Archives de l’auteur : diazbone

“Why Convention Theory?”

Report by Taizo Yamamoto (Osaka Sangyo University, Japan)

On May 23, a session entitled “Why Convention Theory?” ( was held at the 24th Conference of Japan Society for Evolutionary Economics, JAFEE (at Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan. ). The conference was scheduled for March, but was postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic and held online.

Convention Theory or Economics of Convention (EC), which is one of the French institutionalist approaches, was introduced to Japan after the 2000s by translated books and articles. In 2012, Olivier Favereau (University of Paris Nanterre, France), in 2015, Christian Bessy (École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay, France), and in 2018, Guillemette de Larquier (University of Lille, France) visited Japan and gave lectures. However, while the second generation and their students have developed EC, the recent movements have not been systematically introduced to Japan. Also, the advantages of the developed theory have been not clearly shown to Japanese evolutionary and institutional economists. Therefore, this session was organized to notice the recent development of EC and answer to the question why we dare to learn and to apply EC. The session consisted of the following three presentations:

  • Masafumi Yokemoto (Osaka City University, Japan)
    Quality Tests in an Alternative Food Network: A Case Study of Organic Farming by Minamata Disease Patients and Their Supporters
  • Kota Kitagawa (Kansai University) and Mihoko Morisaki (Osaka City University, Japan): Wagashi Crafting as a Service: A Place of Materials in the Immaterialization of Capitalism from the Perspective of Convention Theory
  • Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne, Switzerland): Convention Theory and Big Data
  • Moderator: Yuji Harada (Setsunan University, Japan)

Masafumi Yokemoto’s presented a case study of organic farming in Minamata supported by urban consumers. Minamata is well-known as the site of devastating health damage (Minamata Disease) caused by a chemical company’s (Chisso) methylmercury emissions. The linkage of producers and consumers can be seen as an example of alternative food networks (AFNs), which provide foods having characteristics differing from mass-distribution products by linking producers and consumers.

As such, the “quality” of goods is an important point, and in that respect AFN researchers have consulted convention theory. Certification systems enabled businesses to incorporate new types of worth (the environment and food safety) into the process of capital accumulation. On the other hand a strategy of AFN is to switch away from focusing on product qualities those are proved by means of a certification system, and instead use the criterion of “relationships” among producers and with consumers. In the case of Minamata, such relationships are especially important. Also, his analysis traces the emergence of cité of green in Japan.

Kota Kitagawa and Mihoko Morisaki’s presented a case study of new developments in wagashi confectionery industry of Japan as an example of the immaterialization of capitalism. In order to consider immaterialization as a way of creation or transformation of an arrangement, Kitagawa and Morisaki employed convention theory to analyze a valuation world by focusing on humans, things, discourses and their relationships. The typical case for wagashi-crafting as a service (as a performance), in the novel movement in the wagashi segment, was analyzed in the context of forming a “collection” for economic “enrichment” (cf. Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre, 2020: Enrichment).

Evaluating service as performance has been constructed by mobilizing not only the intangibles (new valuation criteria with the popularization of SNS, photogenic collection in SNS, and the unique skill and spirit of the performer) but also the tangibles (various equipment; the wagashi and its delicate shades; resonance between the performer and the audiences). From the perspective of the plurality of cités, beneficiaries of services need to be embedded with the cité of inspiration in the novel valuation world.

Rainer Diaz-Bone’s presentation was, first, a clear commentary on EC, and second, a critical review of the digital economy in the age of “big data” from the perspective of EC. Conventions are logics of coordination, interpretation and evaluation.

Conventions offer a link to a common good, therefore conventions are also the basis for the social construction and evaluation of quality. Here we reaffirm the importance of Alain Desrosières’s work. Data is not a mirror of pre-given facts. Categorization and quantification are the result of different steps of convention-based practices. When measurement is based on adequate conventions, data can be regarded as useful for collective actions.

Big data is seen as an innovation in economy today. But from the perspective of EC, big data also troubles economies, because many data generating infrastructures are private property and are not used to pursue a common good but to exploit data information asymmetry. The conventions for these data production and measurement are invisible. EC’s claim on big data is to bring the public back in and to implement public ownership into the data infrastructures or develop new public data infrastructures.

In this session, discussions on the floor were actively held, and it was a good opportunity for Japanese researchers to learn more about the significance of Convention Theory.

Two EC related lectures in the “Social Research Colloquium”

“Kolloquium Sozialforschung” at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland (Autumn 2019)

Guy Schwegler (University of Lucerne)

During the autumn semester 2019, the bi-weekly colloquium at the University of Lucerne took place, which was organized by Rainer Diaz-Bone and Kenneth Horvath. The format features speakers from both academia as well as private and public research institutions to deal with the methodological challenges of social science in a broad way. The various presentations given this past autumn dealt with subjects such as bibliometric reviews (Isabel Steinhardt, University of Kassel), large data sets and maps (Timo Ohnmacht, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts), or the question of representativeness in surveys (Stephanie Steinmetz, University of Lausanne). Furthermore, two researchers were also part of this semester’s program that relied heavily on convention theory (EC). For the very first presentation of the colloquium, Valeska Cappel (University of Lucerne) presented her PHD project’s perspective on the think-aloud-method. And for the very last one of the semester, Simon Schrör (Weizenbaum Institute Berlin) focused on the furniture industry. For his newly started PHD, he examines the role of conventions in the digital transformation of this industry.

These two latter presentations and their subsequent discussions will be summarized in this blog post.

Valeska Cappel:
“Die Think-Aloud-Methode: lautes Denken zur Erfassung impliziter kognitiver Wissensvorgänge” [Using the Think-Aloud Method to Grasp Implicit Cognitive Knowledge-Processes]

Valeska Cappel

In her PHD project, Valeska Cappel focuses on the digital classifications of health within software applications on smartphones (i.e. apps). She has been presenting her project in numerous forums already (see here for some reports on her presentation on this very blog). For her most recent presentation on the subject, she focused on a very specific part of her empirical work, namely the possible application of the think-aloud-method.

As Cappel put it, her project has three aims when it comes to health classifications in apps. First, there is a (more historical and general) side to the establishment of these digital classifications that she looks into. Here, she hopes to identify the equivalences and form-investments present. Second, she also will look at tensions, conflicts and non-intended consequences that result from the implementations of the classifications within and through the helath apps. Third, Cappel wants to examine closely the actual handling of the apps within specific situations, where users interact with the objects, the software and therefore the classifications. Although her three goals co-constitute each other and are somehow inseparable, she approaches each part with a different methodological emphasis. For her third aim—the handling of the apps within situations—Cappel sees the think-aloud-method fit to capture data about the cognitive processes the users bring forward in interaction with the apps.

After these introductory remarks, Cappel went on to introduce the method and different approaches to it. These approaches of the think-aloud-technique range from an “introspective” and immediate verbalization of the participants during process over to “retro-“ or post-process verbalizations, that can happen either just after a respective action or in a delayed manner. For Cappel, all of these approaches to the method promise ways to approach the peculiarities of people dealing with classifications in situations. The more immediate verbalizations, for example, seem to relate better to the ideas present in the regimes of engagement concept while the delayed approach seems more fit for justifications. The main challenge of the method, however, lies in the fact that its basic assumption lead to a psychological explanation of the underlying processes all too fast. A path to use the method in the context of EC concepts, in relation to the ideas of technologies of the self by Foucault, or with the symbolic interactionism in mind, as Cappel intends to, does not present itself easily.

The challenge was also at the heart of the discussion that followed the presentation. Here, however, participants stressed that a similar tension as in the method also lies in Cappel’s very subject, i.e. the knowledge category “health”. The idea of “cognition” with and through the category as a psychological process is connected to the sociological issue of the “handling” of the category. Various approaches to this tension then were discussed. One proposed solution was the idea to re-focus the method on the situation as only accessed by the talking participant (instead of focusing on the thinking participant). Another proposal was to apply the method in sessions with couples (and therefore two participants) or to create some sort of “crisis” experiments, and not just observe daily routines.

Simon Schrör:
“Digital-basierte Konventionen und Designmöbel. Transformation einer Industrie” [Digital based conventions and Design Furniture. Transformations of an Industry]

Simon Schrör

Simon Schrör only recently started with his PhD project that focuses on the digital transformation of the furniture industry and its related implications for modes of productions, justifications, and the likes. In Lucerne, he began his presentation with a little introduction of the Weizenbaum Institute, a joint venture project of Berlin’s universities that focuses on the digital transformation of the society, where Schrör is engaged as researcher. As part of one of the twenty research groups of the interdisciplinary institution, he especially focuses on the new governance forms and norms that result from digitalization.

