Soziologische Arbeitsmarkttheorien. Ein Überblick

Simon Weingärtner (2019)

Wiesbaden: Springer VS

Excerpt (pp. 142-144, 151):

Eine weit gefasste Definition des offenen Theorieprogramms der NISOZ erlaubt es, neben dem „Mainstream“ aus der amerikanischen Organisationssoziologie, die sog. „Ökonomie der Konventionen“ (französisch: Économie des Conventions, EC; Storper und Salais 1997; Boltanski und Thevenot 2007) als spezifisch französische Variante des soziologischen Neo-Institutionalismus zu begreifen (Diaz-Bone 2009, 2010; Senge 2013; zur kritischen Abgrenzung vgl. Grüttner 2013a). Auch hier spielt der Rückgriff auf anerkannte Normen und Leitbilder eine große Rolle. Ebenso wie bei der aus der amerikanischen Organisationsforschung stammenden NISOZ [soziologischer Neoinstitutionalismus], wird die Weiterentwicklung der EC von einer Vielzahl von Autoren aus verschiedenen Feldern (insb. Ökonomie, Soziologie, Rechtswissenschaft) vorangetrieben, weswegen sie nach Diaz-Bone weniger als enges Paradigma, sondern eher als „transdisziplinäre und institutionentheoretische Wissenschaftsbewegung“ aufzufassen ist (Diaz-Bone 2015b, S. 261). Im Unterschied zur amerikanischen NISOZ beruft sich die EC auf die sozialtheoretische Tradition des Pragmatismus (Dewey, Mead, Goffman, Joas) und bezieht – z. B. mit dem Foucaultschen Konzept des „Dispositivs“ (vgl. Abschn. 6.1: Eversberg) – auch poststrukturalistische Überlegungen in viele ihrer Analysen mit ein. Trotz ihrer unterschiedlichen theoretischen Wurzeln, haben beide Forschungsprogramme gemeinsam, dass sie aus der Perspektive gesellschaftlich geprägter Akteure argumentieren und die Rolle von Regeln, Normen und Deutungsschemata in den Vordergrund ihrer Erklärungsmodelle stellen. Den Kern des EC-Erklärungsprogramms bildet eine „pragmatische Anthropologie“ (Diaz-Bone 2011): Akteure werden von der EC als situativ-handlungskompetent beschrieben und entscheiden selbst, welche Konventionen sie in bestimmten ökonomischen Entscheidungssituationen für ihre Handlungen verbindlich machen. Soziales Handeln unterliegt hierbei stets einem Rechtfertigungsimperativ und muss sich gegen mögliche Kritik aus Sicht alternativer konventionaler Deutungsangebote wappnen bzw. verteidigen. Die EC lehnt die neoklassische Idee des Marktes als zentraler ökonomischer Koordinationsform ebenso ab, wie die kategoriale transaktionskostentheoretische Differenzierung der Handlungssphären Markt und Organisation (vgl. Diaz-Bone 2015b, S. 270; Knoll 2017, S. 155 ff.). Stattdessen weisen die Beiträge auf die radikale Unsicherheit wirtschaftlicher Handlungs- und Entscheidungssituationen sowie die daraus erwachsende Pluralität wirtschaftlicher Koordinationsmechanismen (Konventionen) hin. Auf die verschiedenen und unterschiedlich stark formal institutionalisierten Konventionen greifen unvollständig informierte, aber pragmatisch-handlungskompetente Akteure in kontingenten ökonomischen Handlungssituationen zurück, um ihre Handlungen wechselseitig zu koordinieren und damit ökonomische Austauschprozesse zu ermöglichen. Wie auch in anderen Ansätzen aus dem Spektrum der Neuen Wirtschaftssoziologie, geht es der EC um die soziale Bedingtheit und Kontingenz ökonomischer Handlungen, welche die Standardökonomik mit ihrem axiomatischen Homo Oeconomicus-Modell (HOE) ausblendet, um Märkte qua Deduktion als effiziente Allokationsmechanismen modellieren zu können (vgl. Kap. 2). Aus EC-Sicht gelten demgegenüber Märkte und Betriebe gleichermaßen als komplexe und – im Hinblick auf die jeweiligen Koordinationsprobleme, die sie zu lösen anstreben – mehr oder weniger gut „organisierte Sphären“ (Diaz-Bone 2015c, S. 121). Die EC verfügt über ein zwar inhaltlich recht heterogenes, aber relativ elaboriertes arbeitsmarkttheoretisches Erklärungsprogramm, zumal das Thema Arbeit in den Beiträgen ihrer Vertreter bereits eine bedeutende Rolle spielte, noch bevor sich die EC Ende der achtziger Jahre als eigenständiges Forschungsprogramm in Frankreich konstituierte und seitdem kontinuierlich fortgeführt, erweitert und präzisiert wurde. Rainer Diaz-Bone hat für den deutschsprachigen Raum die wichtigsten arbeitsmarkttheoretischen Beiträge der EC in einer für die deutsche Wirtschaftssoziologie sicherlich wegweisenden Monografie zusammengefasst und systematisiert (Diaz-Bone 2015a: insb. Kap. 4 und 8). Die Idee der Pluralität von Handlungs- und Koordinationsprinzipien legt mit Blick auf arbeitsmarkttheoretische Fragen eine gewisse Nähe des EC-Instrumentariums zu segmentationstheoretischen Überlegungen nahe (vgl. Abschn. 4.1 und 4.2). Eine deutsche Pionierarbeit zum Arbeitsmarkt, die explizit auf segmentationstheoretische Überlegungen rekurriert, stellt Gerlachs (2014) Feldstudie zu Personalauswahl- und Bewertungspraktiken in der deutschen und französischen Automobilindustrie dar. Einen besonderen Fokus legt Gerlach auf die Prozesse und Praktiken der Bewertung („Valorisierung“) von Arbeitskraft durch personalverantwortliche Akteure (sog. „Intermediäre“) innerhalb und außerhalb von Erwerbsorganisationen (Personalabteilungen, HR-Agenturen, öffentliche und private Arbeitsvermittlungen) sowie auf die Notwendigkeit zur sachlichen und normativ-politischen Rechtfertigung personalpolitischer Entscheidungen. Gerlach zeigt in seiner Studie, dass Stellenbesetzungen ebenso wie Hierarchisierungsprinzipien zwischen verschiedenen betrieblichen Positionen maßgeblich von den Interpretationen, Entscheidungen und Praktiken der in den Rekrutierungsprozess involvierten Akteure abhängig sind. Ebenfalls eine interessante EC-Perspektive auf Arbeitsmärkte liefert Hessinger (2017) […]. Auffällig ist, dass dieses Feld von allen betrachteten Theoriefeldern von der Anzahl der aktuellen Beiträge her nur relativ dünn besetzt ist, obwohl es mit Granovetters Studie (1974) zur Rolle von sozialen Beziehungsnetzwerken bei der Jobsuche gewissermaßen als „Keimzelle“ der Neuen Wirtschafts- und Arbeitsmarktsoziologie gelten kann. Ein großes arbeitsmarkttheoretisches Potenzial für dieses Feld (aber auch für Feld IV) versprechen verschiedene Arbeiten aus dem Umfeld der interdisziplinären französischen Wissenschaftsbewegung „Économie des conventions“ (vgl. Diaz-Bone 2009, 2015a), die sich mittlerweile auch im deutschen Sprachraum etabliert hat.
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English translation (DeepL)

