each year in relation with some invited lecturers.

  • Teacher(s):
  • Pratical information: S4, 18h, Maison des Sciences Économiques.


  • ACOSTA J.C., CHERRIER B., CLAVEAU F., FONTAN C., GOUTSMEDT A., SERGI F., 2021, “Six Decades of Economic Research at the Bank of England”, Rebuilding Macroeconomics Working Paper Series, nr. 44.
  • ANGELETTI, T., 2012, « La prévision économique et ses ‘erreurs’ », Raisons politiques, (4): 85-101.
  • ARMATTE M., 2004, La théorie des erreurs (1750-1820), enjeux, problématiques et résultats, in E. Barbin et JP Lamarche : Histoires de Probabilités et de Statistiques, IREM.Ellipses.
  • ARMATTE M., 2005, « La notion de modèle dans les sciences sociales : anciennes et nouvelles significations », Mathématiques et Sciences humaines, 172, 2005-4, p. 91-123.
  • ARMATTE M., 2010, La Science économique comme ingénierie. Quantification et Modélisation, Paris, Presse des Mines.
  • AYKUT S. et DAHAN, A., 2015, Gouverner le climat, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po.
  • BOUMANS M. et DUPONT-KIEFFER A., 2011, Histories of Econometrics, Annual Supplement to History of Political Economy, Durham (NC), Duke University Press.
  • BRUNO, I. et DIDIER E., 2015, Benchmarking: L’État sous pression statistique, Paris, La Découverte.
  • CHASSONNERY-ZAIGOUCHE C., 2020, “How Economists Entered the ‘Numbers Game’: Measuring Discrimination in the US Courtrooms, 1971–1989”, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 42(2): 229-259.
  • DAHAN A. (dir), 2007, Les modèles du futur, Paris, La Découverte.
  • DAHAN A. et PESTRE D. (dir.), Les Sciences dans et pour la Guerre, Paris, Presses de l’EHESS.
  • DELMAS C., 2011, Sociologie de l’expertise, Paris, La Découverte.
  • DESROSIERES A., 2000, « L’État, le marché et les statistiques : cinq façons d’agir sur l’économie », Courrier des Statistiques, 95-96, décembre 2000, pp. 3-10, et Problèmes économiques, 2725, 29 août 2001, pp. 26-32.
  • DESROSIERES A., 2000, La politique des grands nombres. Histoire de la raison statistique, 2e ed (1ere ed. 1993), La Découverte.
  • DESROSIERES A., 2008a, Pour une sociologie historique de la quantification, L’argument statistique 1, Presses de l’Ecole des Mines.
  • DESROSIERES A., 2008b, Gouverner par les nombres, L’argument statistique 2, Presses de l’Ecole des Mines.
  • DESROSIERES A., 2014, Prouver et gouverner. Une analyse politique des statistiques publiques, Paris, La Découverte.
  • FOURCADE M., 2009, Economists and Societies, Princeton, Princeton University Press.
  • HIRSCHMAN D. et BERMAN E.P., 2014, “Do Economists Make Policies? On the Political Effects of Economics”, Socio-Economic Review, 12(4): 779-811.
  • MORGAN M., 1989, The History of Econometrics Ideas, Cambridge University Press.
  • MORGAN M. et MORRISON M. (dir.),1999, Models as Mediators. Perspectives on Natural and Social Science, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • PESTRE D., 2006, Introduction aux Sciences Studies, Paris, La Découverte.
  • PORTER T., 1995, Trust in numbers. The pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life, Princeton, Princeton University Press.