After this introduction of the institute and its focus, Schrör went on to present design furniture and the changes that present themselves with the digitalization of this field. For him, the furniture objects resemble an interesting case for the digital changes. Consequences in legal, technical, as well as social norms and regulation here find their way into a specific and material object—the ways to coordinate in the digital realm are present in the furniture. Taking a step back further, Schrör then went on to present the wider societal change since 70ties as described by Andreas Reckwitz with the term late-modernity (“Spätmoderne”, see Reckwitz 2017/2020) again as mirrored in the design furniture field. Here, the former idea of design as a process inherent to mass production has been flipped on its head and the changes resulted in a questionable new role of the once standardized furniture. Now, design furniture are presented as luxury objects and a form of singularity. At the same time, however, they are being copied and cheaply manufactured by a mass market with instant and global availability.

To grasp these changes in a more systematic way, Schrör presented the concepts of the four commodity structures respectively forms of valorization that Boltanski and Esquerre introduced in Enrichment (“les formes de mise en valeur”, 2017/2020). With these four characteristics alongside the quality conventions, he went on to describe the differentiated practices to produce furniture present in the industry today. According to Schrör, furniture producers can be grouped with regard to three licensing regimes, each with respective (but non-exclusive) characteristics of goods and valorization. First, a license-based furniture production focuses on luxurious “design” furniture. Here, especially the collection form (“forme collection”) is present while a justification follows the convention of inspiration. Although emblematic of the current societal situation (singularities, enrichment), the licensed-based regime is especially challenged by processes of digitalization—and by the second type of furniture manufacturers. In this second regime type, companies have become specialized in an unlicensed production of the former regime’s products, e.g. “copying” the design products. Here, the digitalization enabled the companies to access the global distribution chains of Amazon and the likes that guarantee a certain amount of safety due to globalization (and lack of regulation). And, of course, this resulted into more and more difficulties for the license-based companies to track down their “copy-cat” counterparts. The companies under the unlicensed regime operate with the standard as well as the trend form (“forme standard/tendance”) for their goods, and justify their actions with the grammar of the civic regime. The second regime type seems to be profiting from the changes made possible through digitalization in an unapologetic manner. The third way of producing furniture, on the other hand, resemble a genuine “post-digital solution”. This regime is based on the Open Source idea, where licenses are available publicly on various online channels. These licenses then are forwarded to local producers (again, via specific channels or “platforms”). Here again the standard form becomes present, with promises to an asset form (“forme actif”), while a domestic justification organizes the production.

For Schrör, the approach of value setting in Enrichment as well as the EC in general enables the researcher to look at processes like the ones happening in digitalization from a more structural viewpoint while at the same time never losing sight of actual practices—and their possible contradictory effects (see also Boltanski and Esquerre 2017:495ff). As a first empirical idea, Schrör presented a possible chain of production that he’d like to follow and where the respective conventions should be identified. According to Schrör, an artefact analysis becomes central in following this chain of production.

During the discussion that followed his presentation, the participants of this last colloquium of the semester talked about three distinctive issues. First, the idea of following the design furniture as artefacts was discussed. Schrör presented the fabrication process in an ideal type model. Participants then pointed out that the situations of “production”—and their respective qualities and justification—shouldn’t be pre-fixed, but rather emerge in empirical work. What the actual “furniture” as an artefact is then should be questioned within various situations. The second subject discussed was the issue of digitalization. In a similar manner as with the first issue of the production process and its “artefacts,” participants pointed out that digitalization as a process also need to be specified empirically: in what function and form does the digital manifest itself, and what are the problems actors try to solve with these novelties? As a third discussion point, some weaknesses of convention theory were addressed. On the one hand, the commodity structures introduced by Boltanski and Esquerre seems to be focusing primarily on actual goods and their consumptions. Non-productive industries, the service sector and their respective “goods,” however, are not yet easily placed within the framework. On the other hand, it was pointed out, that the exact identification of a certain convention or justification in a systematic way has never been laid out—and remains a challenge both in Schrör’s project as well as in EC research in general.


Boltanski, Luc and Arnaud Esquerre (2017) Enrichissement. Une critique de la marchandise. Paris: Gallimard.
Boltanski, Luc and Arnaud Esquerre (2020, forthcoming) Enrichment. A Critique of Commodities. Cambridge, UK; Medford, MA: Polity.
Reckwitz, Andreas (2017) Die Gesellschaft Der Singularitäten: Zum Strukturwandel Der Moderne. Berlin: Suhrkamp.
Reckwitz, Andreas (2020, forthcoming) Society of Singularities. Cambridge, UK; Medford, MA: Polity.

Citizen as Sensors’ Commitment in Urban Public Action: Case Study on Urban Air Pollution

Gwendoline, l’Her/Servières, Myriam/Siret, Daniel (2019)
In: International Journal of E-Planning Research 8(4), pp. 42-59.

Citizen as Sensors' Commitment in Urban Public Action: Case Study on Urban Air Pollution
“Based on a case study in Rennes, the article presents how a group of urban public actors re-uses methods and technology from citizen sciences to raise the urban air quality issue in the public debate. The project gives a group of inhabitants the opportunity to follow air quality training and proceed PM2.5µm measurements. The authors question the impact of the ongoing hybridisation between citizen science and urban public action on participants’ commitment. The authors present how the use of PM2.5-sensors during 11 weeks led to a disengagement phenomenon, even if the authors observe a strong participation to workshops. These results come from an interdisciplinary methodology using observations, interviews, and data analyses.”

“Analytical Framework
For Laurent Thévenot (Thévenot 2006), people are made of several commitments, which are combined and mixed in time and space. With the notion of regime of commitment (régime d’engagement), the sociologist considers the variability of behaviour during the action to adapt to the material environment and to the behaviour or actions of other people. He draws up a typology of commitment to make the distinction between the regime of familiarity (régime familier), the regime of regular action (régime du plan) and the regime of public justification (régime de justification publique). The regime of public justification describes the commitment, in which an actor justifies his or her action by their participation in a common good and by following principles and values. The regime of familiarity describes the commitments that come under routines, habits, and personal actions. In the regime of regular action, the actor is considered as a rational, autonomous from and unattached to their environment, whose commitment to a common action aims to realise their own agenda. With this framework, the sociologist shows that a commitment depends on a person’s capacity to coordinate with other actors and with their environment during an action.” (p. 44)

Dobload link on Researchgate

Investigating sustainable tourism heterogeneity. Competing orders of worth among stakeholders of a Nordic destination

Lindberg, Frank/Fitchett, James/Martin, Diane  (2019)

In: Journal of Sustainable Tourism 27(8), pp. 1277-1294.

Publication Cover



“This paper contributes to increased knowledge of sustainable tourism heterogeneity by identifying how different underlying mindsets characterise negotiations among community stakeholders in a popular Nordic destination. Based on convention theory (orders of worth), this paper theorises how sustainable tourism is negotiated in-between tourism regimes that are shaped by order structures of society. While much research argues for stakeholder heterogeneity by presupposing the influence of a dominant tourism-centric logic, our ethnographic inspired study reveals the co-presence of an “activist” regime that brings about social change among “welfare” and “professional market” regimes. Assessing the disputes among stakeholders we reveal six orders of worth that constitute opposing justifications of sustainable tourism and thus the underlying mindsets of heterogeneity. We discover that stakeholders from various local cultures legitimise their positions quite arbitrarily across the various regimes to question previous theoretical accounts of the community-based perspective. We theorise the challenge of “boundary worth”, i.e. when a tourism initiative receives its identity on behalf of different orders of worth that blurs expectation and intentions. Finally, we argue that activist involvement in a destination can result in “composite compromises” that ease heterogeneity by balancing conflicting regimes without converging to either of the respective logics.”

Capital Communautaire et Travail des Joueurs dans l’Industrie du Jeu Vidéo. [Communitarian capital: Organizing players’ labor in the video game industry].

