Culture in network breaks: Tie dissolution as a vehicle of justice

Till Hilmar (2020)

Poetics. Online first

Abstract. Tie dissolution in non-romantic relations is commonly understood as a structural process. This article challenges this prevailing view by tracing agency behind dynamics of disassociation. It distinguishes between “natural” and “moral” tie dissolution and explores the “broken tie”, as a former positive tie turned negative, theoretically and empirically. Data comes from an interview and survey study with 41 respondents with first-hand experience of network change during the transformation from Communist-ruled East Germany to reunified German market society after 1989. A key finding is that accounts of broken ties may be a vehicle to express beliefs about justice in society. Examining breaks in strong ties allows to integrate culture and networks in fruitful ways.

Extract: “4.3. Content of conflict: justice orientations
The content of the conflict is an important element of the broken tie. It is necessarily specific to the case studied here. However, examining how individuals assign meaning to broken ties also reveals a theoretically pertinent insight: The broken tie is not only about interpersonal conflict, but also, potentially, charged with broader, societal grammars of justice (Boltanski & Thévenot 2006; Hegtvedt & Johnson 2000). In this material, a semiotic and affective charging of the broken tie can be found on two levels: in political, and in economic accounts of tie dissolution. Their dynamics are assortative (Rivera et al. 2010), as they are concerned with tolerating or rejecting another person’s beliefs and attitudes.”

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A Political Economy of the Measurement of Inflation – The case of France

Florence Jany-Catrice (2020)

Palgrave Macmillan

About this book. Inflation should no longer be a politically sensitive indicator. Indeed, since the early 1980s, macroeconomic policies have managed to contain it. Yet the consumer price index (CPI), which is the main indicator for measuring inflation, remains very frequently consulted by citizens, due to its multiple uses. The CPI is used for indexing wages, pensions, but also various contracts such as food pensions. It is also used by National Accounts to deflate macroeconomic values and to provide data in “real” terms. But how is this CPI measured? index? What reforms have happened to give shape to the XXIst century CPI? This book presents the CPI based on the study of the controversies that have marked its history. Set in both the socio-economic and ideas contexts, these controversies show the eminently conventional and political nature of the CPI and, therefore, of many other macroeconomic indicators, such as growth or productivity.

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Official statistics, big data and civil society. Introducing the approach of “economics of convention” for understanding the rise of new data worlds and their implications

Rainer Diaz-Bone & Kenneth Horvath (2021)

Statistical Journal of the IAOS, Preprint

Abstract. The rise of big data and ongoing political and social transformations confront official statistics with important questions regarding its self-understanding and its role in public debates. These questions imply serious tensions that will very likely increase in the foreseeable future. This article introduces a specific sociological perspective for thinking and talking about these developments. Building on the “economics of convention”, this perspective challenges currently dominant conceptions of official statistics which do not adequately mirror the plurality of possible representations of the social world and the variety of justifiable ways of assessing the quality of these representations. Taking these pluralities into account allows to develop a fuller picture of the actual practices and institutions involved in the production of statistical knowledge and, especially, of their unavoidable entanglement with normative orders, epistemic values, and political formations. The notion of “data worlds” is presented as a means for tackling this problem of pluralities. On this conceptual basis, it becomes possible to link methodological questions to analyses of how statistical data and knowledge are embedded in wider political, economic, and social contexts. Problems of “data quality” thus appear in a different light: their reflection involves more than the usually discussed issues of the institutional independence (secured by public funding and by law) and the high scientific standards of official statistics. Instead, an institutionalist theoretical approach is needed that offers blueprints for linking the production of “official statistical facts” to (always contested and contextual) conceptions of the common good. Such a conception would allow to conceive new forms of public participation and democratic control of processes of quantification, measurement, and datafication. In sum, we believe that the specifically sociological approach outlined in this article would support official statistics in dealing with the variety of critical interventions and challenges it currently faces in a proactive and coherent manner.

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From texts to enacting practices: defining fair and equitable research principles for plant genetic resources in West Africa

Frédérique Jankowski, Selim Louafi, N. A. Kane, M. Diol, A. Diao Camara, Jean-Louis Pham, Cécile Berthouly‑Salazar & Adeline Barnaud (2020)

Agriculture and Human Values, 37, pp. 1083-1094.

Abstract. Collaborative research practices in the field of plant genetic resources must follow the principles of fairness and equity as defined in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). In this context the concepts of fairness and equity generally refer to the substantive and procedural dimensions associated with sharing the benefits of this research. But neither term is clearly defined by these international treaties, and the meanings attributed to the concepts vary among different societies. This paper looks at the question of how to account for the diversity among value systems when conducting research that implicates diverse stakeholders and respects the requirements of fairness and equity. We incorporated an auto-ethnography method developed as part of a multi-stakeholder network involved in research projects on plant genetic resources in West Africa. A theatrical device was used as a framework for testing the principles of fairness and equity, helping us to collectively identify feelings of injustice, and explore the conditions for making collaborative research practices more ethical in ways that respect the perspectives of different stakeholders. In an environment of extensive political and socio-cognitive inequality, this approach makes it possible to explain the criteria relating to interactional justice and expectations in terms of socio-political and socio-emotional benefits. It also invites us to consider the principles of fairness and equity in a framework of ethical competence that goes beyond international directives.

