Regional Development: How Convention Theory Explains Economic Development

Kenkichi Nagao & Junya Tatemi (2024)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. Despite the notion that “The world is flat,” “The world is curved” with uneven geographical development. Why does contemporary capitalism simultaneously or paradoxically exhibit trends of globalization and localization? Why do economic wealth and opportunities differ across regions? The economics and sociology of conventions (in short EC/SC) provide a perspective on understanding the dynamics of regional development. The contributions of EC/SC to regional studies are fourfold. First, this approach integrates economic and noneconomic factors to explain linkages and coordination between actors. Second, it indicates that regions are the fundamental unit of economic life that contribute to the dynamics of capitalism but are not just an outcome of the maximization of individual behaviors. Third, this approach extends valuation perspectives on regional studies to examine the dynamics of industrial changes by penetrating different subjects, from coordination to market construction. Furthermore, through the concept of the “power of valuation,” regional studies with the EC/SC perspective have revealed uneven geographical development. Shifts in research from focusing on “traded interdependencies” on interfirm linkages to “untraded interdependencies” on actors’ relationships have caused a broader trend of “relational turn” in the field of economic geography and regional studies. This chapter presents findings obtained using a realistic approach based on EC/SC to examine the “black box” in regional development studies.

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Convention Theory as a New Analytical Framework for Geographical Phenomena

Philippe Vidal (2024)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. This chapter demonstrates the effectiveness of the theoretical apparatus of the economics and sociology of conventions (EC/CS) in the analysis of territorial phenomena. The chapter has a double purpose. First, it is addressed to geographers and spatial planners. The aim is to show that the convention approach allows them to better understand the dynamics of territorial actors. Reading territorial problems through the prism of convention theory makes it possible to analyze potential blockages and reveal frameworks of agreement. These frameworks may be the result of rather unstable compromises when several convention-based regimes coexist in the same territory, and it is therefore of utmost interest to study them in order to shed light on the interplay of actors at work. Looking at the dynamics of conventions helps to identify, in a given socio-spatial context, which conventions are losing ground and which are gaining ground. This dynamic reading of situations, once transferred to practitioners, can illuminate their choices in terms of strategic options for territorial development. The second plea is for EC/CS scholars to consider space in a more comprehensive and reflexive way. The contribution of geography is obviously territorial. Geography can make it possible to territorialize conventions, that is, to anchor them in a context that goes far beyond a simplistic vision of space. It’s about working with space, not just looking at it from its geographical boundaries. In this way, a stronger integration of geographic and urban planning thinking into the research programs of the EC/CS will be promoted.

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Conceptual Mapping of Controversies

Claude Draude, Dominik Dürrschnabel, Johannes Hirth, Viktoria Horn, Jonathan Kropf, Jörn Lamla, Gerd Stumme & Markus Uhlmann (2024)

Abstract. With our work, we contribute towards a qualitative analysis of the discourse on controversies in online news media. For this, we employ Formal Concept Analysis and the economics of conventions to derive conceptual controversy maps. In our experiments, we analyze two maps from different news journals with methods from ordinal data science. We show how these methods can be used to assess the diversity, complexity and potential bias of controversies. In addition to that, we discuss how the diagrams of concept lattices can be used to navigate between news articles.

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Why do students resist assessment by group-work? Hearing critique in the complaint

Kathryn Telling (2024)

European Educational Research Journal, Online first, open access

Abstract. The cry that today’s higher education students are particularly individualist is a commonly-heard one. In England, the considerable personal cost of tuition is often blamed for creating a series of negative student traits, including consumerism (an idea that one has bought the right to a degree) and individualism (a sense of the individual as the beneficiary of the bought product, as against any sense of collectivism, or education as public good). This paper explores one element of students’ purported individualism: their resistance to group-work as an aspect of assessment. Presenting interview data with university students in England, it argues that such student disquiet does not stem from a resistance to collectivism in general. Using pragmatic sociology, the paper considers students’ often gentle and humorous comments about group-work as critique, not complaint. Rather than understanding students’ resistance to group-work as individualist grievance about doing something they would simply rather not do, this way of conceptualising their comments understands students as making critical points about what should be assessed for at university. It argues that this way of thinking about resistance to group-work leads us to take that resistance seriously, and in turn to take students seriously as interlocuters on educational matters.