Mathieu Cocq (2019)

PhD thesis


“La thèse porte sur le travail des joueurs dans l’industrie du jeu vidéo. S’appuyant sur des études de cas et un matériau empirique varié (enquêtes de terrain, entretiens, observation participante et non-participante, analyse de vidéo, données fournies par des entreprises du secteur), la thèse développe l’idée selon laquelle la rentabilité du secteur est liée à une forme particulière de capital intangible : le capital communautaire. La thèse décrit la manière dont le secteur est passé d’une industrie de produit à une industrie de service, qui met la relation entretenue entre l’entreprise et les joueurs et entre les joueurs eux-mêmes au coeur des stratégies de profit des firmes. La notion de communauté, omniprésente dans l’ensemble de l’enquête, est largement discutée. En nous appuyant sur les travaux autour du digital labor, et le retour de la question de l’exploitation par l’économie des conventions, l’hypothèse est formulée d’une mise au travail des joueurs. Puisque les différentes interactions des joueurs sont centrales dans la profitabilité des firmes, il nous semble qu’il faut intégrer ces actes comme faisant partie du processus de production de valeur. Nous observons ensuite à partir d’un travail de terrain de long-cours ces dispositifs de mise au travail au sein d’une entreprise leader du secteur. Enfin, à travers l’analyse du streaming sur la plateforme Twitch, nous montrons comment certains joueurs peuvent se professionnaliser et obtenir un revenu (parfois élevé), en gérant eux-aussi leur propre « communauté ». Le cadre d’analyse que nous proposons dépasse le seul cas du jeu vidéo, et nous espérons qu’il sera heuristique pour rendre compte des mutations que le numérique engendre, tant du côté du travail que du capital.”


“This thesis frames players’ activities in the gaming industry as labor. Based on various qualitative date (field studies, observation, case studies, video analysis, sectoral data), the thesis proposes that firms profitability in the gaming industry is based on the constitution and exploitation of a specific form of intangible capital coined as communitarian capital. The shift from a product to a service industry is described, putting the relationship between the firm and its users and between users themselves at the forefront of firms profit. The concept of community is heavily discussed. Using a framework based on the digital labor theory as well as economics of conventions, the hypothesis of players’ labor is formulated. Because players’ interactions is so crucial to understanding contemporary business models in the gaming industry, the thesis integrates theses interactions as part of the value production process. The devices used by firms to extract value from players are thoroughly investigated during a long-term field study in a leading French firm of the sector. The thesis concludes by analyzing the case of the Twitch platform, on which some players professionalize and gain revenues by constituting and managing their own communities. The communitarian capital framework this thesis proposes can be applied beyond the case of the gaming industry, and aims at understanding mutations linked to the digital economy, both concerning labor and capital.”

Christian Bessy, Directeur de Recherche, ENS Paris Saclay

Presented 02 December 2019.

Composition du Jury :
M. Antonio Casilli, Maître de Conférences HDR, Telecom Paris, Institut Polytechnique de Paris
Mme. Florence Jany-Catrice, Professeure, Université de Lille
Thierry Rayna, Professeur, Ecole Polytechnique
Mme. Maud Simonet, Directrice de Recherche, Université Paris Nanterre
Thomas Vendryes, Maître de Conférences, ENS Paris Saclay

Download: Cocq thesis 2019

Fehlermeldungen und Elitenversagen am Beispiel des Öffentlichen Verkehrs.

[Error messages and elite failures using the example of public transport.]

In: Diagonal no 40, pp. 221-243

Jörg Potthast


“Dem Aufruf, Kritik als eine gewöhnliche Praxisform zu betrachten (Boltanski/Thévenot 2007), scheint diese Annahme sogar diametral entgegengesetzt. Wenn die Soziologie der Kritik postuliert, dass alle Mitglieder einer Gesellschaft über kritische Kompetenzen verfügen (Boltanski/Thévenot 2007), dann kündigt die Frage nach einer elitären kritischen Praxis Widerspruch an. Wird Kritik in Anlehnung an dieses Forschungsprogramm als ein sozialer Prozess verstanden, ist dieser Widerspruch allerdings weniger schroff. Ob und wie Fehlermeldungen greifen und darüber eine kritische Dynamik in Gang setzen, gilt es dann, mit den Mitteln einer pragmatischen Soziologie, zum Gegenstand situierter Analysen zu machen. Entgegen ihrer gewohnten Ausrichtung, aber in Anlehnung an ihren pragmatischen Zugang lautet der Auftrag für die Soziologie der Kritik also, im Fall von Infrastrukturen, das Elitäre (und nicht das Gewöhnliche) in kritischen Operationen zu entdecken und zu bedenken. Im Bemühen, eine prozessuale Perspektive auf Kritik zu etablieren, hat sich die Soziologie der Kritik wiederholt auf Hirschman berufen (Boltanski et al. 1984, S. 6; Boltanski/Chiapello 2004, S. 15, 42) und ihn zwischenzeitlich auch zu ihrem wichtigsten Vorläufer erkoren (Boltanski/Chiapello 2004). Die bei Hirschman angelegte Frage nach einer elitären Praxis der Kritik hat das besagte Forschungsprogramm dagegen nicht gestellt. Gerade weil ökonomische Expertise mitsamt ihren Empfehlungen für Exit seit den frühen Arbeiten Hirschmans weiter an Durchschlagskraft gewonnen haben (Orléan 2015), ist es jedoch höchste Zeit, dass sich Voice – gegebenenfalls auch nach elitäremMuster – neu erfindet, erprobt und beweist.Was ist Infrastrukturkritik? In welchem Sinn dürfen und müssen Fehlermeldungen, die auf Missstände im ÖV aufmerksam machen, elitär sein?” (p. 223)


“This assumption even seems diametrically opposed to the call to regard critique as an ordinary form of practice (Boltanski/Thévenot 2007). If the sociology of critique postulates that all members of a society have critical competences (Boltanski/Thévenot 2007), then the question of an elitist critical practice announces contradiction. However, if criticism is understood as a social process in accordance with this research program, this contradiction is less harsh. Whether and how error messages take effect and set a critical dynamic in motion is then a question of using the means of a pragmatic sociology to make them the subject of situated analyses. Contrary to its usual orientation, but on the basis of its pragmatic approach, the mission of the sociology of critique is thus, in the case of infrastructures, to discover and consider the elitist (and not the ordinary) in critical operations. In an effort to establish a processual perspective on critique, the sociology of critique has repeatedly referred to Hirschman (Boltanski et al. 1984, p. 6; Boltanski/Chiapello 2004, p. 15, 42) and, in the meantime, also chosen as its most important precursor (Boltanski/Chiapello 2004). Hirschman’s question about an elitist practice of criticism, on the other hand, was not posed by the research programme in question. Precisely because economic expertise and its recommendations for exit have gained further momentum since Hirschman’s early works (Orléan 2015), it is high time, however, for Voice to reinvent itself, test itself, and prove itself – possibly according to an elitist pattern. What is infrastructure criticism? In what sense may and must error messages that draw attention to shortcomings in public transport be elitist?” (p. 223)


The subjective world of home care workers in dementia: an “order of worth” analysis

Justine Schneider, Kristian Pollock, Samantha Wilkinson, Lucy Perry-Young, Cheryl Travers, and Nicola Turner (2019)

In: Home Health Care Services Quarterly 38(2), pp. 96-109


Publication Cover


“The perspective of domiciliary workers is needed to recruit a high-quality workforce and meet growing demand. An English ethnographic study yielded extensive insights. To structure analysis of the study data, we apply a method developed by political theorists Boltanski and Thévenot that identifies key variables in different values systems. This “orders of worth” framework is used to map out the distinctive features of the subjective world of home carers. The results can be drawn on to formulate recruitment and retention policies, to design reward strategies or to ensure that training and education opportunities engage effectively with the workforce.”

Qualidade lupulada. O significado de artisanal na rede cervejeira gaúcha. [Hopped quality. The meaning of artisanal in the brewery network gaucho]

Bruna Gewehr (2019)

PhD thesis. Porto Alegre: Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.