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A pragmatic sociological examination of projectification

Régis Barondeau & Brian Hobbs (2018)

International Journal of Managing Projects in Business

Purpose. Boltanski and Thevenot’s Economies of Worth framework and the project world introduced by Boltanski and Chiapello are well known in the fields of sociology and organization theory, but have been largely ignored in the project management literature. The purpose of this paper is to introduce them into the literature on projects and projectification.
Design/methodology/approach. The framework and the project world are described in detail and compared with two streams of writings that are well known in the field of project management: Making Projects Critical and the project as a complex self-organizing emergent network.
Findings. The paper shows that the framework and the project world are relevant to research in project management and the understanding of the projectification of society.
Research limitations/implications. The framework and the concepts presented could be used in both conceptual and empirical research in project management, particularly the analysis of projects in which disputes occur among stakeholders. Several paths that future developments could follow are identified.
Practical implications. The framework can be used to better understand disputes and identify how they can be resolved or compromises can be found.
Social implications. The analysis by Boltanski and Chiapello showed that the evolution of management practice is linked to changes in society and in the dominant ideology.
Originality/value. The paper introduces a very valuable framework into the project literature.

Keywords: Project tools and techniques, Project networks, Conflicts, Critical management studies, Organization theory, Project complexity, Social theory

Link to the review

Link to the review

Quantification, Inequality, and the Contestation of School Closures in Philadelphia

Meg Caven (2018)

Sociology of Education. Online first.

Abstract. Public education relies heavily on data to document stratified inputs and outcomes, and to design interventions aimed at reducing disparities. Yet despite the promise and prevalence of data-driven policies and practices, inequalities persist. Indeed, contemporary scholarship has begun to question whether and how processes such as quantification and commensuration contribute to rather than remediate inequality. Using the 2013 closure of 24 Philadelphia public schools as a case study, I employ a mixed-methods approach to illuminate quantification and commensuration as nuanced processes with contingent, dualistic, and paradoxical relationships to inequality. The quantified approach to selecting schools for closure predisposed poor and minority communities to institutional loss because academic underperformance, a key selection metric, was correlated with disadvantage. Paradoxically, academic performance measures, coupled with commensuration strategies, also enabled advocates to successfully overturn closure recommendations. I offer an evidentiary account of how quantification can perpetuate inequality, and I complicate prevailing understandings of quantification as a technology of power.

Keywords: quantification, inequality, education policy, community involvement, mixed-methods, performance metrics, commensuration, school closure

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Vagabonds at the Margins: Acculturation, Subalterns, and Competing Worth

Hari Sreekumar & Rohit Varman (2018)

Journal of Macromarketing. Online first.

Abstract. This study examines the cultural experiences of subaltern migrants from Kerala, India to the Middle East. It draws upon the French pragmatic sociology with attention to convention theory to cast in sharp relief different interpretations of worth that influence subaltern migrants or vagabonds as Zygmunt Bauman has labelled them. This study shows that vagabonds use different regimes of worth and justification to resist domination and to shape their cultural encounters with host and home cultures. It explains how existing acculturation research lacks insights about worth and regimes of justification that hinder it from fully understanding the role of domination and cultural experiences of subalterns.

Keywords: subaltern, acculturation, migrants, worth, justification, convention theory, pragmatic sociology, globalization

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A Conventionalist Perspective On Information Security Policies in Organisations

Dominik Zellhofer (2018)

Association for Information Systems, AIS Electronic Library (AISeL), Research-in-Progress Papers, 15.