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Öko-Startups und der grüne Geist des Kapitalismus – zur unternehmerischen Bearbeitung von ökologischen Herausforderungen

Eco Start-Ups and the Green Spirit of Capitalism: On Entrepreneurial Approaches to Ecological Challenges

Eltje Gajewski & Gregor Kungl (2024)

Zeitschrift für Soziologie, Online first, open access

Zusammenfassung. Der Beitrag trägt zur Debatte über die Bearbeitung von ökologischen Herausforderungen im Gegenwartskapitalismus bei, indem er das Konzept des „grünen Geistes des Kapitalismus“ empirisch begründet weiterentwickelt. Anknüpfend an die Arbeiten von Sombart, Weber und Boltanski/Chiapello untersucht er anhand von neun qualitativen Fallstudien die Konstitution des kapitalistischen Geistes bei ‚grünen‘ Unternehmer:innen. Dabei zeigt sich, auf welche Weise sich in der Geisteshaltung der Befragten ökologische und kapitalistische Sinngehalte miteinander verbinden und wie sie mögliche Widersprüchlichkeiten bearbeiten. Zwar lassen sich in den untersuchten Fällen situative Brüche mit kapitalistischen Prinzipien beobachten, diese führen jedoch nicht zu einer substanziellen Überwindung kapitalistischer Grundprinzipien wie Gewinnstreben oder Wettbewerbsorientierung. Als Grund identifizieren wir spezifische Deutungsmuster, die die Wirtschaftsgesinnung der Befragten im Fall von Konflikten zwischen ökologischen und ökonomischen Zielsetzungen stabilisieren.

Abstract. This article contributes to the debate on the approach to ecological challenges in contemporary capitalism by empirically developing the concept of the “green spirit of capitalism”. Drawing on the work of Sombart, Weber and Boltanski/Chiapello, it uses nine qualitative case studies to analyse the constitution of the capitalist spirit among ‘green’ entrepreneurs. It shows how ecological and capitalist meaning contents are combined in the mindset of the interviewees and how they deal with potential contradictions. Although situational breaks with capitalist principles can be observed in the cases analysed, these do not lead to a substantial overcoming of basic capitalist principles such as the pursuit of profit or competitive orientation. This is because of specific patterns of thinking that stabilise the respondents’ economic attitudes in the case of conflicts between ecological and economic objectives.

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Quality competition on markets: a socio-economic account

Malte Doehne (2024)

Socio-Economic Review. Online first, open access

Abstract. When, and for whom, does it pay to make high-quality products? This article models how quality competition incentivizes producers to make products of particular qualities. Quality is defined as an abstract property of products that explains relative markups on prices that buyers will pay for otherwise comparable goods. Relative differences in quality sustain interlinked quality niches whose appeal to producers vary. The ordering of niches by quality and its implications for profitability establish the market’s quality order of production. The model yields testable predictions for the locus of quality-related innovations. An analysis of the bottle closures used on 52880 German wines by 1028 winemakers in three winemaking regimes supports the general claim that, and a specific claim as to how, quality competition incentivizes producers to pursue different quality-related strategies. The presented model situates quality competition and the socially embedded quality order of production at the heart of a socio-economic account of markets.

Extract: “More generally, acknowledging that markets may locate in one or any of the failed regions of the market plane draws attention to a basic economic-sociological insight: that markets are embedded into society more broadly. Market stability is hardly a pure outcome of the profit-maximizing behavior of producers, as White’s formal account requires. Instead, what appears impossible from a viewpoint that is predicated on producers’ profit- maximizing efforts may yet be sustained by other factors, such as commonly held narratives and cultural framings (White, 2000; M€utzel, 2009; Godart and Claes, 2017), established customer relations (Chiffoleau and Laporte, 2006), conventions (Favereau et al., 2002), local social contexts (Doehne et al., 2024a), deep-seated principles of evaluation (Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006 [1991]; Diaz-Bone, 2005), state interventions (Fligstein, 2001; Doehne et al., 2023) or evaluative schemas that stabilize valuations of product quality at the producer’s level (Lynn et al., 2009; Hsu et al., 2012; Malter, 2014). Acknowledging that market participants compete not only on price but also on quality entails that producers actively shape buyers’ perceptions to improve their market position (Musselin and Paradeise, 2005; Beckert and Musselin, 2013; Musselin, 2018). The presented model operationalizes the time-varying outcome of such quality competition in the relative performance of producers and their changing positions on the quality order of production.” (p. 23)

