Archives de catégorie : Billets

Franco-German workshop on “Civic education and social integration, a Franco-German comparison: theoretical and methodological perspectives” in Paris, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (7 to 8 December 2017)

Lisa Schenkel (University of Münster)

School systems in France and Germany are very different in their historical development and institutional characteristics. Nevertheless, in times of growing pluralization, both systems must respond to similar challenges and contradictions. On the one hand, school is supposed to guarantee political integration and socio-economic insertion as well as creating cooperation in classrooms. On the other hand, teachers and students are exposed to a vast number of discourses about social challenges, held by society, economy, government and politics. How can school under these conditions still be the essence of what a nation wants to transmit culturally, and how can social integration take place? Consequently, teachers and students are constantly confronted with various expectations and dilemma-situations in the classroom. To stabilize their domain-specific acting, teachers have to make use of specific conventions and justifications. Especially in the domain of civic education, performative justifications regarding society, economy and politics are permanently demanded from the teachers. But, are these conventions and justifications they use the same in France and Germany? How do civic education teachers refer to the social scientific discourse? Do they use devices in a different manner?

Andrea Szukala (Münster University), Claude Proeschel (Université de Lorraine/ GSRL/EHESS) and Reinhold Hedtke (Bielefeld University) initiated a workshop from 7th to 8th December 2017 at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris that aimed to open new theoretical and methodological perspectives on civic education and social integration in France and Germany.

Claude Proeschl

Experts from France, Germany and Switzerland in the fields of Civic and Social Science Education, Sociology of Conventions, Methodology and Sociology of Education were brought into a scientific exchange to discuss new ways to carry out a comparative analysis that goes beyond a holistic description of citizenship models and school systems by making use of the Sociology of Conventions.

Claude Proeschel and Reinhold Hedtke opened the first session of the workshop by presenting and discussing the idea to make use of the Sociology of Conventions to compare citizenship education in France and Germany. They identified three research directions that would be interesting to follow in a comparative study of civic education in France and Germany: Situations, Practices and Professional Conventions.

Lisa Schenkel, Henning Middelschulte, Rainer Diaz-Bone & Reinhold Hedtke

Subsequently Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne) introduced the participants of the workshop into neopragmatism and explained pragmatist and neopragmatist perspectives on civic education and comparative studies. Furthermore, he elaborated on how methodological situationalism, which uses situations as analytic and interpretive unit, could be used in comparative studies.

Rainer Diaz-Bone & Géraldine Bozec

The first day of the workshop ended on a contribution from Jean-Louis Derouet (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon). He explained how, in the transition from the 20th to the 21st century, a certain number of “great divisions” that founded the modern age were called into question: the division between the normal and the pathological, between scientific, religious and indigenous knowledge, between man and nature, humans and non-humans. A certain number of these divisions are taken into consideration by the now prevailing idea of integrative societies. This also affected the education policy in France: many attempts were made to develop new conventional systems that would consider the differences of students, for example regarding handicaps, sex, culture, religion or talent.

Jean-Louis Derouet

The workshop session on Friday morning started with a talk by Tobias Röhl (Siegen University). He gave some practical methodological insights into how ethnographic research could be used for classroom studies and explained how material things (like chalk, books, an experimental toolkit or a blackboard) contribute to the formation of knowledge in the classroom.

Géraldine Bozec (Université Nice Sophia-Antipolis) pointed out in her talk that it would be interesting to look at the routines of civic education that are constantly take place in the classrooms. But she also expressed the objection that routines, which seem to stabilize civic education, might make it difficult to observe situations of crisis and conflict in which performative justifications of the teachers are inevitable. In this case, a binational perspective might help to identify, deconstruct and analyze situations and conventions that were not taken into consideration before because they seemed to be self-evident for the biased “local” researchers.

Tobias Röhl, Lisa Schenkel, Andrea Szukala, Géraldine Bozec (speaker), Anne-Claire Husser, & Jean-Luis Derouet

Anne-Claire Husser (École Supérieure du Professorat et de l’Éducation de Lyon) enriched the workshop by presenting the state of research on civic education in France. She explained that there is a lot of theoretical and historical research, but very little scientific insights on the process and the situations of teaching.

