Bernard Maris R.I.P.

Note kindly translated by Anne-Marie de Grazia

bernard-marisThe attack, which has decimated the editorial board of Charlie Hebdo, and provoked the death of two policemen, fills us with horror and disgust. Some of these journalists were known by all. The death of Cabu leaves the Grand Duduche (and the headmaster’s daughter…) orphaned; the death of Wolinski calls the end of the « post-1968 » years. The invention of Cactus-Man (the man with retractable thorns…), but also of Paulette and many other characters will remain in memory. All this lies now like charred before the cold-blooded savagery of militant fanaticism. In truth, I can write for only one of them, the economist Bernard Maris, whom I knew well and who wrote under the pseudonym of « Uncle Bernard » columns which were as hilarious as they were corrosive.

Bernard Maris was 68. He was the son of Spanish Republicans who emigrated to France and a typical product of this « republican elitism » which some beautiful souls are presently deriding. After brilliant studies in economic science, and a thesis in 1975, he had followed the cursus honorum which was to make him a professor. He accumulated posts, garnered the prize of « best economist » of 1995 given by Le Nouvel Économiste, and published important books like Ah Dieu ! Que la guerre économique est jolie ! (« God, what a Pretty Economic War ! » – in 1998), or Lettre ouverte aux gourous de l’économie qui nous prennent pour des imbéciles (« An Open letter to Economic Gurus who take us for Imbeciles,» in 1999). He was the author of the remarkable Antimanuel d’économie (« Antimanual of Economy, » published by Bréal in 2 volumes) and of an important collective  work showing his interest in social sciences, Gouverner par la peur, (« To Govern through Fear, ») in 2007. He could be followed on television or on France-Inter. But Bernard Maris was also many other things.

He was a great director of collection at the publishing house of Albin Michel. I can bear testimony to his efforts to make my book Les trous noirs de la science économique (« The Black Holes of Economic Science ») palatable for the French reader. The book was derved from the course I was then teaching at the Vyshaya Shkola Ekonomiki (High School of Economy – Moscow), where it had been published. Bernard drove me to rewrite it entirely in order to better emphasize what was essential in it, when other publishers were telling me that a work of economic theory and methodology would find no readers in France. His analysis was right and I consider that he was in large part responsible of its success. The relationship we tied at this occasion never slackened. I can bear witness of his attitude which was at once open, warm but also demanding towards his writers, and I confess that I am proud to have been published by a man like him. We have had all-day-long discussions and, from these discussions, another book emerged Les économistes contre la démocratie (« The Economists Against Democracy ») which was published in 2002. I was able then to measure his disgust with the behavior of some « contract-economists » (like : contract-killers), whose sole function is to furnish with justifications those who pay them. The project of a third book, written together with one my former Russian students about the “transition” in Russia did not materialize. But it gave us the pleasure of meeting several times at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, these very offices where this criminal attack has taken place which took away his life and the life of nine of his colleagues.

Bernard Maris, and this is less well known, was also a novelist. He published Pertinentes questions morales et sexuelles dans le Dakota du Nord (« Pertinent Moral and Sexual Question in North Dakota ») in 1995, where he let free reins to his passion for anthropology and, especially, L’Enfant qui voulait être muet (« The Child Who Wanted to be Mute ») in 2003. He was also an essayist with L’Homme dans la guerre. Maurice Genevoix face à Ernst Jünger, (« Man in War. Maurice Genevoix in regard of Ernst Jünger ») published by Grasset in 2013 and especially Houellebecq économiste, (« Houellebecq Economist ») published by Flammarion in 2014. He also made side-trips into the movies, collaborating with Jean-Luc Godard in particular. The extent of his knowledge, not only in economy but also in history and, as I mentioned already, in the various social sciences struck anybody who read him. Bernard had made his own the approach of Adam Smith who considered that economy was a moral science and implied close ties with the other disciplines in social sciences. Nothing was more foreign to him than the woolly concept of « pure economy » made fashionable by Leon Walras which inspires a whole tradition of economists who shine as much by their formalized reasoning as by their unrealistic deductions. He was waiting impatiently for the constitution of a section of political economy, divorced from the economy which was becoming the private playground of self-styled mathematicians.

His political engagement had lead him from the socialists to EELV, and at every one of our recent meetings, he went on raging against the government and the President. Appointed in 2011 to the General Counsel of the Banque de France, when he had already abundantly expressed his doubts concerning the survival of the Eurozone, he took the jump in early 2014 and explained why he was forthwith favorable to a dissolution of the Eurozone and to a return to national currencies. As one can imagine, we had talked many times about this subject and I saw his position evolve with time, as he came to understand in what dead-end the Euro was trapping France as well as Europe. I am convinced that his positions concerning the coming Greek crisis would have been important.

Bernard Maris was a delightful man, of great dignity in the intimate bereavement he suffered two years ago, one of these colleagues who give you to think that you were right to have chosen economy. His influence on young generations of students will have been considerable. He was and remains a model of a citizen economist, like Keynes who was his compass and his great reference.

He died at his desk, killed by the imbecile fanaticism which he abhorred.

He died, killed by this fanaticism which he despised and regularly denounced.

He died at his combat post.

My respects, uncle Bernard!


Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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