The physical economy of France (1830-2015)

The history of a parasite ?


This article explores long-term trends and patterns of material use in France for a 185-year period. It is the first long-term study of material flows for France with national and yearly data for most of the period. Based on a material flow analysis (MFA) that is fully consistent with current standards of economy-wide MFAs and covers domestic extraction, imports, and exports of materials, we investigated the evolution of the French metabolism from industrialization to financialized capitalism. Over the whole period, there is a 9-fold increase in domestic material consumption, an expansion of material use per capita, and a spectacular addition of abiotic resources (fossil fuels and minerals) to biotic materials. Using a world-ecology framework, we exhibit a specific metabolic path: that of a state benefiting from successive world-systems for its economic development through massive material imports.



Nelo Magalhães, Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, François Jarrige, Gaëtan Levillain, Margot Lyautey, Thomas Le Roux, Guillaume Noblet, Christophe Bonneuil.

Ecological economics, november 2018.

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