Extract: “The forum puts the audience members in a reflective posture, where they are called upon to judge the different characters of the play. Members of the audience are asked to justify their conclusion and clarify the criteria used to evaluate the character’s behavior. In this context, the spect-actors submit their qualifications and interpretations in terms of the elements of tension dramatized in the play. The audience is therefore obligated to participate in the explanation of the justification criteria. Thus, the forum theater offers a methodological framework that responds to the theoretical postulates of the French pragmatic sociology (Bréviglieri and Stavo-Debauge 1999; Barthe et al. 2013). A key notion of this sociology is that of test (Latour 1988; Thévenot 2001; Boltanski and Chiapello 2007; Hennion 2017). A test is any situation in which actors experience the vulnerability of the social order, because they have doubts about what reality is. The test constitutes a moment that engenders an activity of judgement and a dynamic of reaffirmation or readjustment, of institutions and initial conceptions. The pragmatic sociology favors the analysis of situated action where uncertainty and the forms of adjustment of actors among themselves can be observed. It is more particularly concerned with the justification practices of social actors to denounce an offence or injustice (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006). It underlines the way in which operations of justification mobilize a plurality of principles of justice according to the situation. By offering participants the opportunity to express themselves from concrete interactional situations and to engage in the exploration for overcoming feelings of injustice, forum theater provides spaces for testing participants’ representations. It allows to understand the notions of justice as an ongoing practical process in which individuals participate through their justified actions rather than as an ideology or a shared belief. […]
The reference to tradition when judging the farmers’ actions is consistent with the notion of a justification of the domestic order as defined by Boltanski and Thévenot (2006). According to the authors, the reference to the domestic world appears “each time that research on fairness emphasizes personal relations between people…human beings are immediately qualified by the relationship that they maintain with their own kind” (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006, p. 206). The criteria mobilized to judge the correctness of the farmer’s behavior are primarily based on his respect for the norms and values defined by his community.” (p. 1086/1087-1088)

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Le diplôme d’ingénieur. Questions de gouvernance, de légitimité scientifique et technique ou d’identité ?

Eric Godelier (2020)

Artefact, 13, pp. 253-267. Open access

Résumé. La reconnaissance en 1934 du diplôme d’ingénieur en France par la Commission des titres d’ingénieurs continue de faire débat. Faut-il y voir une manifestation du retard du capitalisme français ou à l’inverse considérer que cette chronologie témoigne de sa spécificité ? La communauté des ingénieurs semble marquée par une grande hétérogénéité. Comment expliquer la place spécifique du diplôme dans l’émergence visiblement inaboutie d’un groupe intégré ? Le texte propose trois pistes de réflexions. Premièrement, cette histoire peut être comprise via un premier axe centré sur les « questions de gouvernance ». Deuxièmement, la mise en place d’un diplôme résulte d’un ensemble de choix en termes de contenus et de méthodes de formation. Troisièmement, la mise en place progressive d’un diplôme à partir du xixe siècle paraît pouvoir être appréhendée comme une forme de consécration d’une identité ou d’une culture qui distingue une catégorie sociale, les ingénieurs, en pleine croissance dans ce nouveau capitalisme industriel.

Extrait: “Pour conclure, pas à pas, le diplôme d’ingénieur devient un marqueur d’un marché – régional puis national – de l’emploi des ingénieurs en phase de croissance tout au long du xixe siècle. Il permet sa structuration et sa coordination y compris en créant de la concurrence entre écoles. En investissant à des degrés divers, sur la mise en place d’un diplôme, les écoles en tant qu’acteurs sociaux construisent des catégories d’évaluation et d’action. Ces « investissements de forme » permettent la mise en place d’outils de comparaison (certification, validation, standards, qualification, etc.). Ces opérations de justification sont soumises au jugement public et validées ou invalidées par le monde environnant. À partir du xixe siècle, en relation étroite avec l’industrialisation du pays, c’est donc une référence générale et collective qui se construit. Elle pose les bases d’un mécanisme de coordination.” (Paragraphe 11)

The engineering degree. Questions of governance, legitimacy scientific and technical or identity?