Abstract. Concern for information security is a major driver for policy implementation, and with new regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation, almost all types of organisations face the challenge of implementing and applying information security policies. Information security standards guide these processes, but the challenge of ensuring compliance is still a major issue, despite extensive information security research in this aspect. The lack of versatility in theoretical approaches led to calls for sociological approaches to contribute to the literature, but they were only partly addressed. The proposed framework of convention theory can serve as a fruitful approach, providing a pragmatic and contextualized perspective and a strong theoretical foundation from sociology. By adopting a conventionalist view of information security policies, attention is focused on issues of legitimacy without limiting the analysis to a solely structuralist perspective. This research in progress tries to take first steps in building a conventionalist framework for case-based research by introducing some of the main concepts of convention theory and illustrates possible implications for information security research and practice.

Keywords: Information Security Policy, Convention Theory, Compliance, Legitimacy.

Link to AIS eLibrary

Agricultural Knowledge: Linking farmers, advisors and researchers to boost innovation

Agrilink/INRA/EU (2018)

AgriLink’s multi-level conceptual framework. Paris: INRA.

Excerpt. « Convention theory addresses the implicit “agreements” about what is to be done – what each person does meets the expectations of the others on whom he or she depends’ (Storper and Salais 1997, p.16). This agreement is a convention; it is not a formal or formulated agreement and, in sociological terms, this agreement is more like rules. The theory of conventions may be applied in both the macro- and micro-levels; macro about ‘long variations, in terms of historical duration or cultural gaps’ and micro about ‘short variations which consist of differences between activities within a single economy, or changes in conventions in an organization, during interaction and so on’ (Eymard-Duvernay 2002, p. 69). Convention theory may not be so obvious a part of organisational learning, but it can be applied here too.” (p. 39)

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Making Markets “Worth the Effort” at the Bottom of the Pyramid

Ronika Chakrabarti & Katy Mason (2018)

In: Singh, Ramendra (ed.): Bottom of the Pyramid Marketing. Making, Shaping and Developing BOP Markets. Emerald, pp. 29-51.

Abstract. This chapter draws on the concept of orders of worth to generate under­standing into how sustainable, good markets might be enabled at the bot­tom of the pyramid (BoP). Through an ethnographic study of the efforts of a non-government organisation (NGO) to create spaces where values and value at the BoP are unearthed, articulated, contested and translated into market-making practices. Insights are generated into how interven­tions to make-markets in sites of extreme poverty become ‘worth the ef­fort’. In keeping with the market studies literature, the authors explore how multiple, contested and reframed needs generate insights into the ef­forts (and practices) that shape orders of worth in economic life. Orders of worth are the everyday practice of social values that constitute economic value and are framed through the moral values of social worlds as these values are put to work to calculate economic value. This work provides a contribution to the market studies literature through our understanding of the relationship between social and economic values in the creation of orders of worth, by showing how this happens at the BoP. Second, the au­thors contribute to the BoP literature by showing how places and spaces can be created and used to enable markets to unfold and happen. Finally, the findings contribute to our understanding of the types of practices and market-making devices that interventions might adopt and adapt in order to prod potential actors into action. The chapter identifies three types of enabling practices that make markets possible: connecting, integrating and reclassifying.

Keywords: ‘Bottom of the pyramid’; market making; orders of worth; economic value; social values

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Märkte und „common ground“: Arbeit, gesundheitliche Versorgung, Finanzen

Philipp Hessinger (2019)

Wiesbaden: Springer VS

Excerpt. «[…] Wenn für Hessingers Forschungsarbeit eine im besten Sinne des Wortes soziologisch-aufklärerische Herangehensweise charakteristisch ist, die nicht zuletzt auf ‚Spuren des Normativen‘ in der Gesellschaft reflektiert, so folgt er dem Programm einer „Soziologie der Kritik“ (Boltanski und Chiapello 2001; Boltanski und Chiapello 2003). Diese Soziologie zielt analytisch auf die strukturbildenden Effekte normativer Rahmungen und fragt gesellschaftspolitisch nach dem transformativen Potenzial des normativen Geltungsüberhangs jener Legitimations- respektive Rechtfertigungsregime, die in den gesellschaftlichen Deutungshaushalt eingelassen sind (Hessinger 2008). Den theoretischen Einsatzpunkt der unter diesen Vorzeichen von Hessinger durchgeführten soziologischen Marktanalysen bildet vor allem die kritische Auseinandersetzung mit den von der neoklassischen Ökonomie vorgesehenen Erklärungsmodellen, insbesondere ihrer Arbeitsmarkt-, Humankapital- und Kapitaltheorie. Am empirischen Gegenstand von Arbeits-, Finanz- und Gesundheitsmärkten zeigt der Autor systematisch die analytischen Defizite dieser Erklärungsmodelle in Bezug auf aktuelle gesellschaftliche Entwicklungen auf: beispielsweise bezogen auf die Finanzkrise 2008, auf die Hartz-Reformen oder auf Reorganisationsprozesse im Gesundheitswesen. Die neoklassische Wirtschaftstheorie wird als geschichtsvergessener Ansatz, der sich auf Modelle einer linearen Wirtschaftsentwicklung stützt, einer grundsätzlichen, aber auch im Detail gehaltvollen Kritik unterzogen. Gegen diese ebenso wissenschaftlich dominante wie realgeschichtlich wirkmächtige Theorie führt Hessinger weiterhin kritisch an, dass sie in und mit ihrer normativ entkernten Theoriearchitektur sowohl die sozialen Voraussetzungen gesellschaftlicher Wertschöpfungsprozesse als auch die gesellschaftlichen Folgen ihrer Art des Wirtschaftens systematisch ausblendet. Indem Hessinger auf die „Ökonomie der Konventionen“ zurückgreift (siehe überblicksweise Diaz-Bone und Thévenot 2010 sowie Diaz-Bone 2015), vermag er es, das damit Ausgeblendete aufschlussreich wieder in den Blick zu nehmen.» (Preface, p. VII/VIII)