“In the last ten years, the number of breweries registered under the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture has multiplied more than eight times. This phenomenon is a reflection of a brewing boom that has taken hold of the whole the country, which has intensified since 2010. It has awakened a handcrafted brewing movement, encouraging enterprises from the home production of the drink, to courses, fairs and specialized confraternities revolving around beer. Besides that, it has provided a rediscovery of the malt liquor through the so-called beer culture. This scenario is a cut within a broad panorama in contemporary food trends that suffers the effects of a quality turn, which consists in a growing interest for foods that satisfy not only nutritional aspects, but also a set of sociocultural attributes. From this shift, many alternative initiatives have been observed as a deviation from the standard agri-food system, with practices such as local consumption and production, and fair trade being evident characteristics. However, although the movement provides legitimacy for the term hand crafted, there is no regulation for handcrafted products in Brazil as a general rule. In this sense, this research had the objective of analyzing the brewery network in the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, and the municipalities that make up the Craft Brewery Route in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, seeking to understand the meaning of handcrafted quality for the players in the productive sphere. The qualitative methodology of this research it divides in two parts. The first one is composed of content analysis of specialized media and mapping of the handcrafted brewery network of Rio Grande do Sul using the Actor Network Theory. The second methodology consists of technical visits and semi-structured scripted interviews. Eleven interviews in total were conducted in the city of Porto Alegre and Nova Petrópolis. The analyzes were performed through Nvivo software. The research data indicated that there are practices that undergo a “handcraft ethic” inside the craft brewery network in Rio Grande do Sul. In the light of the alternative food networks approach, these practices lead to trusted relationships and consumption of local produce, even though the ingredients used by these craft breweries Sul are mostly imported. The process as a whole is differentiated when compared to a mass brewery, as it ends up depending more on the human factor during manufacturing. Also, receipts and product selection are more varied than in mass production industries. Despite this, the equipment is not central in the definition of artisanal quality, it is a social construction among the actors of the network. There was no consensus regarding the scale of production, but it was observed that in large-scale productions it is difficult to maintain the collaborative practices of the network. Therefore, talking about craft brewing quality means a set of practices developed by artisanal breweries that converge on brewing know-how, people with brewer’s capital and alternative practices in brewing. In other words, it is the entirety between process, people and place.

Keywords: Beer, Craft, Quality, Network.



In this chapter, we intend to discuss in more depth the construction of quality in the gaucho artisanal brewery network. It is intended to base these reflections on the theory of conventions, mobilizing concepts that relate to the themes and approaches seen until then. In view of this, it is intended to present the artisan production process, from artifacts to knowing how to do. Afterwards, we discuss the relationship and differences between the mainstream production process – mass production – and the artisanal process, as well as the discourses linked to both, drawing a parallel between them. Based on this scenario, it is also sought to discuss the intersection between the local and the artisanal, as well as the relationships that are formed in this intercrossing, mainly through the so-called brewery culture. Finally, it is intended to discuss the social framework that values the artisanal quality built in the artisanal brewery network.


The social construction of quality found in convention theory arose from innovative contributions to the debate around the modes of coordination in markets involving rules, objects and interactions between people (EYMARD-DUVERNAY, 2002). The main authors Luc Boltanski, Laurent Thévenot, François Eymard-Duvernay, among others, organized from the publication of the special issue of Revue Économique (1989), in France, launched the conventionalist program: économie des conventions, or economics of conventions (EC). The innovative aspect of the theory was to address quality as an important element in market analysis, which, according to the EC, is a value socially shared and defined by virtue of different notions of “justice” and “common good”. Therefore, quality is related to products as well as justice for humans (NIEDERLE, 2011). Conventionalist criticism of the classical economy is based on the premise that it considers goods as homogeneous. Whereas, for the economy of the conventions, beyond the heterogeneity of goods, there is also asymmetry in the distribution of information about them. This asymmetry contributes both to the heterogeneity of goods and to the construction of quality. In addition, the conventional authors pay attention to the fact that in the process of qualification of products, each actor involved perceives the information received differently. That is, each person, or each network, receives information in a different way, as well as perceives it, also, in a different way. Thus, each network builds its own definition of quality based on this heterogeneous flow of information and interpretations, which makes the purchasing decision making process somewhat complex, as it consists of a plurality of mechanisms of choice (NIEDERLE, 2013, 2011). This understanding is strongly in contrast to the economic neoclassical argument of self-sufficiency of the good. In fact, in this approach, the qualification of products is precisely the result of the evaluative set of process, place and people or organizations that subscribe it what goes against the orthodox belief that quality is clearly measured by price – the market mechanism that incorporates all the necessary information (NIEDERLE, 2013; WILKINSON, 1999). Thus, according to the CE, to understand the qualification process, attention should be paid to the internal resources of a complex institutional arrangement recognizing the reflexive capacity of the actors, who are constantly evaluating the structures and elements and creating new mechanisms to modify them. In this perspective, as an “agreement” between the actors on a value framework about a good is built, there is a unified form of calculation, i.e., there is the construction of quality, and an interpretative formula to measure it, and this, in turn, would imply dispensing with coding mechanisms such as seals and certificates (NIEDERLE, 2011).” (pp. 91-92)


PhD jury

Profa. Dra. Tainá Bacellar Zaneti – Orientadora

Profa. Dra. Fabiana Thomé da Cruz

Profa. Dra. Janaína Deane de Abreu Sá Diniz

Dra. Mariana Oliveira Ramos

Place and date of defense: Porto Alegre, 26 de abril de 2019.


From economics to social sciences: conventions and pragmatism are inevitable

Interview with Elisabeth Chatel

Andrea Szukala (University of Muenster)

Elisabeth Chatel

Elisabeth Chatel is an associated researcher at IDHES, Institutions et Dynamiques historiques de l’Economie et des sociétés, at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris-Saclay (ENS). She led a « Groupe d’études en didactique des Sciences économiques et sociales » at the Institut National de Recherche pédagogique from 1988 to 2000. In 1996 she defended her doctoral thesis at Paris X University, prepared under the supervision of Robert Salais and published in 2001 under the title « Comment évaluer l’Education ? », Lausanne, Delachaux et Niestlé. In 2005 she defended her habilitation (postdoctoral) qualification at University Paris 8 under the supervision of Elisabeth Bautier.  She published in various fields:  heterodox economics, didactics and history of education, such as:
– Zwischen Expertenökonomie und Politischer Ökonomie: der Wirtschaftsunterricht an der französischen Gymnasien auf dem Prüfstand. In: Imdorf, C./Leemann, J. R./Gonon, P. (eds.). Bildung und Konventionen. Die „Economie des conventions“ in der Bildungsforschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2019, p. 231-254.
– Pour une histoire et une sociologie de l’enseignement de l’économie,   L’enseignement de l’économie : conflits, débats, controverses », Numéro spécial Education et sociétés, 35/2015/1, p.5-21.
 – Du professorat commercial au professorat économique à l’ENSET de 1948 à 1974 », in Lebot F./Albe V./Bodé G./Brucy G./Chatel E., ENS de Cachan, le siècle d’une grande école des sciences et techniques, PUR, 2013, p. 179-195.
– with Dorothée Rivaud-Danset, « L’économie de conventions : une lecture critique à partir de la philosophie de John Dewey », 2006, Revue de philosophie économique, Recherches et débats en économie, philosophie et sciences sociales, n°13, 2006/1, p. 49-75.
– with Robert Salais and Thierry Kirat, Les dispositifs de l’action publique : institutions, économie et politique, L’Harmattan, 2005.
– L’action éducative et la logique de la situation ; fondements théoriques d’une approche pragmatique des faits d’enseignement. Revue française de pédagogie, N°141, Octobre-novembre-décembre 2002, p. 37-46.

Szukala: Could you tell us about your first contact with the approach of economics of convention/sociology of conventions? What was the decisive intellectual “click” for your conceptual thinking?