Abstract. The recognition in 1934 of the engineering degree in France by the Commission des titres d’ingénieurs continues to be discussed. Should it be seen as a manifestation of the backwardness of French capitalism or, on the contrary, should this particular chronology be seen as a testimony of its specificity? The community of graduated engineers seems to be marked by great heterogeneity. How can we explain the specific place of the diploma in the visibly unfulfilled emergence of an integrated group? The text raises three set of explanations. Firstly, this story can be understood via a first axis centered on “governance issues.” Secondly, the establishment of a diploma is the result of a set of choices in terms of training contents and methods. Thirdly, the gradual introduction of a diploma from the 19th century onwards seems to be understandable as a form of consecration of an identity or a culture that distinguishes a social category, engineers, which is growing rapidly among this new industrial capitalism.

Extract: “To conclude, step by step, the engineering degree becomes a marker of a market – regional then national – for the employment of engineers in a phase of growth throughout the 19th century. It enabled its structuring and coordination, including the creation of competition between schools. By investing to varying degrees in the establishment of a diploma, the schools as social actors construct categories for evaluation and action. These « investments in form » enable the implementation of comparison tools (certification, validation, standards, qualification, etc.). These operations of justification are subject to public judgment and validated or invalidated by the surrounding world. From the 19th century onwards, in close relation with the industrialization of the country, a general and collective reference was therefore built. It laid the foundations for a coordination mechanism.” (Paragraph 11)

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A Movement in the Traditional Japanese Confectionary Industry Reflecting the Modern Normative Trend

Mihoko Morisaki & Kota Kitagawa (2020)

In: Šimić, Anđelko (ed.), 1st Croatian-Japanese Conference: Contemporary Problems in Economics: Mate, Zagreb, pp. 59-79. Open access

Abstract. This article aims to grasp the direction of current movements in the Japanese confectionary (wagashi) industry, which have deviated from the traditional wagashi world. To provide an understanding on the direction, the study uses the following concepts for comprehending the creations, pluralities, and dynamism of values; “cité” that represents common goods prevailing in the socioeconomic context, an “evaluation model” representing a unique value criterion defined by a service community, and “service as a struggle” that encompasses coopetition between a provider and beneficiaries to create greater value. We characterize the movements in relation to the modern normative capitalistic trend, which comprises the projective and inspiration cité (Morisaki and Suda 2016; Suda and Morisaki 2018). We also analyze a typical case depicting the movement from the perspective of the plurality of cité; the results confirm the existence of asymmetry (within the community) between the cité to which the provider conforms and the one to which the beneficiaries conform. We characterize this asymmetric state (the beneficiaries’ weak conformance to the inspiration cité) as the weak degree of “struggle” for greater authenticity. It implies the weak inclination of the community toward driving its autonomous and continuous development. It might not only be an issue for this community but also for the growing number of “wagashi artists,” who undertake wagashi-crafting as a service. In order to drive the autonomous and continuous development of the skills of the wagashi artists and attitudes of both the artists and beneficiaries, there is a need to train beneficiaries to be more demanding ones who can strive for more authentic service. Then, the continuous development of the novel communities, which have deviated from the traditional valuation world of wagashi, would reactivate the whole wagashi industry. In this regard, it should be noted that although service beneficiaries’ weak degree of conformance to the inspiration cité persists, preliminary movements and activities are being conducted for imbedding the inspiration cité into the service beneficiaries.

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A cry, a clash and a parting: a French pragmatic sociology approach to ‘the struggle over the teacher’s soul’

Diana Holmqvist (2020)

International Studies in Sociology of Education. Online first, pp. 1-20.

Abstract. This article argues for using French pragmatic sociology to explore tensions regarding teachers’ work, by studying critique formulated by teachers themselves. Based on interviews with teachers in Swedish adult education it shows how teachers labour to reconcile ‘what is’ with ‘what should be’ by voicing critique. The findings suggest that, while some critique echoes institutionalised conventions without questioning them, formulating critique is also a way of resisting, where teachers tap into alternative conventions, or disengage from established practices. Some choose to ignore institutional rules, while others change jobs. These findings establish that some critique can serve to maintain the status quo and its institutionalised truths. However, pushing at reality through acts of critique can also fracture reality, which in turn allows other conventions to take root in the cracks. Identifying the various types of critique employed to question institutionalised conventions highlights the work that teachers do to shape reality.

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La grande décentration

Laurent Thévenot (2020)

Journal du MAUSS, Complement No 56. Open access.