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The Determinants of Moroccan Firm’s Financial Structure

Brahim Bouayad & Salah Eddine Kartobi (2018)

Athens Journal of Mediterranean Studies, 4(4), p. 305-320

Abstract. The aim of our paper is to try to determine financial structure of firms using a financing convention theory. Our research focused on a panel of listed 50 non-financial firms of Casablanca Stock Exchange. We apply a principal components analysis to identify more appropriate factors that determine funding regimes choice. We then use hierarchical cluster analysis to classify these listed non-financial firms by cluster. Our results show that financial structure is influenced by the nature of needs for funding. We find three separate funding regimes over the period 2003-2010: (i) autonomy regime, (ii) debt regime and (iii) overdraft regime. On the basis of these findings, the study concludes that the first perform reasonably well in predicting financial performance. The second in predicting investment while the third, in predicting the importance of financing need of transactions.

Keywords: Firm’s financial structure, Funding regimes, Moroccan non-financial firms, Pecking Order and Market Timing Theories, Tradeoff.

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« That is why we consider hiring activities as valorization and devalorization processes. »

Interview with Emmanuelle Marchal

Anna Schneider & Qamar Ali (University of Innsbruck, Austria)

Emmanuelle Marchal is a CNRS Research Professor at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations, (Center for the Sociology of Organizations) in Paris. Her research focuses mainly on the sociology of labor market and the sociology of valuation. She has carried out many qualitative and quantitative surveys on the functioning of labor market, emphasizing the role of devices, intermediaries, trust, recruitment channels, hiring and screening processes.

Schneider/Ali: Please tell us how EC has been beneficial to your research work so far?

Marchal: To answer your question, it is important to know that I was in contact with the founders of Economics of convention School (in short EC) even before the publication of the founding work of 1989. I was a researcher at the CEE (Centre d’études de l’emploi) when François Eymard-Duvernay took over as director of the Centre and brought Laurent Thévenot in as scientific director. (CEE has recently been integrated into the CNAM.) As a result, I have been “imbued” with the theses of EC, as they have developed. I was able to benefit not only from the reading of the work done on job classifications, companies, public policy intermediaries, and The economies of worth, but also from the daily discussions to which they gave rise. Beyond this first circle of conventionalists, I was also able to benefit from the contacts they were developing with the GSPM (Groupe de sociologie politique et morale) founded by Luc Boltanski, and with the CSI (Centre de sociologie de l’innovation) where Bruno Latour and Michel Callon were developing their own theses. It was all very exciting.

Emmanuelle Marchal

I started working with François Eymard-Duvernay at the beginning of the 1990s, by carrying out a survey on the introduction of New Public Management, in a social housing management organization (in French Office HLM). We were particularly interested in the impact of how changing management styles affects the perceived value of people. Many public servants, previously highly rated, were devalued overnight. Hiring methods were completely revised, abandoning competitions and knowledge tests in favor of private agencies and graphology. This was accompanied by a complete revamp of the organization chart and job titles, as well as an introduction of new methods to evaluate staff and activities. What was evident from our observations, was that the outcome of the individual’s performance evaluation could be very different depending on the conventions valued and chosen by the organization’s managers to evaluate them. This is what we called “skill conventions” (in French, conventions de competence) in the book we published together in 1996, following inquiries done in recruitment agencies. This book marks the beginning of a long collaboration with François Eymard-Duvernay and with the economics PhD students he supervised later in Nanterre University. We developed a typology of “Ways of Hiring” (Façons de recruter is the title of the book), to highlight that each of them carries its own specific interpretation of competency. In some situations, skills are planned: they are seen as pre-established and measurable, independently of the context of its use. On the contrary, they can be negotiated during the hiring process between actors in such a way they are treated as the result of a process. The second continuum goes from cases where skills are considered as embedded in collectives (organizations, networks, workplaces) to cases where they are individualized, as if they were carried by the applicant alone. Depending on the ways of recruiting and screening methods used, the stage of the process and the type of actors involved (when there are several), different conventions are mobilized. As a result, different applicants are valued, selected or excluded. That is why we consider hiring activities as valorization / devalorization processes.

I developed this point in my last book (Les embarras des recruteurs), where I summarize the work I have been doing for 25 years. Starting from the classic distinction between remote coordination, which is highly equipped, and proximity coordination, which more often takes place face-to-face, I highlight the dysfunctions of the labor market in France. I show how recruitment and selection methods can contribute to penalizing some people, and how they maintain long-term unemployment and exclusion.

Schneider/Ali: Give us a brief overview of your research journey in recruitment, work in organizations, and labor markets so far.