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Vocational Middle Schools (VMSs) as Marginalized Part of the Swiss VET System

A Governance Perspective on Functions, Steering Instruments, Justifications and Sacrifices

Raffaella Simona Esposito (2024)

International Journal of Vocational Education Studies, 1(1). Open access

Abstract. Dual VET is considered the unquestioned standard of VET at the upper secondary level in German-speaking Switzerland. This study sheds light on a hitherto rather marginalized and disputed part of the Swiss VET system: the Vocational Middle Schools (VMSs). In contrast to dual VET, there has been only limited information about and understanding of VMSs so far, because only a few research has been done on VMSs. Therefore, referring to the theoretical framework of the Sociology of Conventions and using the example of three German-speaking cantons, the study aims to investigate the vocational education policy disputes about the significance of VMSs in the political governance of the transition to upper secondary education in Switzerland. The results show the disputed functions and criticisms attributed to VMSs as part of the Swiss VET system and highlight how these positions are justified by the relevant actors. Overall, the results provide insights into how the status of dual VET as the unquestioned standard of Swiss VET is protected and reproduce in Switzerland. Furthermore, they emphasize that the sacrifices for this are made at the expense of VMSs, which are restricted by the canton’s (vocational) education policy. Looking beyond the borders of the Swiss case, the results affirm that the distribution of young people across various programs in an education system should be understood not only as the consequence of individual preferences and decisions but also as resulting from strategic steering interventions by a country’s (vocational) education policy.


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Justifying the Elephant in the Growth Machine: Urban and Planning Theory Understood Through Convention Theory

Meg Holden (2024)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. This contribution introduces the tenets and approach of convention theory in terms of its potential, use, and appeal in the overlapping fields of urban and planning studies. The conceptual framing and interpretive method of convention theory are discussed as they have been applied to urban and planning research, and in terms of the value the theory offers when compared with certain other theories in use in the field, namely, advocacy planning, communicative action, the critique of neoliberalism, and the urban growth machine. Key thematic interpretive aspects of convention theory are discussed, demonstrating its potential to present case studies of urban disputes, rich with the detail of diverse perspectives and arguments, recognition of critical capacities of actors to intervene in dynamics of inequality and power asymmetries, and an analytical eye toward compromise as a more likely resolution than pure victory of certain ideas or values over others. The potential is illustrated through a prototypical case of a contentious public hearing at City Hall about a proposed urban redevelopment project. The chapter concludes by considering three shortcomings that can be encountered when using convention theory in urban and planning research.

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Music and Conventions: Grasping Qualities of an Elusive and Changing Object

Guy Schwegler & Jonathan Kropf (2024)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. Cultural production and music in particular have become burgeoning subjects for researchers applying the approach of economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC). This chapter aims to provide an overview of the literature that analyzes different aspects of music through EC/SC concepts. The two notions of conventions and intermediation and their application to the subject offer an entry point for this overview. They represent both established concepts within the neopragmatist approach and are common in two theoretical positions regularly featured in research on music (the actor-network theory and Howard Becker’s art worlds perspective). Then, the chapter moves beyond these two notions to introduce studies that are characterized by the use of a combination of different EC/SC concepts. Ultimately, the discussion in this chapter shows a large scope of work on the subject. However, the different authors still do not represent a “field” of EC/SC music scholars. While some reasons for the absence of such a field are brought forward, the chapter also argues that there may be no necessity to move toward one.

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Theater and Convention Theory: Achievements and Perspectives

Daniel Urrutiaguer (2024)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. The chapter discusses the contribution of the political and social grammar of orders of worth to analyze the coordination issues of theatrical activities with their frictions and disputes in a highly unequal chain value, with significant differences in reputation. The regimes of engagement propose a complementary view on some stabilized coordination devices. The different logics of action, evaluation, and interpretation are intertwined around fluctuating compromises. Economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC) distinguish three theater worlds according to their composite higher common principle of justice. The theatrical public service world is based on subsidy distribution according to professional experts’ assessments of artistic quality and has to face the increasing weight of the market and industry valuation. The private theater world is entrenched in personal risk-taking for artistic entertainment, and their model is questioned by over-competition and financialization. The emerging sustainable cultural development world is orientated toward preserving cultural diversity, inter-organizational solidarity, and attention to decreasing the environmental footprint. Socio-ecological issues run up against systemic obstacles in production valorization. Last, the governance stakes have to deal with the artistic critics of management, growing questions about the meaning of work, and storytelling on heritage value.

