Analyzing Realities Trough Conventions – The use of Pragmatic sociology for Understanding Education in the Nordics

Paper session, 11 August 2022, University of Iceland, Room Lögberg – 205
Chair: Christian Imdorf, Leibniz University Hannover
30th Nordic Sociological Association Conference 2022
10-12 August 2022, Reykjavik, Island

Education policy is considered an important instrument for equal opportunities and social mobility as well as a prerequisite for high productivity and high employment. Hence, it is a significant instrument of social policy to implement some of the core elements of the Nordic welfare model. Rather than to contrast myths and realities of this model, this session proposes to distinguish conflicting justification orders, notions of justice and moralities in education which require compromises in order to consolidate reality claims of plural educational worlds. The emergence of New French Pragmatism and the sociology of conventions offer promising analytical tools to analyze the different aims and facets of post-secondary education at the intersection of the educational system and the labor market. Beyond orders of justification, conventions in education also refer to value orders and plural notions of educational quality, as well as to logics of action for the analysis of governance, transformations and reforms of educational institutions and organizations. The application of convention theory in education thereby represents an alternative to structuralist traditions which tend to focus on rules that act outside of individuals (Durkheim) or the role of incorporated class-dispositions (Bourdieu), as well as rational choice theory, which advocates a more individualist and utility-maximizing model of actors and society (Boudon). Rather, the new pragmatic approach emphasizes the agency of individuals (e.g. students, teachers, headmasters) when coordinating their social actions in the context of situational cultural orders. While convention theory has been applied in France since the late 1980, and for some time in the German-speaking countries, it has only more recently received serious scholarly attention in the Nordics. This session brings together ongoing research on post-secondary education (folk high schools, higher vocational education, municipal adult education), which serves societal aims at the crossroads of the different priorities of the welfare state, civil society, and the demands for labor market. Paper 1 looks at the plural worth of education, justificatory regimes and forms of student engagement in Arts Education programs at Swedish Folk High Schools (Fürst & Nylander), a type of school which has a long-standing and strong association with Nordic culture and civil society. Paper 2 analyses different justificatory logics of skilling in the plural worlds of higher vocational education, a more recent educational institution in Sweden which is supposed to serve local labor market demands (Ye & Nylander). Paper 3 investigates how tendering-based procurement as a management tool shapes the very nature and value of Swedish municipal adult education between welfare service and market good (Holmqvist). Paper 4 presents a book-project which will show how pragmatism as a theoretical analytical viewpoint can contribute to new takes on both the micro level and macro level processes in the Norwegian educational setting (Haugseth & Smeplass). The session ends with some concluding remarks against the background of previous European research on education and conventions by the session chair (Imdorf). In sum, this session offers an in-depth introduction to the usefulness of pragmatic sociology for analyzing the plural realities of post-compulsory education in the Nordics through a variation of different cases and examples.

  • Henrik Fürst, Uppsala University & Erik Nylander, Linköping University: Variety of Values in Arts Education: Engaging in Music, Creative Writing, and the Visual Arts at the
    Folk High School
  • Erik Nylander, Linköping University & Rebecca Ye, Stockholm University: Justificatory logics of skilling: the plural worlds of higher vocational education participation
  • Diana Holmqvist, Linköping University: Between welfare service and market good – how tendering-based procurement as management tool shapes the value of Swedish municipal adult education
  • Jan Frode Haugseth, Eli Smeplass, Norwegian University of Science and Technology: Social Pragmatism in Education – New Directions in Educational Research and Practice

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