Marchal: As a sociologist, I value empirical investigations. So I have tried to enter into numerous collaborations and to use all forms of methods of inquiry (observations, interviews, textual and statistical data analysis). My very first investigation was based on in-depth observations of professional consultants’ activities in private agencies. I was fortunate to be able to follow them in their daily work, including attending interviews with job candidates. This position gave me exposure to the uncertainties they were facing. At the same time, I worked with a colleague from INSEE (The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) on the French LFS (labor force survey), to show how recruitment channels were distributed, according to the population who had found employment. I was able to work there again later with Géraldine Rieucau, in comparing results from French and Spain. It must be said that this was the only statistical source available on the topic in the mid-90’s. Thereafter, we became interested in job advertisements and undertook historical and comparative analyses (in France, Great Britain, Spain) to give an account of how the formulated requirements and the language used varied according to these labor markets. Following that, we initiated a major survey, for which I designed the questionnaire. This OFER survey was conducted by the Ministry of Employment in 2005 and 2016 among 8 600 establishments. It makes it possible to trace very precisely the last recruitment method, and shows the great variety of research methods and evaluation of job offers and skills. I worked with Christian Bessy on recruitment channels and with Guillemette de Larquier on the impact of hiring methods on the selection of candidate profiles. I am currently exploring the results by focusing on how « non-qualified » staff (low skilled workers) are recruited. How do you select candidates whose qualifications are not recognized? What is valued in this particular market?

Previously, I have also participated in the evaluation of public recruitment policies, by conducting surveys at Pôle emploi (The French public employment service), among private and public market intermediaries and large companies. As a result, I contributed to the evaluation of the relevance of the potential introduction of the compulsory anonymous Resume and of a particular recruitment method which requires the candidate to simulate the tasks involved in the role (MRS in French). I was also interested in and conducted research on the historical evolution of methods and the introduction of personality analyses in recruitment, via graphology and tests, as well as their criticism. Three years ago, I started a new project on recruitment fairs with Delphine Remillon and Géraldine Rieucau: At a time when most companies are focusing on the all-digital world, what is at stake in these brief face-to-face interviews?

Schneider/Ali: Please tell us what particular aspects of EC you are currently referring to in your ongoing research projects.

Marchal: At the moment, I am conducting an exploration of grievances related to cases of hiring discrimination, and filed through the Rights’ Defender. The question of discrimination has already been addressed from a conventionalist perspective, by Ariane Ghirardello, through her PhD. In the cases treated by the Rights’ Defender’s lawyers, I explore the elements that claimants use to support the presumption of discrimination, and that employers use to defend themselves. In an ideal situation, it should be possible to decide: yes or no, did the employer use a discriminatory criteria to reject a candidate? If not, he must be able to provide the justification of his choice. But there is a lot of uncertainties around the definition of discriminatory facts. What is at issue is the identification of the pivotal factor of the recruitment decision which often involves many actors and many tools. Sometimes, candidates are not unknowns, because they have previously been employed by the same employer; Disagreements over the “worth” of workers (applicants) are frequently at stake; The assessments differ not only between the claimants and respondents in the same situation, but also from one step of the hiring process to another. Judgments may be rightly based on the candidate’s personality or motivation, placing the lawyer in a delicate position to determine whether his rejection appears legitimate or not. The complaints can often go far beyond the issue of discrimination, in addressing the fairness within the hiring process.

Schneider/Ali: What future issues should/could EC scholars address? Which do you think are the most pressing questions related to labor markets EC scholars should address?

Marchal: It seems important to me to follow the evolution of the labor market by highlighting the different ways in which job providers and job-seekers manage the coordination and valuation of themselves on the markets. A good way to do this, is to focus on devices that enable the evaluation and matching of market actors in the market. Most of the time, these tools are designed by employers and market intermediaries (and not by job seekers). What does this « valorization power » (Eymard-Duvernay) produce? This question arises both when entering organizations and when moving internally within them. What are the conventions embodied in the evaluation tools used in any one particular company?

The use of the Internet to recruit may permanently lead to favoring very general and transversal matching tools, with the aim of circulating the workforce over large areas. This is the trend of the public employment service in France, which favors standard and universal markers for recording and classifying job offers and applications. This choice leads to devaluing the markers embedded in local markets and professional markets that would allow many candidates and employers to meet up: locally known schools or companies are not recognized by the standardized tools that devalue them. This fuels recruitment difficulties and long-term unemployment. On the other hand, the role of intermediaries specialized in sectors of activity, trades and localities could be studied further to highlight their contribution. The same is true of networks that not only circulate information, as Granovetter pointed out, but also trust. As economic sociology shows us, no market works without trust devices, “personal devices” or” impersonal devices” (Karpik) or without “investment in forms” (Thévenot).

Another example is the algorithms that some start-ups are proposing to use to recruit. What assumptions and what knowledge are incorporated into these devices? I think the idea is always to predict competence, just like what the psychotechnicians dreamed of doing at the beginning of the 20th century. If an individual succeeds in a job, there are hundreds of data about him or her (tastes, hobbies, personality, network and background) that can be recorded and processed. Would an individual with a similar profile succeed in the same job? The tool is innovative, but the approach is not. Cognitive sciences, ergonomists and the psychodynamics of work have shown to what extent skills are situated, collective, distributed and evolutionary. There are many ways to accomplish a task and it is important to remember that competency judgments are not intended to reveal or measure skills, but to agree on what makes the workers and activities valuable. A lot can be learnt by looking into how other scientific disciplines approach our own research topics. That said, we should take a closer look at the assumptions embedded in the invention of algorithms. The rise of behavioral sciences in public tools and polices is worrying, from this point of view.

Schneider/Ali: In relation to this, and with regards to your multiple use of both qualitative and quantitative methods, how would you describe your methodological stance towards investigating social phenomena from an EC perspective?