Anne-Claire Husser & Jean-Louis Derouet

Tobias Röhl

The workshop was closed by Andrea Szukala who gave a short introduction into the structures, traditions and challenges for citizenship education in schools and civic education research in Germany. During the past years, citizenship education in German schools has not only undergone a process of economization and globalization, but it has also been didactically over-stabilized. In the context of the new materialistic sociology of education, she raised questions about how professional actors and learners define critical classroom situations and how they use devices to enhance teacher-learner cooperation and communication about citizenship and belonging. The workshop gathered new perspectives on agency in the social scientific classroom and highlighted the urgent need for more comparative analysis adopting a materialistic and pragmatist vision of domain specific educational processes to better understand the stabilization and justification of the “social” in the social scientific classroom.

This Franco-German workshop was co-financed by the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst), Bureau Paris

Reinhold Hedtke, Rainer Diaz-Bone, Claude Proeschl & Henning Middelschulte

EC related presentations during the “Kolloquium Sozialforschung” at University of Lucerne (autumn 2017)

Guy Schwegler (University of Lucerne)

During last semester’s social research and methods lectures at the University of Lucerne, three presentations were given that relied heavily on convention theory (EC). Two of the researchers, who gave a speech, applied the theory in the realm of educational research—Leemann’s methodological considerations and Horvath’s presentation of his post-doc research—while Cappel is focusing on the subject of digitalisation and health in her PhD project.

Regula Leemann (FHNW Basel): “The Sociology of Conventions in Social Science’s Educational Research: Methodological Considerations and Experiences”

Regula Leemann presented her approach to EC in the educational research for the “Kolloquium Sozialforschung”, the social research and methods lecture series at University of Lucerne. The former primary school teacher and now professor for educational sociology has been one of the most visible EC theorists in Switzerland. Consistent with the focus of the lectures, Leeman talked about methodological issues related to a study she did a while ago. After a commissioned evaluation of a school gender day—a future career day intended to question/re-think gender-typical job images—, she used the collected data for a secondary study.

Regula Leemann

The establishing of this gender day, she argued, could be viewed as a critical moment with two situations to analyze. On one hand, there were the individual reactions of teachers and school representatives in the conducted group interviews. On the other hand, the specific situation the schools applied to establish the day could be analysed as well. Through this example study, Leemann presented various EC concepts as well as how she applied them, what methodological challenges arose and how she dealt with the challenges through formulating methodological rules for herself. Not least, Leemann also re-formulated a neoinstitutionalist isomorphism thesis of adopting such a gender day. She was able to locate the establishment of the gender day on the level of the actors as wells as their justifications—therefore living up to EC’s combination of pragmatism and structuralism. Leemann went on to present her methodological rules for the EC concepts she used in her secondary analysis of the gender day. With the idea of a plurality of the conventions, she put the role of the researcher itself into perspective, as also her judgments (within the evaluation) should use the justifications given—and not prior normative starting points. With the ideas of justice and justesse, she stressed the fact that not only intense moments during group discussions should be of interest, but also the ones, were sought-after reactions from the participants didn’t occur. With EC’s demand for an extended actor concept, Leemann also present the limits of her secondary analysis—as she was not able to go beyond a few central actors (teachers and school officials). The discussion that followed her presentation mostly centred on the connection between the domestic convention and questions of gender. Are certain justifications via the domestic convention outdated if it comes to gender? (A discussant pointed out this article for further insights: see Talahite 2011). Or are there possibilities to imagine different gender roles (e.g. non-binary and non-stereotypical) with the domestic convention? Another aspect of the discussion brought forward that within the educational sector especially, certain conventions seem to have unchallenged notions—be it always unproblematic (civic conventions), problematic (domestic convention) or for the most part never questioned (industrial convention) like with the example of the notion of ‘fit’ students shows. Leemann’s presentation not only showed the importance of such detailed conventional question, but also their very specific methodological relevance.