Résumé. Face aux bouleversements qui affectent gravement la sociologie et menacent sa survie, l’auteur propose une intégration de ces renversements en les concevant comme autant de forces de décentration au regard des définition et méthode classiques de la discipline. Ces décentrations exigent toutes de prendre en compte des dépendances sous-estimées, voire méconnues, du social à l’égard de multiples laissé(e)s-pour compte que les « studies » ont notamment contribué à mettre sur le devant de la scène.
Le mouvement de l’article suit une décentration affectant à la fois le sujet, agent ou acteur social qui ne peut plus servir de pivot, et les formes du commun et de communauté qui sont excentrées au regard des sociétés et collectifs. Loin de la société (1), le parcours conduit tout contre l’étrangeté (2) d’une extériorité désormais à intégrer dans l’appréhension de l’humain par ses dépendances (3). Être ensemble avec ce, celles et ceux auparavant minorés (4) requiert des déplacements dans la mise en commun appelée à se soucier davantage d’attachements dans le proche et à ouvrir en outre la cohabitation au-delà de l’humain, au prix de remaniements qui ne laissent pas indemne la normativité sous-jacente des sciences sociales. Des modes de gouvernement affranchissent de la cité (5) en passant, au-delà de l’économie de marché, par des choses qui soutiennent des alliages d’économie politique plus profonds que les alliances versatiles entre oligarques et autorités politiques.

The Great Decentration

Abstract. Given the upheavals that seriously affect sociology and threaten its survival, the author proposes to integrate these upheavals by conceiving them as forces of decentering with regard to the classical definitions and methods of the discipline. All of them require taking into account underestimated, or even unrecognized, dependencies of the « social » on the many beings that have been left behind and that « studies » have helped to bring to the forefront. 
The movement of the article follows a decentering of the subject, agent or social actor who can no longer keep his/her pivotal role, and the forms of the common and the community which are off-center with respect to societies and collectives. Far from society (1), the movement leads against the strangeness (2) of an exteriority now to be integrated into the apprehension of the human being through his or her dependencies (3). To be together with these and those that were previously under-represented (4), requires a shift in making commonality. Commonality has to be more concerned with close attachments and to open up cohabitation beyond the human, at the cost of changes that do not leave the underlying normativity of the social sciences untouched. Modes of government emancipate from the city (5) by moving beyond the market economy to things that support deeper political economy assemblages than the versatile alliances between oligarchs and political authorities.

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Convention Theory as “a Fruitful Opportunity” for Researching Arts and Culture

Interview with Daniel Urrutiaguer

by Guy Schwegler (University of Lucerne)

Daniel Urrutiaguer is professor for performing arts studies at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris. Through the lens of conventions theory, his research is concerned with the socioeconomics of the theatre sector: its aesthetic, social, and monetary value; the relationship between the artistic organizations, the public, and companies; the evolution of cultural policies; as well as the links between artistic creations and the construction of identity. These various interests he combined in his seminal work on the “worlds” of theatre (2014) and in numerous other publications.

With his interest in theatre, Urrutiaguer is one the more rare cases of convention theory researchers interested in the artistic and cultural sector. Guy Schwegler asked him a few questions about such an approach to the arts and culture in general, and how Urrutiaguer got into contact with convention theory in the first place.

Guy Schwegler: When, why and how did convention theory become important for you?

Daniel Urrutiaguer: When I was a teacher in economics and sociology in a high secondary school (Lycée), my request for an educational leave for a master in economics was accepted at the beginning of the 1990s. The main motive was to get an opportunity to become a professional actor and I chose the courses with the least number of teaching hours. So I decided to undergo a master 2 in labor economics at the University of Paris 10. Initially, I planned to do research on the evolution of work organisation in car factories. By accident, I discovered the existence of convention theory and some economists’ interest in cultural economics. I was fascinated when I saw an early morning slot for Françoise Benhamou’s seminar in cultural economics on the door of an elevator. I also chose to take part in Olivier Favereau and Laurent Thévenot’s course on convention theory, just out of curiosity. The content of their programme and Favereau’s pedagogical skills impressed me. I was particularly interested by the perspective’s consideration of coordination problems through the tensions between different logics of action and valuation.

As I failed a test for becoming a professional actor after two years, I decided to do a PhD instead. I wanted to apply convention theory in the theatre sector and I asked Olivier Favereau to be my supervisor. He proposed to work on Harrison White’s model of sustainable market profiles (White 2005) and its conventional interpretation as quality orders. At the same time, my aim was to build a database for an econometric model. There, I wanted to test the influence of different quality judgements on the attendance of nationally approved theatre institutions, especially the main newspaper critics’ judgement and the directors’ institutional reputation. Building my database required months of full-time work.

My econometrical work contrasting the influence of critics’ judgements and directors’ institutional reputation got an international recognition through a publication in the Journal of Cultural Economics (2002). Favereau, Eymard-Duvernay, and Biencourt have proposed a rather qualitative association between White’s sustainable market profiles and the domestic, market, and industrial quality conventions (Favereau et al. 2002). I tried to use my econometrical estimations for the computation of the elasticities of the satisfaction and cost functions according to the volume and the perceived quality. The computations were rather unclearly complicating the model and there was a kind of distortion by switching from sustainable market profiles to non-profit highly subsidized organisations.