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Investments in Forms: Background and Continuing Developments

Laurent Thévenot (2024)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. Implementing conventions does not only result from shared mental references (representations, values, beliefs). The power to coordinate uncertain actions is supported by the environment, once the agent takes it in a form made convenient by “investments in forms” [IF] such as classifications, labels, standards, benchmarks, good practices, instructions, etc. The costs and sacrifices required to give form result, as “returns on investment”, in the benefits of coordination from one situation to another, between human beings and their environment. IFs are characterized by the spatial and temporal extension of their validity and by their material solidity. IFs give a significant materialist impetus to the program of economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC) by an environmental decentering of agency.
Once defined (1), IF is contextualized within the contested heritage of “symbolic forms” recast by Durkheim, Bourdieu, Foucault, Latour and Callon’s Actor-Network-Theory [ANT] (2). IF is then (3) situated at the crossroads of Thévenot’s sociology of “social coding” and Eymard-Duvernay’s economics of “specific investments”. Initial reception and critical discussion first focused on labor studies, industrial relations, and organizational theory. Subsequent developments (4) have integrated the concept into a broader analytical framework. They offer an environmental perspective on the architectures of communities and selves. Investments in standardized and certified forms govern across national boundaries while the new formatting of human beings in education and health care comes ever closer to living bodies. Lessons are drawn in conclusion (5) about the critical tension that is inherent in the investment and engagement of forms.

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Services, Products, and Values: Perspectives of the Economics and Sociology of Conventions

Kota Kitagawa (2024)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. This chapter presents research on the application of economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC) to service work, which has two advantages. First, by focusing on social interaction, EC/SC can examine the dynamics of conventions through the negotiation of meaning between the agents involved in services. The construction of conventions makes services possible and integrates various service work in different industrial classifications, heterogeneous service agents, products, and other things into a single service, increasingly observed in current trends toward a service economy and an “enrichment economy.” This chapter demonstrates that this advantage has been proven in various case studies of services such as tourism, restaurants, and care, overcoming the limitations of theoretical perspectives observed in service research in management and organization studies. EC/SC has a broad perspective on the plurality of values, capturing even non-computational values that are outside the orders of justification. Additionally, by focusing on services as a social interaction, EC/SC service research relativizes the “valuation power of the intermediary.” The second advantage is that it allows for an analysis of the social construction of agencies through the service process, which is useful in analyzing service work offering social reconstruction of beneficiaries as an aim of the service, such as in care, education, and consulting.

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Value, Conventions, and Finance

Dave Elder-Vass (2024)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. Scholars of economics and sociology of conventions (in short EC/SC or convention theory) have taken an increasing interest in the question of how things are valued in monetary terms. How do social actors decide on the values of commodities and assets? How do their valuations affect the prices that they exchange at? And how does that impact on societies more widely? This chapter provides an overview of conventions-oriented work on monetary valuation in general but also focuses more specifically on the valuation of financial assets. Here the issues are if anything even more momentous. Financial assets, unlike most commodities, do not even exist as such unless and until they are valued. How financial valuation is achieved is thus fundamental to the financial sector. The chapter discusses work on the role of financial value entrepreneurs and the power they deploy, both in support of conventions and in order to build audiences prepared to accept their application to specific types of asset.

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Valuation conflicts in Madagascar’s mining reform: A pragmatic inquiry into surplus distribution from strategic transition minerals

Nicolas Hercelin & Sabine Dörry (2024)

Environment and Planning (serie F), Online first

Abstract. Lithium-ion battery (LIB) production as a central part of decarbonisation strategies is driving mineral extraction in countries of the global South, where they exacerbate existing conflicts over the creation and distribution of value. Value, however, is a contested concept. Following the pragmatic sociology of values, we argue that the analysis of value creation and distribution cannot be separated from the intersubjective and normative conflicts over valuation. We examine valuation controversies in Madagascar as a mining dispute by describing the grammar of values on the example of taxation design in Madagascar’s mining reform influenced by LIB production. Empirical evidence from ethnographic fieldwork and expert interviews on negotiations between stakeholders’ different principles of value helped identify conflicting value justifications and finding local compromises. Here, the pervasive nature of neoliberal economisation is monopolised by a specific interpretation of value wired to investors’ expectations and complicated by path-dependent legacies. Our analysis illustrates how asymmetric economic power favours particular economic and operating registers of a ‘green capitalism’ valuation system. Building on the analytical gain of Heinich’s novel pragmatic value approach, we show how the recent mining reform in Madagascar is contested and that compromise around value remains fragile (or impossible) in the current institutional context.