Chatel: The contact with the approach of economics of convention (EC) has been decisive in my intellectual trajectory. To put it briefly, it has given me hope for the future of an economic thinking, to which I can either contribute or at least adhere. But, in the end, this thought, which I will describe as pluralist and pragmatist, has above all substantiated my works in the social sciences and not economics.
But before talking about sociology of conventions and pragmatism, I would like to clarify the matters in the economics of convention that have given perspective to this hope that a  renewal of political economy would be possible. When I encountered this trend, or rather this emerging economic thinking in the early 1990s, it was promoted by a group of intellectuals, some of whom came from disciplines like mathematics and physics from French engineering colleges before undertaking economic studies. Several had worked at INSEE (the French national institute for statistics and economic research) and they approached economics from a critical point of view.
Their theorization was not complete. Their criticism seemed particularly interesting because it focused on the foundations of the dominant economic theory, especially on the principle of rationality. They proposed, in a non-dogmatic way, to make their personal questions bear fruit by trying to adopt a less unrealistic approach than is the standard approach to economic action. As a result, they reintroduced a social dimension into the consideration of economic behaviors and contextualized them. They wanted to consider the uncertainty constantly present in economic action, an uncertainty which is not always reducible to probabilities, nor always readable through computational processes.
The word “convention” served to focus a core of shared conceptualizations of their critical concerns. Some colleagues elaborated a fine understanding of the production of statistics and classifications from a historical perspective. The work of Alain Desrosières allowed us to show the “conventions” in the classifications necessary for quantification and to allow a critical look at how the measurement of social facts contributes to “building” reality. Others, such as Olivier Favereau, François Eymard-Duvernay and Robert Salais, were more concerned with the diverse forms of organization of work, enterprise, production, and therefore products, beyond the horizon, to which economy is often reduced, the various modes of market regulation.
In this works, the conventions concerned both the modes of measurement and the forms of conduct of the productive activity, from the beginning to the end of its processes. The question of value and prices was put back on the agenda by questioning the plurality of “worlds of production”, the forms of work and the quality of products. The question of value, as it is approached in economic theory, has also been renewed thanks to the conventionalist approach, notably the work of André Orléan (2011). Afterwards, new generations of researchers have taken up the torch of the plurality of “conventions” (of quality, of work, etc.) and are joining other heterodox currents as well as the new economic sociology.

Szukala: How would you describe the role of EC in current sociology of education and/or curriculum studies?

Chatel: The approach of economics of convention is about economic facts. Education, therefore, is not directly in its field of concern, especially if one considers education without reducing it to the acquisition of productive skills, but, more broadly, as the transmission of values and culture from one generation to another. However, especially since the work of Gary Becker in the early 1960s, economists have expanded their field by considering education and training as a “human capital”, as an investment deemed potentially profitable. Theories of economic growth, especially those of “endogenous growth”, reflect this conceptualization focused on the acquisition of productive skills. In the field of the economics of education this allowed to ask new questions about the effectiveness of education. In “How to evaluate education?” (Chatel 2001) I tried to show the limits of how these theories conceive education and attempt to measure its effectiveness.
I want to pick up the thread that led me from economics of convention to a pragmatic sociology of the curriculum. Seeking to build on the economics of convention to elaborate a critique of the economic measure in education (in “How to evaluate education?”), I borrowed from the work of Robert Salais (Storper and Salais 1997) the concept of “worlds of production” to think about the specificity of the “production of education”. In this analysis, I imagined a modelling of the educational activity, in particular the forms that are carried out in school classes as interactions between teachers and pupils in confrontation with cultural artefacts. This allowed me to report on a very rich empirical material about what is happening in high school classes, collected at the NPRI in the 1990s. I have constructed different “modes of coordination” of educational action as it takes place in high school classes in France. Using these “models” I have been able to show a certain variety of modes of what is actually taught on the same item of a school program (in economics). The teachings differ according to the “worlds of education” constructed by distinguishing different ways of conceiving the knowledge of the discipline in relation to classroom knowledge. It depends on intellectual orientations and the level of the teacher’s mastery of the knowledge and the ways in which teachers conceive students’ ability to cope with the uncertainty in the classroom (students’ characteristics and the professional experience of the teachers are involved here). I then wanted to question the ambition to “measure”, because the “product of education” is neither homogeneous nor linear.
Accepting the intrinsic diversity of ways to “produce education” leads us to argue for evaluative bodies that motivate education professionals to frequently debate their ways of appreciating student outcomes, rather than pretending to use a cardinal measure that erases different conceptions of educational value and thus bypasses the necessary debates about what is being evaluated.The aim was to restore the imperative of evaluating education appreciating its intrinsic value(s) rather than seeing it as a cardinal measure of skills.
In France, other researchers had already substantiated their work in the sociology of education by the conventionalist approach. Jean-Louis Derouet, with his team at the National Institute for Pedagogical Research NPRI (Derouet 2019), draws on the research of Boltanski and Thévenot’s “On justification. Economies of worth” (2006) to show how justice issues at school can jointly raise several orders of justice (see the interview with Derouet This way of analysing innate conflicts and contradictions of schools allows to get a better picture of what happens there by rendering a greater complexity. This facilitates an approximate description of what school actors do to keep an order alive, and under which circumstances they adjust to new principles in periods of uncertainty. To understand the uncertainties after the disenchantment with the egalitarian and meritocratic ideals that accompanied the development of what has been called “school massification” in France, Derouet (1992) wanted to expand the conceptual framework about justice at school considering “plural legitimate principles” of justice. This approach, inspired by a political philosophy of the school, has brought valuable elements to the understanding of the evolutions in the modes of decentralized management of schools. It allows Derouet (2019) to affirm that “the sociology of conventions is the science of the science of the actors”.

Szukala: I know that you are currently reflecting about the critique of Boltanski. What fascinates you and how would you think his critique may contribute to the development of economic and sociological theory?

Chatel: Well, let’s return to the curriculum issues that have been the subject of my recent work. The question of curriculum is an important domain of the sociology of education. To be fair, it is necessary that the knowledge that is taught in schools, and which, therefore, serves to educate the youth, can be considered legitimate. But how the contours of this knowledge are determined and how its legitimacies are elaborated, is a core question asked by the sociology of the curriculum. This question has been mine in recent years.
I approached it at the crossroads of didactics, curriculum sociology and the history of school subjects. The sociology of the curriculum is the discipline encompassing the question of the social determination of the curriculum. So, it is a big question implying numerous political issues. But, at the same time, the didactics’ perspective seemed very necessary to me, because the essential underlying mechanisms of the knowledge taught in class is based on didactics. It is embedded in the singular relationship between a class and a teacher providing knowledge to be transmitted in a specific field. But didactics tend to define more precisely how the knowledge that is taught and learned is determined, also with the intention of sustainably improving the teaching processes and teacher training. I benefitted from a collaboration with a group of SES teachers [sciences économiques et sociales] at the National Institute for Pedagogical Research, with whom we conducted didactic research between 1988 and 2000. On this occasion, I studied the school curriculum of SES in France: its formation, its evolution. I did it at the level of the “formal” curriculum, e.g. regarding the texts prescribing the teaching, but also at the level of the real curriculum, which supposes to be interested in the actors, the teachers and the pupils and their daily exchanges. We conducted conversational analyses as well as educational situation analyses (Chatel 1998, 2002).
At the same time, I analysed the controversial public debates about the content of economic education in French high schools referring to the interactionist sociology of the curriculum (and by analogy with other cases). However, I was not satisfied with the standard explanation that social groups only defend their proper interests, which is especially represented in the work of Cooper (1997). These interpretations are not at all interested in the didactics and in the pedagogical content of the teaching profession. They do not sufficiently take into consideration the professional ethics’ dimension that permeates teachers’ positions on their teaching. As for the critical works of structuralist and Marxist inspiration, such as Basil Bernstein’s, they did not allow me to work at the research level that I had adopted: the classroom. In fact, I was working on the teaching of one discipline and not on the organisation of a secondary curriculum. Moreover, I was concerned with the transformations of knowledge that actually occur in the classroom because of the purpose of teaching.
In Champy’s sociology of professions I found some elements that allowed me to better assert the ethical dimension present in the teaching work and to see teaching as a profession “with sensible practices” because of the constant uncertainty a teacher confronts in practice (Champy 2009). Nevertheless, as regards the teaching of the economy, a subject with a very important political content, I wanted to better understand what was being played out at the didactic and at the curricular level because of the specific characteristics of economic and social knowledge as well as the political content and the role in the public debate. I had to combine a macro-social approach with this very local work of description and understanding of classroom interactions. The history of the vicissitudes, the controversies relating to the outlines of the economic education of high schools in France also pushed me to it. The theoretical framework constructed by Luc Boltanski has offered me insights, because it suggests articulating the levels of micro analysis and the macro-social level. So I used this approach to interpret both the emergence of conventions and/or values because of the teaching experience in the classroom; and secondly the controversies at the level of curriculum that require disputes, public debates, justifications relating to the contours of school curricula to methods of teaching and evaluation in economics. These recurrent controversies showed that professors did not hesitate to oppose program changes that would put them at odds with their conception of the content that conveys civic, critical and social emancipation (Chatel 2019).
In his 2011 book, Luc Boltanski explains how he sees the role of critique in the evolution of institutions. Contrary to the critical sociology built around Pierre Bourdieu, he does not want to consider that the phenomena of domination would transform actors into highly submissive agents, dominated by the symbolic violence that is done to them. He sees them capable of confronting problematic situations which are open to a certain plurality of interpretations, forged by the multiple affiliations of the actors. Boltanski maintains that there is no alignment of beliefs on an axis that would be that of the dominant ideology. On the contrary, he thinks that the actors still have a possible grip on reality; they act in the event of disputes based on their knowledge of the situation and their sense of justice. They can try to acknowledge a new protest in the public space by joining a collective, denounce what seems to them inaccurate or unfair and sometimes they succeed in bringing out new “worths”. I perceive a social criticism that can be rooted in everyone’s social experience, in both a pragmatic and a critical sense.