Kenneth Horvath (University of Lucerne): “Measuring Educational Classification Knowledge”

For the second EC related presentation in the “Kolloquium Sozialforschung”, Kenneth Horvath presented first ideas for his post-doc research projects. Since August 2017, Horvath is working at the University of Lucerne as a post-doc researcher at Sociology’s chair for qualitative and quantitative methods. Before that, he held a position at the Karlsruhe University of Education—where he extended his former studies on migration to education, which also will be the subject for his upcoming research. He’s move to Switzerland reflects this shift not least again, if one considering EC strong position in educational issues amongst Swiss researchers. In the lecture (see Horvath et al. 2017), Horvath first presented his own starting point, moving from issues of migration to education, as he has been dealing with research topics such as children with migration background and highly gifted children.

Kenneth Horvath

The connected questions to those two topics are related to educational inequality and educational classification knowledge. Horvath named the three major approaches to the question of inequality in education: competencies and educational research, ethnographic studies in education as well as the institutional discrimination theory. All of these three approaches, he summed up, are having troubles dealing with the relationship of structure and practice and argue from an inner-educational standpoint when explaining inequality. Educational classification knowledge as used by teachers themselves on the other hand, is very much an interface between such insider and more broader knowledge—and therefore connected to wider issues to answer inequality within education. With examples of transcripts from recent qualitative interviews (where teachers had to describe their classes), Horvath then went on to explain his idea of classification knowledge through the descriptions the teachers made of their pupils. These descriptions did not only evaluate the students and their respective skills in schools, but also tried to explain why each child acted and performed the way it did. All those descriptions were in term related to certain justifications and used certain categorisations—but they did not only relate to pedagogical realms. Especially when the teachers went beyond a mere reason of their evaluation and classification to an understanding of the child, a change from justification to a regime of familiarity took place. The question for Horvath is how to measure and to quantify the knowledge that teachers use, also in their own quantifications. Other approaches (mostly the competence paradigm) are using Likert-scales to measure such classification knowledge, while somewhat ignoring the scale’s background to measure political views and possible social desirability issues. Dissatisfied with Liker-scale measurements, Horvath tries to approach the classification from a more experimental-setting—following Boltanski’s and Thévenot’s study (1983). To finish his presentation, he introduced two ideas to measure educational classification knowledge that he is currently considering. Unlike Boltanski’s and Thévenot’s experiment, Horvath would like to work quantitative. He thus presented first the idea of factorial surveys, where participants need to choose between descriptions (vignettes) in somewhat dilemma like situations ( Horvath referred to MIT’s Moral Machine (http://moralmachine.mit.edu/) and wiki surveys as an inspiration for the factorial survey). Especially interesting for Horvath would be a way to give the teachers a possibility to re-integrate their own descriptions in the survey. This first idea was all about adding an experiment like quality to a quantitative survey. His second idea to measure educational classification knowledge would be to make use of the active community of teachers in online forums. In scraping these forums, he should be able to get a solid data foundation to quantify the teachers’ classification knowledge and therefore—as with the idea of the factorial survey—get insights into the way they not only justify their evaluation of the pupils but also their descriptions of and explanations for pupils. The discussion following Horvath’s presentation started with the issues of the teachers’ self-awareness (in theoretical topics related to their work) and possible self-portrayal—and which of the two methods would be more prone to this issues. As Horvath argued, he is also very much interested in these mechanisms—not the teacher as a private, but as professional person is the focus of the research. Further discussions were concerned with how to move away from a mere discovery approach (and therefore structuralism) to explaining the processes at hand in a different way. Within this discussing, Horvath referred to the category of migration and how it is applied within the teachers’ differentiating knowledge. The ideas Horvath presented were not only interesting for their use of EC as an alternative to existing approaches in pedagogic and school settings, but because of the fact how he is aiming at categorisations and quantifications as well as the way they are the established (within and outside of a pedagogical realm) and used. The methodological ideas he presented to approach this kind of meta-perspective on the process of educational classification knowledge added another interesting level to an already worthwhile idea and presentation.

Valeska Cappel (University of Lucerne): “Health Apps – An Investment in Form for a Digital Health Condition?”