Marchal: I don’t think that there is any specific « EC method », but you are right to underline that adopting an EC perspective has methodological incidences. How to account for the actors’ reflexivity, concerns and constraints? How to take into account the tensions generated by the possibility of referring to several orders of worth and justice? Personally, I subscribe to the principles of the pragmatic sociology developed by Luc Boltanski. I have also been very influenced by the work of interactionists, ethnomethodologists and by the reading of Alfred Schütz. Finding the right distance to the field and to the actors, implies to respect their critical capacities without trying to impose our own point of view. The difficulty is also to account jointly for what stabilizes the social world and what transforms it, as Nicolas Dodier explains well. Observing the activities of actors who are at the crossroads of several worlds is often a good entry point into the field. This is the case, for example, of market intermediaries, of actors who are at the borders of organizations and develop relationships with clients or users, of spokespersons for social movements or State inspectors. This is the case for all those who find themselves at the crossroads of often contradictory requirements, whose activities are easily exposed to criticism. This is also the case of actors who have more distance to what they are doing, because they have to implement an innovation or to face an organizational change, because they have just been hired or have been displaced, because their routine activities are interrupted by something. All of them have interesting things to tell us about what is happening in the social world.

Using quantitative methods is more complicated, because we cannot ignore the work done by Alain Desrosières and by Laurent Thévenot on the history of statistics and nomenclatures, on the choices made when codifying and classifying data. We know that any statistical data incorporates conventions. They incorporate ways of presenting reality that have led to the exclusion of other versions of the world as explained by Espeland and Stevens. It is tempting to leave it there and to focus only on the analysis of their construction: how do individuals go about quantifying what is qualitative? But we also know that quantitative data has more credibility than any qualitative data, especially with decision-makers.

Like all actors, we must make compromises. This is what we tried to do by using the text data processing software created by Francis Chateauraynaud (Prospero). The objective was to quantify the content of the advertisements, without sacrificing the importance of the wording chosen by employers to write their job offers. The vocabulary of job titles, for example, changes over time and is formulated on several registers that should not be eliminated during operations of quantification. Some statistical methods are specially designed to smooth the transition between qualitative and quantitative data, by mastering the intermediate steps. It is the case of the multiple correspondance analysis (MCA) used with Guillemette de Larquier to explore the OFER Survey. We propose an inductive typology of screening process used in hiring. The method enables us to measure the distribution of the four screening processes identified and to measure their impact on equal opportunities.

Schneider/Ali: Regarding your interest in the recruiting of “non-qualified” staff: how can an EC perspective explain the “revaluation” of immigrants’ skills. In other words, how can the EC explain why physicians or engineers end up working as taxi drivers in their host country? Which “skill conventions” are at work here?

Marchal: It is difficult for me to answer this question on immigrant workers because I have not done any specific work on this population. I tend to think that the problems are different in between highly qualified people, like the engineers or physicians you mentioned, and unskilled labor. In the first case, it is the (non)recognition of diplomas by the host institutions which is at stake. For the latter Annalisa Lendaro and Christian Imdorf use the EC framework to show how intermediaries maintain the segregation of immigrant women by assigning them to the domestic labor industry. Immigrant women and mothers appear as cheap labor, having built-in female and traditional skills, which are not recognized as having a market value.

As for me, from what I can see in the OFER survey, is that more than half of recruiters do not recognize the value of unskilled workers diploma. And they do this deliberately whether they are immigrants or not. Being a woman is an asset to be hired as a home helper but represents a handicap to work in the construction sector. You must be young to work in the hotel trade, restaurant industry or in commerce, whereas very few older workers would be hired. The latter are confined to cleaning jobs where there is also a high proportion of migrants. Gender, age and origin work are used as matching signals. But, because they are also discriminatory criteria they are neither displayed nor remunerated. That is why we can talk about “non-qualified” staff in the literal sense: its qualities are not valued nor recognized.

Schneider/Ali: To what extent do you think the theoretical perspectives within EC are useful in facilitating a smooth functioning and progress of society/societal institutions?

Marchal: The conventionalist approach emphasizes the need for agreement to coordinate, and the existence of alternatives: there are several “polities” (in French cités), several registers of action and valuation among which it is possible to choose. The driving force of such a society and what allows it to progress, are the controversies driven by the critical capacities of the actors. They reject unfair situations and attempt to make compromises between competing conventions. Of course, this is a utopian vision of social relations and the way institutions work. To be convinced, it is enough to take up the critical reactions that were made after the publication of the book De la justification: what place is given to power relations in such a society? De la critique, published by Luc Boltanski in 2009 (engl. 2011), aims to correct the situation by insisting on the mechanisms of oppression. Personally, I think that the pragmatic sociology of EC allows us to formulate good questions by looking at the conditions under which a company, a market, an activity (such as recruitment), could operate in an equitable way. Do institutions give real critical capacities to employees, consumers, applicants? Are these capacities well distributed among the layers of society? Does everyone have enough capabilities (using Amartya Sen’s vocabulary) to make choices? Through these questions, it is the place of democracy and liberalism that is being asked. This involves highly political choices …

References

Bessy, C., and Marchal, E., 2009. Le rôle des réseaux et du marché dans les recrutements: enquête auprès des entreprises. Revue française de Socio-économie, n°3, p.121-146

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

Boltanski, L and Thévenot, L. 2006, On justification. Economies of Worth (Translated by Catherin Porter). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Boltanski, L., 2009, De la critique. Précis de sociologie de l’émancipation. Paris: Gallimard.

Boltanski, L., 2011, On Critique : a sociology of Emancipation., London: Polity Press.

Chateauraynaud, F. 2003, Prospéro : Une technologie littéraire pour les sciences humaines, Paris: EHESS.

Desrosières, A. and Thévenot, L., 1988, Les catégories socioprofessionnelles.  Paris: La Découverte.