Szukala: How do you feel about left outs and left overs of EC and what do you think will be the most promising future developments in EC-research?

Chatel: To close my remarks, I wish to insist on what appears to me as the specific and valuable contribution of the conventionalist approach, whether in economics or sociology. There was a time when the term “convention” did not seem relevant to me to define the specific contribution of this school of thinking. Above all, I thought that the economics of conventions was a method of research focused on the uncertainty of economic action, which was especially considering the depth of the courses of action, their “pragmatic” dimension (Chatel and Danset 2006).
Today, my work does not belong to the field of economic discipline but concerns education in the broad domain of social sciences. The notion “convention” seems to me to bear precisely the pragmatic concern, that of the present moment of an action. Now it is important to maintain in our research the perspective on the present moment of action in that it is partly drawn in the past and that it directs the future. The present of the action allows us to reintroduce in our analyses the potential inventiveness of the courses of action. The conventionalist analysis proposes tools to identify the enigma of the courses of actions with several, “conventions” or “conventional supports of the action” resulting from past actions, adjust, adapt, or fail to do so in the actual courses of events because an action always conveys a future expectation and therefore a potential unknown. Equally, trying to understand the emergence of new practices, new conventions, new legitimacy, new values, requires the study of the “present”. The conventional supports of the action analysed by Dodier (1993, 2019) are of all kinds: internal as dispositions inscribed in people, external as texts, objects, rules, devices that the past has deposited outside the actors; they mobilize them or not according to the situations, the aims, the future expectations etc. The sociology of conventions is not only a way of introducing the plurality of principles of coordination of action or justification by external support already there, it is also a way of thinking about institutional change and developments in articulating them with the present moment of action.
Consequently, this school offers a methodology, which tries to articulate the analyses at different levels of the social. Certainly, the analysed actions follow singular people and not collectives, but considering the pragmatic constraints of their action, the analyses comprise rules, norms, values, socio-technical objects, devices, classifications, which support conventional actions that are, as we have seen, deposits of earlier acts. The question of aggregation becomes a question to be studied for itself and not only a priori position of the analyst.


Boltanski, L. (2011): On critique. A sociology of emancipation. London: Polity Press.

Boltanski, L./Thevenot, L. (2006): On justification. Economies of worth. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chatel, E./Richet, A. (1995): Dialogues en classe et savoirs enseignés. Spirale 16, pp. 203-222.

Chatel, E. (2002): L’action éducative et la logique de la situation. Revue française de pédagogie 141, pp. 37-46.

Chatel, E. (2001): Comment évaluer l’éducation. Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé.

Chatel, E./Danset, D. (2006): L’Economie des conventions: une lecture critique à partir de la philosophie de John Dewey. Revue de philosophie économique, pp. 49-75.

Chatel, E. (2019): Zwischen Expertenökonomie und Politischer Ökonomie: der Wirtschaftsunterricht an den französischen Gymnasien auf dem Prüfstand. In: Imdorf, C./Leemann, R./Gonon, P. (eds.), Bildung und Konventionen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, pp. 231-254.

Champy, F. (2009): Sociologie des professions. Paris: PUF.

Cooper, B. (1997): Comment expliquer les transformations des matières scolaires? In: Forquin, J.-C. (ed.): Les sociologues de l’Education américains et britanniques. Brusseles: De Boeck INRP, p. 66-75.

Derouet, J.-L. (1992): Ecole et justice. Paris: Metailié.

Derouet, J.-L. (2019):  Die Soziologie der Konventionen im Bereich der Bildung. In: Imdorf, C./Leemann, R./Gonon, P. (eds.), Bildung und Konventionen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, pp. 47-90

Dodier, N. (1992): Les appuis conventionnels de l’action. Eléments de la pragmatique sociologique. Réseaux 11/62, pp. 63-85.

Orléan, A. (2014): The empire of value. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Storper, M./Salais, R. (1997): Worlds of production. The action frameworks of the economy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Conference in honor of Robert Salais

19-20 September at the Ecole Normale Supérieure Paris-Saclay (Cachan)

Christian Bessy (ENS Paris-Saclay), Claude Didry (Centre Maurice Halbwachs, ENS Paris) & Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne)

These conference days (organized by Christian Bessy and Claude Didry), which resembled about thirty contributors, paid tribute to Robert Salais’ work and his activity in organizing and leading interdisciplinary research in the social sciences. Trained as an economist and statistician at INSEE (the National French Institute for Statistics and Economic Analysis), he created and directed the IEPE (Institutions, Employment and Economic Policy) from 1986 to 1996, then the IDHE (Institutions and Historical Dynamics of the Economy) from 1997 to 2007 in collaboration with historians.

These days allowed us to review the intellectual project of this laboratory that has since become IDHES. This project was initially part of the French approach of economics of convention (“économie des conventions”), which emphasizes the plurality of forms of coordination. The analysis of labor activity is at the heart of the surveys in order to take into account the possible production worlds on which an economy can base its development. Hence, the importance of international comparison in Robert Salais’ work and the European research projects he has directed to describe the specificity of national socio-historical trajectories.

Four research themes were selected and were the subject of contributions from members invited to participate:

– Work, employment and unemployment

– The production worlds

– The European question and the capability approach

– Quantification and democracy

The general introduction of these days resituated Robert Salais’ research program in the institutional environment of the time and its progressive mutation. Pierre-Paul Zalio (director of ENS Paris-Saclay) and Michel Margairaz (University of Paris 1) reported Robert Salais’s engagement at the laboratory IDHE and at ENS Paris-Saclay. Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne) presented the progress of the internationalization of the conventionalist movement, from the pioneering research by Salais, Thévenot, Favereau, Orléan and Eymard-Duvernay to important development in the “sociology of convention” in Germany today, and an increasing international interest for this research movement.

Pierre-Paul Zalio, Christian Bessy and Claude Didry

Directly after the opening session, Robert Salais was awarded by the director of ENS Paris-Saclay with the medal of the ENS.

Pierre-Paul Zalio and Robert Salais

The next session reported on meetings with researchers from different backgrounds. Moments of discussion with the audience enriched the discussions around the research (organization) issues raised. All participants were unanimous in recognizing the originality of Robert Salais’ intellectual journey, which began with macroeconomic work on the “Philips curve” (link between inflation and unemployment) and continued with the fluctuation of participation rates and unemployment registration, leading him to a reflection on the statistics, with an emphasis on the statistical categories, used in the research, a reflection nourished by the experience of the employment survey and by the participation in the research group (with Alain Desrosières and Laurent Thévenot) around the operations of categorization of the economic and social world which have at the same time a cognitive, pragmatic and political dimension. The writing of The Invention of Unemployment (1986, with Bénédicte Reynaud and Nicolas Bavarez) is from this point of view a model of multidisciplinarity between economics, sociology, history and law.

Bénédicte Reynaud

Bénédicte Reynaud proposed a development of this approach built in the French context, to the history of unemployment in Britain. A double historical perspective was introduced by Jacky Fayolle, with a look at the history of Robert Salais who moved from a strong political commitment in the French left wing Government of the first half of the 1980s, to a historical research program crossing economic history and inquiries on innovation and restructuring in the group IEPE (Institutions, Employment and Economic Policies) Robert Salais founded in 1986. This research program leads to the consideration of a plurality of labour and unemployment conventions, the analysis of which was subsequently further developed in Les mondes de production. This book, co-authored with Michael Storper (1993, English translation published 1997 as Worlds of production), was based on the intersection of an analysis of the flexibility of productive organizations and an analysis of the different ways of producing and building markets. It was from the creation of in-depth company monographs that Robert Salais worked more fully with historians, which at the time was not at all obvious, as Michel Margairaz recalled, with whom they founded IDHE (also with the help of Michel Woronoff, later IDHE was renamed to IDHES: “and Societies”). By working on the modes of constitution and appropriation of productive knowledge, it has also aroused the interest of innovation economists, as Pascal Petit, economists also interested in the economic question of reducing uncertainty in the coordination of activities, pointed out.