Valeska Cappel

For the third EC-related (and final) presentation in the “Kolloquium Sozialforschung”, Valeska Cappel presented her project on health apps. Cappel started with her PHD this year at the University of Lucerne and for the lecture, she gave some first insights into the conceptual work she did so far. The health apps that are the focus of Cappel’s PhD project act as preventive data trackers (in contrast to certain programs for specific diseases)—such as “fitbit” or Swiss medical insurance CSS’ “myStep”. She described three particular developments related to the health trackers. First, the general usage of those apps seems to increase and they therefore gain social science’s interest more and more. However, a general focus of studies on those apps deals with motivation of usage, mostly ignoring wider consequences of such usage. Second, a new kind of interconnectedness related to (preventive) health issues takes place: between a scientific and a commercial field, individuals, welfare state and more. The recent law of the electronic patient dossier (“Gesetzgebung Elektronisches Patientendossier”) in Switzerland is an example of how also legislation needs to deal with such an interconnectedness. Finally yet importantly, the apps seem to introduce new preventive vital parameters that are quantifying every-day actions for health purposes. Against the background of those three developments and the emerged situations, Cappel wants to ask what categories and standardisations are introduced via the apps and what logics are at work. The reason she chose EC as her theoretical framework is that not an actors’ perspective is what is of interest, but how those apps are working in situations, how an interplay between physicalness and material is taking place. The central EC concept—as the title suggests—are investments in form and how apps achieve new investments and initiate coordination. In addition, the quality conventions are at play as Cappel exemplified by the “myStep” app. From the market convention, such an app is a unique feature for the health insurance company—while for its users it is a way to pay less for their insurance. Both sides are therefore primary concerned with other issues than health itself. Her empirical work as she outlined it during the presentation would include expert-interviews with health related actors (e.g. doctors, patients, developers of the apps …) accompanied by document analysis and a qualitative experiment. In the experiment, participants should develop/discuss a new health app or a new preventive health course and defend one option in a group setting. While the first approach would describe the general situation of the apps and the references being made in those situations, the experimental part would show in which situations the apps are actually working. Cappel ended her presentation with some open questions regarding her PHD project. Are those health apps just another example of a digitalisation of classification? Alternatively, is there something genuinely new happening on a cognitive level related to health? Also, the question of whether such a digitalisation is actually working and having consequences is one that needs to be addressed. The discussion that followed this last presentation of the colloquium was mainly concerned with a deepened understanding of Cappel’s research interest. In addition, some more specific issues such as how change (through the health apps) can be integrated and addressed in her methodological framework or whether health apps (as a health practice of quantification) are actually something new. Overall, Cappel’s PhD project promises already in its early stage interesting insights into digitalisation, classification and health—not at least through the application of EC.

References

Boltanski, Luc, and Laurent Thévenot. 1983. “Finding one’s way in social space” study. Social Science Information. 22(4/5), pp. 631- 680.

Boltanski, Luc, and Laurent Thévenot. 1999. “The Sociology of Critical Capacity.“ European Journal of Social Theory 2(3), pp. 359-377.

Horvath, Kenneth, Anna Amelina, and Karin Peters (eds.) (2017): Migration regimes in the spotlight: The politics of migration in an age of uncertainty. Special issue of Migration Studies 5(3).

Talahite, Fatiha. 2011. “L’engendrement chez Luc Boltanski et Pierre Legendre: lectures croisées.“ Enfances, Familles, Generations. 14, pp. 113-138. 

The first 100 days

Interview with Guillemette de Larquier on her new position as full professor:
“… we would like to show how EC can complement the labor market segmentation theory”

Katharina Pernkopf (Vienna) & Lisa Knoll (Hamburg & Halle)

Question: The first months are important days in a new position. How have you experienced this time?

Guillemette de Larquier

GdL: After 30 years at the University of Paris 10 – Nanterre (my studies included), I arrived at the University of Lille 1 on September 1, 2017, more precisely at the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, and I am attached to the research lab Clersé (Centre lillois d’études et de recherches sociologiques et économiques). I occupy the position of professor of econometrics applied to labor economics. I see three main missions in this new position: training econometricians who are not necessarily destined to be academics, joining a small team of scholars (led by Héloïse Petit) who privilege applied qualitative and quantitative studies in labor issues and contributing to the development of institutional theories in economics. At Clersé, several researchers (Florence Jany-Catrice and Nicolas Postel for example) are developing works that mobilize conventions and several PhD theses with a conventionalist dimension have been supported or are in progress. I feel very welcome, having the opportunity to present my work in seminars and workshops. On the teaching side, I wait to discover Lille’s first-year students in the next semester. I will be in charge of a large introductory lecture room on microeconomics.