Dodier, N., 1993. Les appuis conventionnels de l’action. Eléments de pragmatique sociologique, Réseaux Communication, Technologie, Société, n°62, pp. 63-85

Eymard-Duvernay, F. 2006. Pouvoir d’évaluation de la qualité du travail et décisions d’emploi. In Petit, Héloise and Thévenot, Nadine (eds.), Les nouvelles frontières du travail subordonné: Approche pluridisciplinaire (pp. 71-86). Paris: La Découverte.

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

Ghirardello, A., 2005. De l’évaluation des compétences à la discrimination : une analyse conventionnaliste des pratiques de recrutement. Revue de Gestion des Ressources Humaines, n°56, pp. 36-48.

Granovetter, M., 1974. Getting a job: A study of contacts and careers, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Karpik, L., 2010. Valuing the unique. The economics of singularities. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Larquier, G. de and Marchal, E. 2016. Does the Formalization of Practices Enhance Equal Hiring Opportunities? An Analysis of a French National Wide Employer Survey. Socio-Economic Review, p. 1-23.

Lendaro, A. and Imdorf, C. 2012. The use of ethnicity in recruiting domestic labour: A case study of French placement agencies in the care sector. Employee Relations, Vol. 34 Issue: 6, pp. 613-627.

Marchal, E. 2015. Les embarras des recruteurs. Enquêtes sur le marché du travail, Paris: EHESS.

Marchal, E. 2013. Uncertainties Regarding Applicant Quality. The Anonymous Resume Put to the Test. In Beckert, Jens and Musselin, Christine (Ed.), Constructing Quality. The classification of Goods in Markets (pp. 103-125). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marchal, E., Mellet, K. and Rieucau, G. 2007. Job board toolkits. Internet matchmaking and changes in job advertisements. Human Relations, n°60, pp. 1091-1113.

Schütz, A., 1987. Le chercheur et le quotidien. Phénoménologie des Sciences sociales, Méridiens Klincksieck.

Thévenot, L. 1984. Rules and implements. Investment in forms. Social Science Information, 23, pp. 1-45.

The guaranteed city. The ruin of urban criticism?

Marc Breviglieri (2018)

In Resende J., Martins A., Breviglieri M. and C. Delaunay (eds.), Challenges of Communication in a Context of Crisis: Troubles, Misunderstandings and Discords, Cambridge Scholar Publishers, p. 206-249.

Excerpt. I will first of all outline a very general plan, from which it will gradually be possible to focus more on a reflection around the guaranteed city. First of all, we need to place the discussion in the context of anxiety which is peculiar to our civilisation, which broadly constitutes the first explanation for an almost unlimited request for guarantees. These guarantees, particularly when it comes to building and urbanisation, give rise to an unprecedented use of accreditation and evaluation (Vitale, 2009; Bourdin, 2010; Thévenot, 1986; 1994; 1997; 2009a)1. This anxiety imprisons ‘human acts’ [‘agir humain’] (Jonas, 1990) in their worry, and makes their authority dependent upon the credit accorded to other means which are likely to create trust. Such means are varied and meant to represent a number of neutral authorities independent of all display of arbitrary, oppressive power which could determine the direction of projects to build in or change the city. They include observatories which produce independent scientific reports, agencies responsible for quality assurance and certification, civil engineering companies, places where consultation occurs, making democratic oversight of projects and participation in them possible, or even campaign groups and sometimes trade union members suggesting alternative measures. The ways in which legitimate authority over an urban project is consolidated thus include the consultation of specialists, the application of evolving regulations which impose technical requirements (regulations which are more often produced by organisations representing a range of interests than by the state), or by organisations dealing with accrediting and certifying the quality of the project. It is by working with such bodies that a legitimate authority can gain credibility and be taken seriously by everyone involved. Integrating such measures (most of which are legal requirements) into the development of an urban project leads to the proliferation and dense interconnection of performance and quality indicators (safety, energy saving, budgeting, awareness of inhabitants’ needs and so on). Monitoring, benchmarking and targeting using databases made reliable through statistical and econometric tools are all made use of. On the one hand such indicators are fed into a large network of people involved in building or developing a space, potentially converging with instruments which oversee public activity on a national scale. On the other, they are integrated into a veritable marketisation of certified consumables, a point we will return to. It is in part under the influence of this double dynamic that large cities are coming to be more and more alike, whilst at the same time becoming comparable.

About the book. This book questions the political tools and the basis upon which the values of an informed and objective communication rest, and that nowadays encompass most of the ordinary situations encountered in institutions. What is the fate of the involuntary drifts of communication, such as disturbances, misunderstandings and troubles, in the use of decision-making tools, participatory mechanisms, and the establishment of contractual procedures or informed consent practices? How do they open a discordant and potentially critical gap in the protocols and assessment and categorization measures that govern these institutions? How can the virtues of these drifts, whether in the exercise of sociological research or of scientific discovery be revalued? Crisis situations seem implicitly or explicitly to involve communicative issues. The efforts of normative framing of communication and of information formatting are then numerous. However, as this book shows, one can question not only the effectiveness of these efforts, but also how the actors receive them and how they transform the actual modalities of their communication processes.

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Group formation, styles, and grammars of commonality in local activism

Eeva  Luhtakallio (2018)
British Journal of Sociology. Online first, pp. 1-20.