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Quantifier la GRH, un enfermement dans le déterminisme technique? L’exemple de l’égalité professionnelle entre femmes et hommes

Quantifying HRM: locked into technical determinism? The example of gender equality in the workplace

Clotilde Coron (2024)

Quebec: Presses de l’Université Laval

Sur le livre. L’usage des chiffres et des données en gestion des ressources humaines (GRH) a fait l’objet d’une littérature abondante. Dans le même temps, l’usage de méthodes quantitatives est devenu prégnant dans la recherche en GRH. Or, ces deux domaines sont dominés par un paradigme positiviste et par le mythe d’une quantification objectivante obéissant avant tout à des règles techniques. Cet ouvrage remet en cause ce mythe et montre, en s’appuyant sur le cas de la quantification de l’égalité professionnelle entre les femmes et les hommes, que les processus de quantification sont le fruit de bricolages et d’arrangements sociaux et non pas uniquement techniques. Finalement, l’ouvrage appelle à une approche moins normative des usages de la quantification, à la fois dans les pratiques et dans la recherche en GRH.

Introduction: “Le croisement des deux objets que sont la quantification et la gestion des ressources humaines (GRH) ne va sans doute pas de soi. La notion de quantification renvoie aux travaux issus de la sociologie de la quantification, autour notamment de Desrosières et d’Espeland (Desrosières, 1993; Espeland et Stevens, 2008). Plus précisément, cette notion correspond aufait d’«exprimer et faire exister sous une forme numérique ce qui, auparavant, était exprimé par des mots et non par des nombres» (Desrosières,2019, p. 35). Cette définition large recouvre d’autres notions ou concepts plus précis: mesure, données, statistiques, méthodes quantitatives, etc. Ainsi, la notion de quantification a le mérite de recouvrir l’ensemble du processus permettant la mobilisation de chiffres, depuis la définition des phénomènes à quantifier jusqu’à la production et l’utilisation des résultats, en passant par la sélection des données (Desrosières, 2008a). Elle peut donc qualifier à la fois un dispositif de reporting (Christin, 2018), le chiffrage du temps nécessaire pour effectuer une tâche (Ranganathan et Benson, 2020), mais aussi l’usage de méthodes quantitatives et statistiques (Chiapello et Walter, 2016). Elle sera donc privilégiée dans ce livre.” (p. 1)

About the book. The use of figures and data in human resource management (HRM) has been the subject of an abundant literature. At the same time, the use of quantitative methods has become prevalent in HRM research. Yet both fields are dominated by a positivist paradigm and by the myth of objectivizing quantification that obeys, above all, technical rules. This book challenges this myth and shows, based on the case of quantifying gender equality in the workplace, that quantification processes are the fruit of social tinkering and arrangements, not just technical ones. Finally, the book calls for a less prescriptive approach to the uses of quantification, both in practice and in HRM research.

Introduction: “The intersection of quantification and human resource management (HRM) is probably not self-evident. The notion of quantification refers to the work of the sociologists of quantification, notably Desrosières and Espeland (Desrosières, 1993; Espeland and Stevens, 2008). More precisely, this notion corresponds to the fact of “expressing and making exist in a numerical form what, previously, was ex-pressed by words and not by numbers” (Desrosières,2019, p. 35). This broad definition covers other more precise notions or concepts: measurement, data, statistics, quantitative methods, etc. Thus, the notion of quantification has the merit of covering the entire process of mobilizing numbers, from the definition of the phenomena to be quantified to the production and use of the results, via the selection of data (Desrosières, 2008a). It can therefore qualify both a reporting system (Christin, 2018), the quantification of the time needed to perform a task (Ranganathan and Benson, 2020), but also the use of quantitative and statistical methods (Chiapello and Walter, 2016). It will therefore be privileged in this book.” (p. 1)

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