I did not try to go further in this quantitative application of the conventional framework to White’s market profiles. Nevertheless, the different logics of action and valuation in the economics of worth were a more relevant theoretical framework for my field of research. Even though I did not refer explicitly to convention theory in the published academic papers and the national survey on the territories and resources of performing arts companies in France (Urrutiaguer et al. 2012), it has been an undergoing framework to put into perspective some observed features.

GS: How would you describe your specific convention theory inspired approach in Les Mondes du Theatre (2014)?

DU: I switched my main theoretical framework towards Boltanski’s approach in pragmatic sociology of critique. To obtain the “Habilitation à diriger les recherches,” I worked on an essay for understanding the causes of disenchantment with cultural policies in two different theatre worlds: the mainstream public world and an emerging alternative world, favouring the links between artistic activities and sustainable development. Following Boltanski’s recommendation, I added the private theatre world for the book publication.

Whereas Howard Becker is more focusing on the conventions as patterns of behaviour in the art worlds he analyses (Becker 2011), I am more sensitive to the conventions as patterns of judgment which direct the distribution of states of worths. I tried to specify the political and moral grammar which characterizes these three theatre worlds. What are the common principle of justice for equity, the states of worths and the tests for their access, the definition of nature? Each theatre world is characterized by a compromise between justification orders of conventions.

The world of private theatre is directed by the principle of the private production of artistic entertainment. The logic of artistic inspiration for cheerful innovativeness and the market logic to capture attendants’ willingness to pay intersect in this world with the network logic to reduce risk-taking. Half of the French Supporting Fund for Private Theatres (ASTP) is financed by a tax on box office revenues and the remaining half by public subsidies. The ASTP dependency on subsidies, the increasing competition, and the financial concentration of big Parisian theatres are destabilizing this world.

The world of public theatre is historically lead by a parallel public support to artistic excellency and to cultural democratization for broadening the social composition of the attendance at highbrow and delicate plays. The states of worths are opposing the high value of artistic humanism and the low value of social and cultural liveliness. A quantitative evaluation of the production results (rather than qualitative approaches), the increasing market power of theatrical institutions, the systemic pressure to decrease programmers’ risk-taking, and the development of market relationships with attendance are destabilizing this world. Here, the market and industrial logics are more heavily intersecting the civic logic of action and evaluation.

The world of cultural sustainable development is based on economic cooperation and the preservation of cultural diversity in a respective area. Culture is considered as a fourth pillar of sustainable development. The high value valorises the combination of aesthetical, technical, and pedagogic competencies for driving an emancipatory intercultural dialogue, whereas the low value depreciates hermetic artworks. Local cultural pluralism characterises this scale of worth. Economic solidarity is confronted with the competition for increasing or consolidating artistic reputation whereas taking into account cultural diversity can justify a market approach for the segmentation of artistic production. Furthermore, the research of intercultural dialogue has to deal with cultural and social conflicts.

GS: If you had to highlight one thing, what would be the specific advantage of researching theatre production and the worlds of theatre this way, i.e. three different worlds and their respective political and moral grammar?

DU: I think the framework of political and moral grammar (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006) gives a fruitful opportunity to understand the orders of quality according to the main scale of judgment on shows’ relevance. Each world of theatre is oriented by a central logic of action and valuation which orientates a collective sense of justice, and it is questioned by other logics that influence patterns of behaviour. Furthermore, the analysis has to take into account the compromise between the logic of artistic inspiration and the logic of networks with other scales of judgment on states of worth in each world of theatre.

GS: When thinking beyond the worlds of theater, what could be an advantage of a sociology of the arts and culture that uses convention theory?

DU: Using convention theory offers perspectives for analyzing individual patterns of behavior through coordination problems in the artistic value chain. By giving attention to public debates and the justifications that stakeholders give for their standpoints and actions, we may approach the practical ways in which specific actions are evaluated.

The pragmatic sociology of critique highlights the devices of artistic coordination with regards to cultural establishments, public authorities, non-artistic partners, attendance, and local populations. It is interesting to work on the material, cognitive, and moral support that the actors of a world can recognize and use in their joint actions as well as their quality judgements

GS: What could be the emphasis of such a sociology of convention of the arts and culture?

DU: Such a sociology of the arts and culture can emphasize the valuation and justifications that the artists and their stakeholders formulate for their specific actions. To focus on the evaluation scales of the aesthetical, social, and political values of artworks, and the pedagogic relevance of artistic educative actions, gives an opportunity to study the ways of transforming judgements on quality into monetary value in the networks of production and diffusion. As compared to Bourdieu’s sociology of critique, for example, which focus on material and symbolic power, the added value is to recognize the importance of moral stances that interfuse artistic life.

To combine a moral framework and the plurality of political orders of worth is a relevant approach to analyse the complexity of the coordination through the study of situations. Artistic inspiration oriented toward originality and networking capacity are transversal logics to the different worlds of art. In all cultural sectors and to some degree, artistic teams have to compose with every order of worth in mind: the orders of fame and market, which orientate attendants’ willingness to pay and affect programmer’s willingness to program; the civic logic according to the dominant political interpretation of a general interest; the industrial order oriented toward efficiency and standardization; and the domestic order rooted in personal ties.

