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  • 1 Robert Boyer, « La crise actuelle : une mise en perspective historique. Quelques réflexions à parti (...)

1Will heterodox theories, and Regulation theory in particular, gain a new lease on life with the official recognition of the crisis (and its high media visibility)? After all, Regulation theory was born in the 1970s in another context of crisis. The dialectical relationship between growth and crisis, between capitalism as regime and its crises, offers a methodological tool. And it is also worth recalling the distinction established in 1979, and which has flourished ever since, between minor and major crises.1 Within this typology, the financial crisis which became evident to everyone in September 2008 is clearly a major crisis, namely a period marked by the impossibility for a capitalism handed over to deregulated finance to permit sustainable growth and any long-term situation of full employment.

2That said, if the present crisis marks the end of an era – that of a finance-driven accumulation regime – there are still many questions facing economic thought as a whole and standard economics in particular. It is clear that the latter has not been able to understand the processes proper to the crisis, nor those proper to the preceding regime (in this respect, the current use of the reference to the crisis by those who defended the efficiency of the markets and instituted laisser-faire is quite striking). A Regulationist approach would seem to provide a more relevant intellectual and methodological framework, both for thinking about the crisis (as a subject of investigation) and thinking on the basis of the crisis. Even if it was expected, or even anticipated, the fact remains that the crisis grinds on in real time: it has proven to be a social and political laboratory where experimentation and trial-and-error are the rule rather than the exception. As a result, the readability of the mode of regulation has become problematic: institutional hierarchies and synergies are perturbed, with regard to both the wage-labour nexus and the state’s position and role in the regulation process. The growth regime is eroded by profound social inequalities and, more broadly, the mode of development comes up against ecological constraints.

3The concept of crisis also raises questions within an analysis of the historical dynamics of capitalism, especially when crisis becomes a regime of permanent changes. If, in the characterisation of the Fordist mode of regulation, the regularity of intensive accumulation permitted a tension between growth and crisis, between full employment and underemployment, it is obvious that relations between the finance-dominated accumulation regime and its mode of regulation are a source of lasting institutional blockages, or even contradictions and conflicts of interests. The 1990s, and the 2000s even more so, offer the proof, if needed, that growth can be combined with instability and exclusion.

4(Re)examining the concept of crisis to bring out the complexity of the adjustments underlying the relationship between crisis and accumulation regime thus seems to be an essential analytical framework for thinking about the permanent change of the institutions of capitalism. There is no doubt that such an ambition reinforces the necessity of a body of economic thought which is historicised and situated but even more important, which integrates the analysis of the players’ practices and representations.

5It is with this objective in mind that we invite readers to delve into this special section – which reflects the Revue’s pluralistic approach going well beyond Regulation theory alone – with the hope that many heuristic virtues will merge from these on-the-spot   analyses of the transformation dynamics underway.

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1 Robert Boyer, « La crise actuelle : une mise en perspective historique. Quelques réflexions à partir d’une analyse du capitalisme français en longue période », Critiques de l’Economie politique, new series, nos. 7-8 (april-september 1979), p. 3-113.

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« Editorial », Revue de la régulation [En ligne], 5 | 1er semestre / Spring 2009, mis en ligne le 28 décembre 2012, consulté le 23 mars 2017. URL :

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