I arrive at an important moment for my new colleagues, the fusion of the three universities of Lille which will be effective in 2018. This fusion, inevitably a « critical » moment, reveals different points of view on the place of the economy among the other disciplines. You should know that the Faculty brings together the departments of economics and sociology and Clersé has the distinction of being a CNRS laboratory registered in sociology and economics. This balance, quite exceptional in France, can be praised or criticized … I am among those who appreciate this balance and I hope to contribute to new synergies between the two disciplines.

Question: Please tell us a little bit about your educational and academic background. What have been the most important influences, inspirations, and key moments?

GdL: I did all my studies at the University of Paris 10 – Nanterre. I started my studies with an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics for social sciences, then I specialized in modeling applied to economics and management, with a good training in econometrics. I started a thesis in economics with Olivier Favereau who submitted me a thesis topic he thought promising: the theory of job matching to explain the labor market dynamics. And he was right!

I took a strong interest in the « conventional » models of job matching in microeconomics (Boyan Jovanovic, Dale Mortensen, Alvin Roth) and macroeconomics (Christopher Pissarides) and it was only between my 2nd and 3rd year of PHD that I introduced a « conventionalist » dimension in my work. Olivier Favereau was not a prescriptive director of my thesis but, in a small sentence, he instilled a doubt in my mind. He told me that he had heard Jean-Daniel Reynaud saying something very right during a seminar: « A worker is not matched to a job but to a firm, a team of work ». If we take this evidence seriously, it’s destructive. With rare exceptions, in the matching models, there is a market for workers and jobs that are independent of each other. There is no room for any firm in these elegant theoretical constructions. It is therefore by wanting to introduce the firm into the matching dynamics that I had to move on to something else. François Eymard-Duvernay had just arrived at the University of Paris 10 – Nanterre and I found convincing his work on the plurality of conventions of goods quality and models of firms. In this line, I deduced a plurality of matches in firms and a plurality of matching processes in the labor market. That was my first step in EC.

Then, I was recruited as a lecturer at the University of Paris 10 – Nanterre. In the early 2000s, there was in Nanterre an “incubator” of young researchers, the 2nd generation of “conventionalists” as Olivier Favereau said. We were a dynamic group of lecturers and doctoral students around Philippe Batifoulier who directed the collective book « Théorie des conventions » published in 2001. The work was structured around the dual filiation of John Keynes and David Lewis. I worked on game theory chapters in Lewis’ filiation. The concept of « bad convention » came out of it, which was unexpectedly successful. It is in the same team spirit that in 2016 five of us (Philippe Batifoulier, Franck Bessis, Ariane Ghirardello, Delphine Remillon and me) published the “Dictionnaire des conventions” in honor of Olivier Favereau who gathered the contributions of 75 researchers.

In 2007, I had the good fortune to join for five years the Centre d’Etudes de l’Emploi (which was deeply marked by François Eymard-Duvernay and Laurent Thévenot in the 1980s and 1990s – I invite you to read the article written by Thomas Amossé about the CEE; see Amossé 2016). In this center, I developed all of my empirical work on labor market intermediaries and firms’ recruitment practices with Christian Bessy, Emmanuelle Marchal, Carole Tuchszirer and Géraldine Rieucau. These collaborations have particularly nourished my reflections on the quality conventions and the investments in forms underlying the functioning of the labor market, as I explained in my « habilitation à diriger les recherches » (HDR thesis. state doctorate) supported in 2016.

Question: To what extent will your research agenda be inspired by EC?

GdL: In my research applied to the labor market, EC brings me – above all – a theory of action where actors make their decisions based on two-level conventions: the level of behavior and the level of representations. I do not really describe the content of the conventions and I don’t study their evolution. EC thus brings me a paradigm on the rationality of the actors. First, their rationality is procedural: they follow rules, some of them being conventions of behavior. Secondly, their rationality is interpretative: the rules are supplemented by conventions at the representation level, which gives a shared meaning to the follow-up of the rules. Tertio, their rationality is argumentative: for example, to justify that the follow-up of such rule in such a situation is appropriate. The actors have an ability to judge what is and is not worthwhile, considering that arguments in terms of individual interest or subjective well-being may not be admissible in order to justify a public action (in the sense of visible by others) such as a promotion decision in an organization or the non-recruitment of a person recommended by an employee.

