General presentation

Unique in France, the Master 2 “Economics and Human Sciences: Epistemology, Methods, Theories” at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne focuses on the epistemology of economics and on the recent history of the discipline. It offers a training programme that allows students to question the changing and complex relations between economics and other disciplines, both to understand the conditions of knowledge production and use in the academic sphere and to shed light on the normative dimensions and political uses of theories.

The relations that economics has with the other human and social sciences, as with the natural sciences, mathematics and, more recently, computer sciences, are an integral part of the history of the discipline and of the debates that have shaped it. More than ever in the last half-century, the objects and methods of economics have been influenced by other disciplines and are in turn redefining the ways in which economic and public policies are legitimised.

Three key developments in economic epistemology have characterised the evolution of the discipline in recent decades. The first fact concerns the relationship of economics to philosophy. The normative dimension of economic hypotheses, theories and policies, which was once underpinned by the privileged links between political economy and moral and political philosophy, was considerably transformed in the mid-20th century. Normative issues have since been reinvested by certain fields of the discipline (social choice, decision theory, ecological economics, health economics, legal economics, etc.), thus engaging in a lively and renewed dialogue with philosophy.

The second important fact concerns the economist’s tools and data. In the space of thirty years, the range of tools and methodologies available to the economic researcher has expanded: almost all fields of economic theory now give a role to experiments (laboratory, field, natural). Many fields produce results through the use of big data. Programmes allowing simulations to be carried out have multiplied, to assist in the study of complex systems. The effect of all these transformations is to modify the conditions of production of economic facts, leading economists to shift their attention to new objects and to produce relevant data, thanks to the ever more advanced use of information technologies.

The third fact concerns the relationship between the economic and the political. Directly or indirectly, economic theories and analyses produce evaluations of social states. They play a role in promoting radical transformations of the economic system or specific policies in a given field. In order to understand how economic theories and representations can influence social actors, it is necessary to analyse the social construction and legitimisation of economists’ interventions in the public sphere. The epistemology of economics should allow us to reflect on the specific roles of language and narrative devices at all levels of the production and implementation of knowledge, from the laboratory to the courtroom, from academic journals to social networks. Particular attention is paid to the role of expertise in the public sphere.

The aim of the Master 2 ESH is therefore to offer a complete and diversified programme on the foundations and methods of recent economic theory. It highlights the relations with other disciplines (psychology, law, sociology, environmental sciences), reflection on the social contexts of production and dissemination of knowledge, and the natural links of economics with philosophy. Finally, it offers students the possibility of acquiring thematic and methodological skills specifically adapted to their research and professional projects and to their thematic sensibilities. A wide choice of courses or seminars from other programmes is offered (with a limited number of places) and it is also possible to take courses from the Master 2 Histoire de la pensée économique at the University of Paris 1.


The M2 ESH welcomes English speaking students with only a passive knowledge and understanding of the French language. All exams and mandatory works can be written in English, and several courses though in French are accompanied with slides in English. Also, some elective courses are delivered in English. The M2 ESH is a demanding programme, which is aimed at students coming from M1 but also at students who already have an M2 degree in another speciality and who wish to complete and strengthen their capacity for reflection on a theme and acquire a reflective background before starting a thesis or looking for a job. It requires an open mind and an appetite for reading, debate, writing and research. Students applying for the M2 ESH after an M1 should prepare for this course by following the reading advice and thinking about the research topics they would like to pursue. Several elective courses in the programme start in the first week of September and require enrolment as early as the end of August, so it is advisable to take the time to reflect in advance and make an informed choice.

What is the purpose of the M2 ESH?

Some of the students who have completed the M2 ESH intend to prepare a PhD dissertation and obtain funding for this in various universities in France or abroad. Others choose to take the secondary education teaching exams (CAPES, agrégation de sciences économiques et sociales). Finally, others choose to continue in another M2 or to look for a job, in which they succeed without difficulty. The M2 ESH is an opportunity to acquire a solid foundation of theoretical and cross-disciplinary skills: analytical, writing, synthesis, reading and documentary monitoring, oral presentation skills, and possibly skills in the use of data visualisation or lexicographical analysis tools (R software). These skills are highly valued by employers in many fields, such as consultancy firms, publishing, NGOs, public or international bodies (OECD, ILO, etc.), trade unions, and journalism.

Doing an internship during the M2

Doing an internship during the M2 year can be an asset in the pursuit of a professional career. The M2 ESH supports students who wish to do a research-oriented internship. Various public or semi-public organisations and local authorities are likely to offer assignments on topics of interest to students, in line with the compulsory Master thesis project.

Formation (in the process of being validated)

Required courses

UE 1 Fondamentals
  • Epistemology of economics 1 : authors and controversies
  • Epistemology of economics 2 : methods and ontology
  • Economics and Sociology
UE 3 Methods
  • Methodological Seminar (shared with M2 HPE)
UE 1 Fondamentals
  • Quantify and model in economics
  • Economic theories of justice: welfare, social choice and norms
  • Rational choice theory : epistemology and history
UE 3 Methods

Research in practice and “Cercle d’Epistémologie Economique”

Optionnal courses

UE 2 Going Further
UE 2 Going Further

N.B. :

  • Some courses validated in S4 are given in S3 or straddle the two semesters S3/S4.
  • The hourly volume of some courses is higher than 18 hours.
  • The total annual number of courses in the M2 HPE is limited to two.
  • Access to some courses is limited to a few places and/or requires registration at the end of August. Some courses start the first week of September.

You can consult the general model of the master (in the process of being validated):