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Born Apr. 15, 1907, in Saint-Bénin; French economist and sociologist, known for his work on theories of technology.
Fourastié was appointed a professor at the Institute of Political Studies in 1945, and from 1949 he chaired the faculty of political economy at the Sorbonne. From 1953 to 1967 he was head of the Commission on Manpower in the General Commissariat of Planning. In 1968 he became a member of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.
Some fundamental technocratic theses were formulated in Fourastié’s writings. The books that brought him renown included The Great Hope of the 20th Century (1949), Civilization 1975 (1957), The Great Metamorphosis of the 20th Century (1961), and 40,000 Hours (1965). Fourastié examined the laws of social development, the structure of contemporary industrial society, and the social consequences of technological progress. In his opinion the intensive development of science and technology has made it possible for mankind to evolve in the direction of a “scientific society”—a variant of the industrial society—free of the burden of such conflicts as political, social, and religious antagonisms. Fourastié’s treatment of the goals of science is characteristically utilitarian; he regards technology as developing independently of social relations in a self-contained process.
Scientific and technological progress, according to Fourastié, has been elevated to the status of the 20th century’s greatest hope, and as such it represents an alternative to the Marxist position—namely, the inevitability of the class struggle directed at the elimination of capitalism as a socioeconomic formation. In his writings of the early 1970’s, such as his Open Letter to Four Billion People (1970), Fourastié was forced to acknowledge that scientific and technological progress has brought with it the deepening and exacerbation of the contradictions inherent in modern capitalism.