GS: What could be ignored or could be a “weak” spot when researching this societal area with convention theory?

DU: Convention theory is well fitted to understand the causes of difficulties and disputes in coordination problems through the combination of different logics of action and valuation, and the contradictions humans are faced with. It can be extended to the analyses of engagement regimes as Thévenot and Boltanski did for other cases of human coordination, which do not require references to common goods (Thévenot 2006). Nevertheless, this general framework can be less well equipped to analyze the causes of protagonists’ conflicts over income sharing and the group dynamics in tensions. Convention theory has to take into account a systemic analysis of the dominant order associated to the setting of the different worlds of art.

Social scientists also have to be careful with modelling effects in their surveys. Whereas a conventionalist objective is to go beyond the limits of essentialist theories, a more or less mechanical application of the orders of worth to actors’ chain of actions may substantiate people’s minds. The main negative effect is therefore to transform the convention theory framework into a normative grid of rationalities—as it has been the case in some business management research.

GS: What could be ways to amend these two “weak” spots? So, what frameworks would you recommend to complement the analyses of causes of protagonists’ conflicts (or others) when researching artists or cultural producers? And how can one make sure to avoid a mechanical application of the orders of worth when researching the arts?

DU: The relevance of convention theory is to focus on justification for understanding how people try to refer to common orders of worth, so that they could agree in their quality judgements and a distribution of states of worth based on equity in productive efforts. To analyze conflicts in income sharing, for example, one needs to take into account the interconnectedness of individual evaluation and classification systems. People evaluate works of art through aesthetical, ethical, technical, or social criteria, which are related to their education and their past experiences. Therefore, classification systems shape people’s grids of cultural references and orientate their taste judgments. As classification systems are embedded in social institutions, the dominant relations in artistic legitimacy play a role in the conversion of aesthetical value into monetary value in the circuits of production and diffusion.

Avoiding a mechanical application of the orders of worth requires an attention in the sense of a grounded theory: the objective is to identify the discourses and the objects that the actors are referring in their coordination process and their scale of judgement. The analysis of professional literature and the conduct of interviews have to be aware of the plurality of justifications without any modelled presumption on the behavior of actors in professional situations.

GS: Next to business management, scholars from various fields have used convention theory to analyze the production of food, job market, finance, public statistics and classification, or more recently, health, education, and climate change. Artistic practices and the production of culture, however, do not seem be part of these prevalent and re-occurring subjects yet. Would you assess the situation in a similar way? Or if not, may this be due to the fact that most of this research has been done in France/published in French, therefore making it just a blind spot for non-French speaking convention theory researchers?

DU: We have to take into account most economists’ limited interest for culture, particularly for performing arts for which box office revenues are much lower than in other cultural industries. When it comes to the stakes of the economy, theatre is regarded as a marginal activity. Therefore, only some more passionate researchers in economics, or sociology and aesthetics, are concerned with the composition of the actors’ logics of action and valuation in the worlds of performing arts. Moreover, cultural economics are also faced with the dominance of mainstream quantitative approaches. More sophisticated econometric results are supposed to be guarantees for scientific quality—and the publication of academic papers is not always fitted for convention theory. Even though there are few researchers in the performing arts sector—such as Bérénice Hamidi-Kim (2013) or Rachel Brahy (2019)—, convention theory and the literature produced under this perspective offers interesting materials and a semiotic perspective to analyse the defaults of coordination through the disputes on the higher common principles of justice in the different worlds of art. And of course, the lack of English translation of the French papers and books which apply convention theory to performing arts does not help spreading this research approach.


Becker, Howard Saul. 2011. Art worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Boltanski, Luc, Laurent Thévenot. 2006. On justification. The economics of worth. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Boltanski, Luc, Arnaud Esquerre. 2020. Enrichment. A critique of commodities. Hoboken: Wiley.

Brahy, Rachel. 2019. S’engager dans un atelier-théâtre. À la recherche du sens de l’expérience. Mons: Éditions du Cerisier.

Favereau, Olivier, Olivier Biencourt, François Eymard-Duvernay. 2002. Where do markets come from? From (quality) conventions! In: Favereau, Olivier, Emmanuel Lazega (eds.), Conventions and structures in economic organizations. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 213-252.

Hamidi-Kim, Bérénice. 2013. Les cités du théâtre politique en France depuis 1989. Montpellier: L’entretemps.

Thévenot, Laurent. 2006. L’action au pluriel. Sociologie des régimes d’engagement. Paris: La Découverte.

Urrutiaguer, Daniel. 2002. Quality judgements and demand for French public theatre. Journal of Cultural Economics 26, pp. 185–202.