Question: Please give us a short overview with regard to your previous, current and future research projects that build on EC concepts.

GdL: My starting question is the quality of the matches between workers and jobs. Interactions in the labor market are subject to uncertainty because it is impossible to ascertain the quality of a match before experiencing it. In line with the approach of François Eymard-Duvernay and Emmanuelle Marchal (1997), I regard hiring as an uncertain situation, in which recruiters have to “qualify” labor and workers who do not have worth per se. The ways recruiters define, interpret and assess applicants’ qualities rely on a “labor quality convention”: they imply conventional judgments of what makes a “good candidate”. Consequently, as Emmanuelle Marchal and I  showed with a French nation-wide employer survey (Larquier/Marchal 2016), the applicants’ worth depends on the choice of recruitment and assessment methods, on the way of using them, and on the type of actors involved in the process. Typically, the hiring process is a “trial”, as defined by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello (1999), that is to say a social arrangement organizing the test of people’s abilities resulting in their ranking. In fact, the hiring process needs to be a legitimate trial because it justifies the distribution of social goods (jobs) to people according to their ranking. As Christian Imdorf (2017) wrote, the selected candidates have to be “credible and legitimate in the eyes of others”: employees, hierarchy, customers, business and public partners.  Recruiters and employers have to explain themselves to ensure coordination and cooperation inside and outside the firm.

As long as hiring practices seem to be efficient in the coordination (they avoid serious hiring failures from recruiters’ interpretation) and legitimate (there is no strong critics about their organization and their outcome), recruiters have no reason to change their way of value applicants. Finally, given these conditions – no failure of efficiency and of legitimacy –, recruiters in firms have the “power of valuation” (according to the innovative concept introduced by François Eymard-Duvernay, 2012): in the labor markets, actors accept that employers can decide who are valuable and who are not. Their labor quality conventions are diffused in the labor market and the applicants have to adjust themselves to these quality conventions. How? It is the function of recruitment channels. It is the issue of my present work with Géraldine Rieucau.

The labor market – in other words, the uncertainty outside the firm – is shaped by the recruitment channels that the firm uses. Here the concept designed by Laurent Thévenot is very useful: the investments in forms.  By using a given channel, employers and workers base their decisions and actions on the investments in forms embedded in that channel. They delimit and stabilize the outlines of labor markets and they shape the information about the applicant’s qualities and employer’s requirements. The objective is to coordinate the representations of the labor market and to make possible the formation of matches between firms and workers. And, given the power of valuation of the firms, investments in forms embedded in channels are expected to be coherent with the employers’ labor quality conventions. Finally, my conventionalist approach amends the traditional opposition between external and internal labor markets highlighted by Peter Doeringer and Michael Piore (1971). I consider that external and internal labor markets’ dynamics are linked by the way firms judge the quality of labor and by the way channels convey firms’ valuations.

Question: In terms of your research agenda, what will be the focus of your future work?

GdL: My constant subject is the evaluation of work quality by firms. The recruitment is the exemplary moment for addressing this issue and I will not abandon it. In addition, recruitment is neither quite in the market nor quite in the firm but at the hinge of both. So, by analyzing the recruitment and the conventions that are revealed during the recruitment outcomes, we improve the understanding both of the labor market as a place of matching and of the firms as places of workforce management. My research then will continue in both directions: on the one hand, the analysis of market channels used not only by firms but also by job seekers and, on the other hand, the analysis of the training policies in firms, another crucial moment for valuing work (in the strong sense) by firms. With Géraldine Rieucau, we would like to show how EC can complement the labor market segmentation theory. Investments in forms in external labor markets (ie, channels and intermediaries) and conventions in force in internal labor markets imply  that certain qualities are recognized for certain jobs and workers and exclude others; that produces, maintains and strengthens segments of the labor market that are distinguished from one another by the qualification and management of workers and jobs. For example, the category of « unskilled » is not a natural data; in the « unskilled » segment, the qualities that matter are not stabilized by investments in forms made by academic, professional or labor market-specific institutions; as a result, the dynamics of this segment rely on other types of formats to qualify workers and jobs and this segment is likely to be much more embedded in the social structure; it is therefore a mistake to say that the « unskilled » segment corresponds to the most « competitive » segment (I am actually referring to a very fine remark by Jérôme Gautié commenting on Géraldine Rieucau’s HDR thesis).