It is this question of coordination that will be of wider interest to the economics of the convention of which he is co-founder with François Eymard-Duvernay, Olivier Favereau, Laurent Thévenot, André Orléan, and Jean-Pierre Dupuy (see the special issue of the journal Revue économique in 1989). By placing at the center of the analysis the plurality of coordination regimes, this current will make it possible to articulate an approach based on production methods or “quality conventions” with that based on the analysis of arguments mobilized in disputes, in particular in working environments and in the general upsurges they cause, raising questions of justice and State intervention. As Robert Salais pointed out in the debates, and in the face of a macro-structural posture that would tend to locate the production worlds, each world has a global dimension and presupposes a form of State intervention.

Jean de Munck and Frédéric Marty

Frédéric Marty recalled his doctoral experience with Robert Salais, and showed how Salais’ conventions of the State was a way to open the understanding of economic policies which cannot be reduced to the tension between interventionism and laisser-faire. Beyond the duality of the convention of the exterior State and the convention of the absent State, he suggested proximity between the convention of situated State and German ordoliberalism. Hence, also Salais’ interest in pluralistic theories of justice, such as the one developed by Amartya Sen and based on the notions of capabilities and knowledge bases. Noel Whiteside and Simon Deakin witnessed how their commitment in historical comparisons between Britain and France, on the issue of labor market, unemployment, labor law and economic theories, in the 1990s opened a period of European programs in the 2000s. The mobilization of Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach was seen as a way to deepen Salais’ State conventions, in the analysis of European social policies. Bénédicte Zimmermann developed the idea of “capabilizing organisations” such as public bodies or private firms which could enhance people’s capability.

Various contributions have made it possible to review the definition of statistical indicators in the context of European social policies. Many contributors also highlighted the collective work that Robert Salais has promoted in the various entities he has led, first within the Employment and Employment Division of INSEE (of which he was Director in 1973 and 1980), in particular around the Labor Force Survey, its design and exploitation, then the Research Unit of INSEE, IEPE and IDHE. He had his own way of getting economists, statisticians, sociologists, historians and lawyers to converse. Joëlle Affichard presented the line of work on the European Union’s strategy to implement a governance by numbers (as the open method of coordination) and the critique on labor politics to the harmonization of indicators. Laurent Thévenot’s address (he is also one of the founders of economics of convention) sketched the collective work on quantification at INSEE and the special atmosphere, Robert Salais and his collaborators established at INSEE in the era of the late 1960ies and the 1970ies.

Simon Deakin

As Simon Deakin (Professor of Law at University of Cambridge) mentioned, it has given us a better understanding of how law could constitute a mode of coordination because of the social meanings underlying it and the conventions it codifies and, more generally, to take law as a normative language that can come up against the qualification of certain things.

Jean de Munck (University of Louvain) also underlined the importance of this conception of law, which does not, however, go so far as to allow for further reflection in terms of legal pluralism. But the Salais method is also a way of collectively reading the texts of the great authors without ideological bias and gradually building a common score within the laboratory in order to train the youngest.

The days ended with a round table during which Olivier Favereau, as Robert Salais one of the of the founders of economics of convention, showed how Robert Salais’ work, after having opened convention theory to the conception of the State, can lead to a conception of the company, which has no legal definition, as a practice managed by a convention, following the model of state conventions.

Olivier Favereau

Alongside the Fordist company and the agency relationship chain company, one could consider a “situated company” participating in the co-production of a common between capital and labor, in the same way as the German practice of codetermination which was repressed in the 1980s. To a theory of the co-determined company, Valérie Boussard (university of Paris 10) added the idea of inventing a new accounting system less under the influence of finance and the manipulation of the accounts it generates.

Robert Salais concluded the days by taking up the idea of renewing the theory of the company with a form of co-determination with “nature” or a “parliament of things”, by integrating environmental quality at all stages of product production and distribution.

Robert Salais

This continues the need to extend a culture of debate and deliberation in the development of indicators of well-being, as recalled by Florence Jany-Catrice (University of Lille), but in communication with nature.

Marie-Geneviève Michal-Salais and Robert Salais






The two days of the conference gathered companions, colleagues and former students of Robert Salais. All in all, more than 60 participants from France, UK, Germany, Japan, Belgium and Switzerland attended the conference, which covered events and research of more than 40 years initiated by Robert Salais. The conference made aware that the approach of economics of convention managed to reintegrate the analysis of economic institutions, labor participation, social justice, quantification, law and politics.

The conference program was completed by social gathering and a concert (with the band of Clément Salais, the son of Robert Salais, which was playing the bass.)

Download program of the conference

Las bodegas de Castilla y León: perfil multivariante

[The wineries of Castilla y León: multivariate profile]

Avila Zarza, Carmelo A.  & Sánchez Hernández, José Luis (2019).

Salamanca : Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca.

RESUMENCubierta para Las bodegas de Castilla y León: perfil multivariante

“Esta obra caracteriza el universo de las bodegas de vinos de la Comunidad Autónoma de Castilla y León acogidas a las Denominaciones de Origen Protegidas (DOP) mediante el Análisis Estadístico Multivariante de los datos. Esta novedosa aproximación al tema, a partir de una ingente cantidad de información obtenida y procesada desde el año 2009, constituye la aportación metodológica más significativa de este estudio. El perfil multifactorial de las bodegas obtenido de este modo, además, es comparado con la tipología de los Mundos de Producción definida por Salais y Storper en 1992. Desde esta perspectiva, se identifican tres clúster o conglomerados de bodegas con características semejantes y diferenciadoras. Por un lado, las bodegas de mayor tamaño y antigüedad, que elaboran una amplia gama de vinos y pertenecerían al mundo de producción industrial. Por otro, las bodegas pequeñas, jóvenes y especializadas en la elaboración de tintos en series cortas, integrantes del mundo de producción interpersonal. Y finalmente, las bodegas elaboradoras de vinos blancos, que conformarían el mundo de producción de nichos de mercado. Aunque la correspondencia con la tipología original no es completa, el marco analítico y la metodología estadística multivariante se muestran capaces de identificar las principales combinaciones de recursos y productos desarrolladas en sectores industriales como el de la elaboración de vinos, muy ligados al territorio y a factores productivos como los recursos naturales, cuya movilidad espacial es nula o muy limitada. Todo ello configura esta propuesta teórico-metodológica, que puede ser aplicada a otras ramas de la industria agroalimentaria, y que permite interpretar la diversidad del sistema vitivinícola regional de calidad de Castilla y León.”


“This work characterizes the universe of wine cellars in the Autonomous Community of Castilla y León under the Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) by means of Multivariate Statistical Analysis of the data. This novel approach to the subject, based on a huge amount of information obtained and processed since 2009, constitutes the most significant methodological contribution of this study. The multifactorial profile of the wineries obtained in this way is also compared with the typology of the Worlds of Production defined by Salais and Storper in 1992. From this perspective, three clusters or conglomerates of wineries with similar and differentiating characteristics are identified. On the one hand, the larger and older wineries, which produce a wide range of wines and belong to the industrial production world. On the other hand, the small, young wineries, specialized in the production of red wines in short series, belonging to the world of interpersonal production. And finally, the wineries producing white wines, which would make up the world of niche market production. Although the correspondence with the original typology is not complete, the analytical framework and the multivariate statistical methodology prove capable of identifying the main combinations of resources and products developed in industrial sectors such as winemaking, which are closely linked to the territory and to productive factors such as natural resources, whose spatial mobility is null or very limited. All this shapes this theoretical-methodological proposal, which can be applied to other branches of the agri-food industry, and which makes it possible to interpret the diversity of the regional quality wine system of Castilla y León.”