Urrutiaguer, Daniel. 2011. Theatre. In Ruth Towse (ed.), An handbook of cultural economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 420-424.

Urrutiaguer, Daniel. 2014. Les mondes du théâtre: désenchantement politique et économie des conventions. Paris : L’Harmattan.

Urrutiaguer, Daniel. 2016. Théâtre. Quelles articulations entre conventions et mondes ?, in Philippe Batifoulier et al. (eds.), Dictionnaire des conventions. Autour des travaux d’Olivier Favereau. Lille: Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, pp. 279-283.

Urrutiaguer, Daniel, Philippe Henry, Cyril Duchêne, and Guillaume Boudy. 2012. Territoires et ressources des compagnies en France. Culture Etudes 2012-1.

White, Harrison C. 2005. Markets from networks. Socioeconomic models of production. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Convention and the Origins of Ownership

Rory Smead & Patrick Forber (2020)

Philosophy of Science 87(5), pp. 884–896

Abstract. We examine contemporary game-theoretic accounts of ownership as a convention. New results from dynamic networks complicate matters, suggesting that if ownership is conventional, it should not be as prevalent as it seems to be. In fact, such models reveal a tendency toward antiownership norms. The value of resources may be crucial: low stakes lead to conventional ownership, but ownership norms rarely evolve; high stakes lead to a predominance of ownership at the cost of its conventionality. We argue that conventional ownership norms can originate in nonconventional ways and discuss some philosophical implications.

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Capitalismo publicitário: uma análise crítica dos cartões promocionais de LEMCO do início do século XX

Cecilia Molinari de Rennie (2020)

Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso 15(4), pp. 173-192. Open access

Resumo. Neste artigo, analiso um conjunto de seis cartões comerciais pertencentes a uma duradoura campanha de marketing da Liebig Extract of Meat Co. A análise crítica dos textos promocionais produzidos na virada do século XX oferece insights significativos sobre os mecanismos discursivos que contribuíram para a hegemonização do capitalismo burguês. Diferentemente de outras formas de publicidade, os cartões comerciais não são rapidamente descartados e esquecidos; pelo contrário, eles podem se distanciar dos produtos anunciados para se tornar parte dos discursos populares de instrução em massa. Como produtos e produtores de ideologias capitalistas, os anúncios são um local privilegiado de inscrição do capitalismo e, portanto, se prestam a uma análise crítica. Minha análise mostra como os textos selecionados se baseiam e texturizam os discursos do progresso, impregnados como crenças colonialistas e desencadeando uma cadeia de ações pela qual, mesmo antes de realmente obterem os cartões, são promulgadas ações e crenças capitalistas.

Advertising Capitalism: A Critical Analysis of Early 20th Century LEMCO Trading Cards

Abstract. In this paper, I analyze a set of six trading cards belonging to Liebig’s Extract of Meat Co. long-standing marketing campaign. The critical analysis of promotional texts produced at the turn of the 20th century offer meaningful insights on the discursive mechanisms that contributed to the hegemonization of bourgeois capitalism. Unlike other forms of advertising, trading cards are not rapidly discarded and forgotten; on the contrary, they can detach themselves from the advertised products to become part of popular discourses of mass instruction. As both products and producers of capitalist ideologies, ads are a privileged site of inscription of capitalism, and thus lend themselves to a critical analysis. My analysis shows how the selected texts draws on and textures the discourses of progress, inculcated as colonialist beliefs and triggering an actional chain whereby, even before they actually obtained the cards, capitalist actions and beliefs are enacted.

Extract (EC-Blog translation). “Despite the growth enjoyed by advanced economies towards the end of the 19th century (FRIEDMAN, 2012, p.23), the contradictions of capitalism as an economic system present a challenge for all involved participants: wage-earners, alienated from the fruits of their labour, face a working life of subordination; capitalists “find themselves yoked to an interminable, insatiable process, which is utterly abstract and dissociated from the satisfaction of consumption needs, even of a luxury kind” (BOLTANSKI & CHIAPELLO, 1999, p.7). In order to make the system tenable, it must be grounded on a set of beliefs that would support compatible actions and predispositions; Boltanski & Chiapello (1999), following Max Weber, call this system a “spirit of capitalism.” A spirit of capitalism legitimizes the brand of capitalism of a particular epoch to those committing to the capitalist process of accumulation, answering why: 1) it is a source of enthusiasm and stimulation, leading to a more enlightened, healthier and prosperous life; 2) it offers security for them and their children; and 3) it contributes to the common good and can be defended from accusations of injustice.” (p. 176-177)

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Ein neuer Geist des Kapitalismus? Quantitative Analyse von Deutschschweizer Print-Stellenanzeigen (1955–2005) und ihre zeitdiagnostische Bedeutung

Julia Bannwart, Anna Laura Ludwig, Nora Moser & Robert Schäfer (2020)

Swiss Journal of Sociology. Online first, pp. 1-40. Open acess.