In short, in my research agenda, there are a number of relatively classical projects in applied labor economics (recruitment channels, professional integration of youth, firm training policies, mobility of trained employees); but each time, I introduce this nagging question specific to EC: how is the work quality recognized? It is not an objective fact; it is neither totally subjective, inscribed in the evaluator’s preferences; it is a convention, intersubjective, each one considering that it is shared with others, and this with good reasons since it is stabilized by different investments in forms.

Question: Where do you see the strengths of EC and its opportunities? Any weaknesses and threats you can detect? What do you expect to be the most important issues, research questions and conceptual puzzles you or other EC scholars should address?

GdL: The EC is not a chapel with strict dogmas; on the contrary, there are many ways to be conventionalist! It is a strength of the EC, but also the cause of its weaknesses. Some researchers use the Economies of Worth of Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot to identify justifications in the discourses; others consider conventions less demanding in terms of justification, their legitimacy being much more local; others may not speak of conventions at all, but adhere to the hypothesis of interpretative and argumentative rationality of the actors. As a result, the consistency and visibility of EC are not so clear. There is no handbook but a myriad of books and articles. When a student asks me what to read for an introduction to EC, I can unfortunately not give a single reference (unless reading German: the book of Rainer Diaz-Bone (2015) being the only reference handbook that I know); it is necessary to make the effort to read several references (for example the ones listed in the References tab of the blog) and discover the various facets of EC. So, learning about EC is not easy, but despite this, I see that many young researchers are integrating a conventionalist dimension into their work. Their field studies lead them to adopt EC, because they observe the conventions and the justifications in situation.

Moreover, from the point of view of the other institutionalist currents in economics, we can at the same time acknowledge to EC a certain capacity to spread the strong points of its program (the widening of the actors’ cognitive and ethical capacities and the meso-analysis of markets and organizations) and blame EC for an apparent lack of analysis of conflicts and of the capitalist system. In response to this reproach, not completely unfounded but not completely deserved either, we organize in Lille, with Richard Sobel, two studies days in June 2018 on the contributions of EC to the understanding of the mutations of contemporary capitalism.

Question: Can you provide any advice for young scholars who want to work with EC and find their way in academia?

GdL: In general, I advise young researchers to always keep an empirical dimension in their work. This gives more strength to the theory that is applied, especially when this theory is not the conventional one taught at university!

Question: Why does EC matter in France and beyond?

GdL: EC matters if you are looking for a paradigm in social sciences explaining the plurality of forms of coordination and the normative attachment of the actors to each of these forms. It is true in France and beyond!

References

Amossé T. 2016. The Centre d’Etudes de l’Emploi (1970-2015): Statistics – on the cusp of social sciences and the state. Historical Social Research,  41(2), p. 72-95.

Batifoulier P. (ed.). 2001. Théorie des conventions. Paris: Economica.

Batifoulier P., Bessis F., Ghirardello A., Larquier G. de, Remillon D. (eds.). 2016. Dictionnaire des conventions – Autour des travaux d’Olivier Favereau. Villeneuve-d’Ascq: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion.

Boltanski L., Chiapello E., 1999, Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme. Paris: Gallimard.

Boltanski L., Thévenot L. 1991. De la Justification. Les économies de la grandeur. Paris: Gallimard.

Diaz-Bone R. 2015. Die « Economie des conventions » – Grundlagen und Entwicklungen der neuen französischen Wirtschaftssoziologie. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Doeringer P., Piore M. 1971. Internal Labor Markets and Manpower Analysis. Lexington: D.C. Heath.

Eymard-Duvernay F., Marchal E. 1997. Façons de recruter: le jugement des compétences sur le marché du travail. Paris: Métailié.

Eymard-Duvernay F. 2012. Le travail dans l’entreprise: pour une démocratisation des pouvoirs de valorisation. In L’entreprise, formes de la propriété et responsabilités sociales, ed. Baudoin Roger, 227-278. Paris: Éditions Lethielleux.

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