Abstract. This article argues that in order to analyse democracy as a pattern constantly processed in a given society, it is useful to look at activist groups’ agenda setting and recruitment principles, group bonds and boundaries, and how these actions direct and influence ways of creating the common. Based on an ethnographic study on bicycle activism in Helsinki, Finland, it describes a local critical mass movement that was successful in promoting a bicycle friendly and sustainable city, yet dissolved due to lack of people involved, and the bicycle demonstrations stopped at a moment of high public interest. This empirical puzzle is addressed by combining three theoretical perspectives: Kathleen Blee’s work on path dependencies in nascent activist groups; Nina Eliasoph and Paul Lichterman’s work on group styles, and Laurent Thévenot’s work on the grammars of commonality. These theoretical tools help understand the sense of what is deemed possible, desirable and feasible in activist groups, and the consequences thereof to social movement ‘success’ and ‘failure’. The article claims that everyday practices and interaction are crucial in understanding the ‘democratic effects’ of social movements. It concludes that following specific processes of politicization and their conditionings in activist groups provides keys to understanding contextual differences in democracies without resorting to methodological nationalism or to exaggerated global isomorphism, and thus may contribute to figuring out how to succeed global action plans over wicked, pressing problems like global warming.

Link to the review

Book review: Justification, Evaluation and Critique in the Study of Organizations: Contributions from French Pragmatist Sociology

Tim Edwards (2018)

Journal of Classical Sociology, Online first

Charlotte Cloutier, Jean-Pascal Gond & Bernard  Leca (eds.) Justification, evaluation and critique in the study of organizations. Contributions from French pragmatist sociology, Bingley: Emerald publishers (2017)

Excerpt. « This volume of the series Research in the Sociology of Organizations is unabashed in celebrating the many notable advances in critical organization theory that are attributed to French pragmatist sociology (Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006; cf. Susen and Turner, 2014). Comprising 12 thought-provoking chapters, the editors invite the reader to reflect on the Economies of Worth (EW) framework in advancing knowledge of organizational processes. In doing so, they observe four lines of development in the volume that extends EW inspired critical analysis. First, they draw attention to the way EW is suited to unpack justification dynamics (understood as an essential ingredient of human reality) at an individual level of analysis. This enables pragmatist scholars to explain how actors “manage the contradictions and compromises inherent in organizational pluralism.” Second, they indicate how the volume adds explanatory weight to critical analysis through the evaluation of rhetoric and justification in shaping organizational action. Here again we see the value of the EW framework in establishing lines of investigation concerning the evaluative intent of actors. Third, the editors highlight how EW can contribute to theorizations of worth that go beyond simple economic formulations and in ways that shed new light on organizational life as eclectic and plural. Finally, the editors draw attention to work in the volume that pushes the boundaries and fine-tunes some of the “core assumptions” of EW that invites the emergence of new forms of pragmatic critical analysis from within (Cloutier et al., 2017: 3–5). Taken together, this new volume is a significant achievement in delivering work that surely celebrates and broadens the horizons of critical analysis. […] The many thoughts that flow from this brief piece of reflection confirms the significance of the French pragmatist project, which is amply captured in the array of works found in this volume. »

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Transforming Markets? Activists’ Strategic Orientations and Engagement With Private Governance

Graeme Auld (2018)
Organization & Environment. Online first, pp. 1-25

Abstract. Private governance regimes—instances where nonstate actors set rules that govern their behavior and/or the behavior of others—are increasingly common intermediaries between activists and corporations. Activists are often thought to drive corporations to participate in private governance. By participating, corporations hope to be shielded from activist pressures. Yet there are many instances where activists oppose particular private governance regimes, even ones that are seen as leaders in a sector. Why is this? This article contributes answers to this question by examining how activists’ different strategic orientations affect their perceptions of private governance. It unpacks three distinct ideal-type strategic orientations—prefiguration, targeting, and cooperation—activists may hold in their efforts to transform markets and the different forms of private governance each orientation will prefer. It then details how market entry conditions, sequencing and interactions, and feedbacks affect how activists are likely to engage the private governance regimes that develop in a given sector.

Link to the review

Les services écosystémiques comme outils d’aide à la décision et de communication pour les parcs naturels régionaux. L’exemple du parc Scarpe-Escaut

Leslie Carnoye (2018)

Développement durable et territoires, 9(3) [en ligne]

Résumé. L’objectif de cet article est d’interroger le sens de l’approche par les services écosystémiques (SE) et sa pertinence pour les parcs naturels régionaux. L’enquête réalisée sur le territoire du parc Scarpe-Escaut inclut une expérience d’observation participante dans un projet d’évaluation de plusieurs SE sur le territoire, dix entretiens semi-directifs et l’analyse de documents de gestion du parc. La conclusion de l’étude est que les SE présentent d’importantes limites, qu’ils soient envisagés comme des outils d’aide à la décision, ou comme des outils de communication. Le cas du parc Scarpe-Escaut est intéressant parce qu’il remet en cause la croyance dans l’efficacité des SE et des arguments monétaires pour la protection de la biodiversité, diffusée par les nouveaux pragmatistes environnementaux.

Ecosystem services as decision-aid and communicational tools for regional natural parks. The example of the Park Scarpe-Escaut

Abstract. The purpose of this paper is to question the meaning of the ecosystem services (ES) approach and its usefulness for regional natural parks. The field work realized in the Park Scarpe-Escaut includes: an observational experience in a research project aiming at valuing several ES on the territory, 10 semi-directive interviews and the analysis of the park’s management documents. The study concludes that ES have important limits, whether they are considered as decision-aid tools or as communicational tools. The case of the park Scarpe-Escaut is interesting because it challenges the belief in the efficacy of ES and monetary arguments for biodiversity protection, spread by the new environmental pragmatists.

Lien vers l’article/ Link to the article