Zusammenfassung. Boltanski und Chiapello formulieren die These, dass sich der Geist des Kapitalismus im Verlauf des 20. Jahrhunderts gewandelt habe. Im Zentrum des neuen Geistes würden nicht mehr Fleiss, Disziplin und Ordentlichkeit stehen, sondern Passion, Authentizität oder Kreativität. Dieser Beitrag widmet sich der Frage, ob die Qualifikationsanforderungen in Deutschschweizer Stellenanzeigen auf die Existenz eines neuen Geistes schliessen lassen. Die Resultate verweisen auf ein Revival der disziplinbezogenen Qualifikationen und zeigen, dass passionsbezogene Qualifikationen nicht substituierend, sondern ergänzend nachgefragt werden.

A New Spirit of Capitalism? Quantitative Analysis of Swiss-German Print Job Advertisements (1955–2005) and Their Time Diagnostic Relevance

Abstract. Boltanski and Chiapello put forward the thesis that the spirit of capitalism has fundamentally changed in the course of the 20th century. According to them, diligence, discipline and orderliness are no longer at the core of the new spirit, but values such as passion, authenticity or creativity. Following this line of thought, this contribution analyzes whether the qualifications required in Swiss-German job advertisements suggest the existence of such a new spirit. The results point to a revival of discipline-related qualifications and show that passion-related qualifications are not demanded as their substitutes, but rather in addition.

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Surveillance under dispute: Conceptualising narrative legitimation politics

Christopher Smith Ochoa, Frank Gadinger & Taylan Yildiz (2020)

European Journal of International Security. Online first

Abstract. Current debates about surveillance demonstrate the complexity of political controversies whose uncertainty and moral ambiguities render normative consensus difficult to achieve. The question of how to study political controversies remains a challenge for IR scholars. Critical security studies scholars have begun to examine political controversies around surveillance by exploring changing security practices in the everyday. Yet, (de)legitimation practices have hitherto not been the focus of analysis. Following recent practice-oriented research, we develop a conceptual framework based on the notion of ‘narrative legitimation politics’. We first introduce the concept of ‘tests’ from Boltanski’s pragmatic sociology to categorise the discursive context and different moral reference points (truth, reality, existence). Second, we combine pragmatic sociology with narrative analysis to enable the study of dominant justificatory practices. Third, we develop the framework through a practice-oriented exploration of the Snowden controversy with a focus on the US and Germany. We identify distinct justificatory practices in each test format linked to narrative devices (for example, plots, roles, metaphors) whose fluid, contested dynamics have the potential to effect change. The framework is particularly relevant for IR scholars interested in legitimacy issues, the normativity of practices, and the power of narratives.

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An Ethnography of the International Disaster Community

Sandrine Revet (2010)

Cham: Palgrave Macmillan/Springer.

This book analyses the making of the international world of ‘natural’ disasters by its professionals. Through a long-term ethnographic study of this arena, the author unveils the various elements that are necessary for the construction of an international world: a collective narrative, a shared language, and standardized practices. The book analyses the two main framings that these professionals use to situate themselves with regards to a disaster: preparedness and resilience, arguing that the making of the world of ‘natural’ disasters reveals how heterogeneous, conflicting, and sometimes competing elements are put together.

Extract. « This book does not focus on how disaster victim populations explain and seek meaning in the upheaval they have experienced. It instead trains its attention on “natural” disaster professionals and the way in which they analyze, interpret, and understand these events. It also seeks to show what these people mobilize to deal with disasters or diminish their impacts. In this regard, it draws on pragmatic sociology (Boltanski and Thévenot 1995) and its concepts of “regimes of action” or “regimes of engagement” (Thévenot 2006), to examine the relationship between the apparatuses utilized by these professionals faced with brutal events they are expected to mitigate and the explanatory frameworks, or their way of attributing causes to such events. » (p. 8)

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Money: Instrument of Exchange or Social Institution of Value?

André Orléan (2020)

In: P. Alary, J. Blanc, L. Desmedt & B. Théret (eds.), Institutionalist Theories of Money. An Anthology of the French School. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan/Springer, pp. 239-264.

Extract. “It is striking that many sociologists observe that their discipline has failed  to establish an adequate intellectual framework for the systematic analysis of money. […] How is such a deficiency of sociological thought to be explained— that is, the absence of a general conception of money which would be ‘coherent’ and ‘systematic’? Let us begin by dismissing the notion that this discipline should have intentionally removed this object from its field of study because it was ‘insufficiently sociological’. This proposition is quite simply absurd. To be convinced of its absurdity, one need only read the important work of some contemporary sociologists. If there is such a deficiency, it relates to sociology in general. The existence of notable exceptions leaves no doubt as to the relevance and originality of the sociological perspective in monetary matters.” (239/240)

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