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Lokale Konventionen in der Vermittlung von Gegenwartskunst

Hallemann, Svea (2019)

Eine Studie zu Wirtschaftspraktiken unter Berücksichtigung des
eigenlogischen Forschungsansatzes

PhD, Technische Universität Berlin 04. July 2019


„Die Dissertation verknüpft das Konzept der „Eigenlogik der Städte“ mit dem der „Soziologie der Konventionen“, um aufzuzeigen, ob und wie ökonomische Handlungsabläufe über lokale Konventionen sinnhaft organisiert werden. Während das erstgenannte die Stadt als Untersuchungsgegenstand und Wissensobjekt konzeptualisiert, werden bei der Theorie der Economies des conventions (EC) die lokal vorherrschenden Konventionen thematisiert. Dieser theoretische Ansatz verortet sich im Bereich der neuen Wirtschaftssoziologie und thematisiert u. a. die „Notwendigkeit von Konventionen zur Überbrückung von Unsicherheit im wirtschaftlichen Handeln (…)“ […]. Ausgangspunkt ist hier die Annahme, dass Rationalität als interpretativ gerahmt wird und daher auf Märkten das Ziel und die Mittel der Zielerreichung kollektiv, interaktiv und gestaltend ausgehandelt werden. Ähnlich wie die EC legt auch der Ansatz der Eigenlogik der Städte „die Existenz lokaler Wertigkeitsordnungen nahe“ […]. Die Kombination beider Ansätze wurde für die Analyse des DFG-Teilprojekts „Lokale Konventionen des Friseurwesens“ […] erprobt und hat sich als fruchtbar erwiesen. Aus der Kombination der beiden theoretischen Ansätze ergeben sich zwei zentrale Fragestellungen: Werden über lokale Konventionen ökonomische Handlungsabläufe organisiert und lassen sich diese (sofern auffindbar) in lokalspezifische Eigenlogiken zusammenfassen? Sind die gefundenen städtischen Eigenschaften im Galeriewesen kompatibel bzw. vergleichbar mit denen des DFG-Teilprojekts bezüglich des Friseurwesens.”  (p. 3)


„The dissertation combines the concept of the “inherent logic of cities” with that of the “sociology of conventions” in order to show whether and how economic courses of action are organised meaningfully via local conventions. While the former conceptualizes the city as an object of investigation and knowledge, the theory of economics of convention (EC) focuses on the locally prevailing conventions. This theoretical approach is located in the field of the new economic sociology and deals, among other things, with the “necessity of conventions for bridging uncertainty in economic action (…)” […]. The starting point here is the assumption that rationality is framed as interpretative and that the goal and means of achieving it are therefore negotiated collectively, interactively and creatively on markets. Similar to the EC, the approach of the cities’ own logic also suggests “the existence of local value systems” […]. The combination of both approaches was tested for the analysis of the DFG subproject “Local Conventions of Hairdressing” […] and has proved fruitful. The combination of the two theoretical approaches raises two central questions: Are economic courses of action organised via local conventions and can these (if they can be found) be summarised in local specific logics? Are the urban characteristics found in the gallery system compatible or comparable with those found in the DFG subproject regarding hairdressing? (p. 3)

Promotionsausschuss (jury):
Vorsitzende: Prof. Dr. Martina Löw
Gutachterin: Prof. Dr. Nina Baur
Gutachter: Prof. Dr. Elmar Kulke

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No price without value: Towards a theory of value and price

Dave Elder-Vass (2019)

Cambridge Journal of Economics. Volume 43, Issue 6, pp. 1485–1498

Abstract. “The relationship between value and price, a central focus of classical political economy, has fallen into the shadows of neglect in contemporary economics. This paper builds on a critical realist framework and findings from the economics of conventions and the sociology of valuation to develop a theory of value that returns to the relation between value and price. It argues that value is best understood as a view of the price that something ought to exchange at, and that these views are shaped normatively by a host of lay theories of value and the groups and organisations that advance them. Through their effects on our assessments of value, these theories also influence the determination of prices. Although prices in open systems are determined by many interacting factors, lay theories of value play a crucial role in the process.

Keywords: Conventions, Lay theories of value, Price, Value, Valuation

Link to the review

The Contested Moralities of Markets

Simone Schiller-Merkens & Philip Balsiger (eds.)(2019)
Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 63.
Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited

Philip Balsiger & Simone Schiller-Merkens: Moral struggles in and around markets (chap. 1), pp. 3-26.

“Moral struggles in and around markets abound in contemporary societies where markets have become the dominant form of economic coordination. Reviewing research on morality and markets across disciplinary boundaries, this introductory essay suggests that a moral turn can currently be observed in scholarship, and draws a direct connection to recent developments in the sociology of morality. The authors introduce the chapters in the present volume “The Contested Moralities of Markets.” In doing so, the authors distinguish three types of moral struggles in and around markets: struggles around morally contested markets where the exchange of certain goods on markets is contested; struggles within organizations that are related to an organization’s embeddedness in complex institutional environments with competing logics and orders of worth; and moral struggles in markets where moral justifications are mobilized by a variety of field members who act as moral entrepreneurs in their striving for moralizing the economy. Finally, the authors highlight three properties of moral struggles in contemporary markets: They (1) arise over different objects, (2) constitute political struggles, and (3) are related to two broader social processes: market moralization and market expansion. The introduction concludes by discussing some of the theoretical approaches that allow particular insights into struggles over morality in markets. Collectively, the contributions in this volume advance our current understanding of the contested moralities of markets by highlighting the sources, processes, and outcomes of moral struggles in and around markets, both through tracing the creation, reproduction, and change of underlying moral orders and through reflecting the status and power differentials, alliances, and political strategies as well as the general cultural, social, and political contexts in which the struggles unfold.”


Nadai, Eva/Canonica, Alan: The Moralization of Labor: Establishing the Social Responsibility of Employers for Disabled Workers (chap. 5), pp. 87-106.


As a “fictitious commodity” (Polanyi), that cannot be separated from the human being who is its owner, labor has a special moral significance. However, this moral quality is not a given but must be asserted in struggles over the value of labor. With the example of disabled workers in Switzerland, this chapter examines the moralization of labor as a means to revalue a category of workers who range far down the labor queue. Moralization mediates the tension between the normative societal goal of inclusion for disabled people and the freedom of employers to select the most “productive” workers. Drawing on the theoretical approach of the Economics of Convention the chapter analyzes the valuation frames proposed by economic and welfare state actors in political debates over the establishment of the Swiss disability insurance and the role of employers regarding occupational integration. A core concept used in negotiations of the value of disabled labor in the public arena and within individual businesses is the “social responsibility” of employers. Historically, employers’ associations successfully promoted the liberal principle of voluntary responsibility to prevent state interference in the labor market. In contrast, disability insurance argues predominantly within the market and the industrial convention to “sell” its clientele in the context of employer campaigns and case-related interactions with employers. Only recently, both sides started to reframe the employment of disabled people as a win–win affair, which would reconcile economic self-interest and the common good.”


Sarah Lenz and Sighard Neckel (2019): Moral self-commitment and economic expansion (chap. 7), pp. 127-148.


“German ethical banks have experienced a significant increase in customers, deposits, and lending. They aim to establish a fairer banking system. But the simultaneous pursuit of social, ecological, and economic goals leaves them vulnerable to conflicting orders of worth. The authors examine the normative foundations that ethical bank employees refer to when they describe their everyday practices and identify the specific problems that arise from negotiating between moral principles and economic demands to provide insights into the impacts, constraints, and paradoxes of normatively oriented business practices. Drawing on the theoretical framework of the sociology of critique, the authors assume that moral categories, social processes of interpretation, and justification are an essential part of markets. Ethical banking is characterized by the need to meet both market-limiting and market-expanding requirements, and this particularly becomes contentious when dealing with economic growth. By analyzing ethical banks’ freely accessible documents, the authors first outline the institutional guidelines. In a second step, the authors analyze 27 qualitative interviews with employees of ethical banks to gain insights into everyday lending practices and action-guiding normative orientations. The goal of this chapter is to examine the tensions that may arise from applying normative guidelines under the condition of increasing economic requirements and to disclose the way that ethical banks negotiate between mechanisms of expansion and limitation. The analysis of this chapter points out a paradox of ethical banking: due to the banks’ economic expansion, investments corresponding to their ethical commitments tend to become a luxury they cannot afford.”


Accounting for crime in the neoliberal world

Alessandro Stefano Ala & Irvine Lapsley (2019).

British Accounting Review. Volume 51, Issue 5, pp. 1008-39

Cover image The British Accounting Review

Abstract. This paper examines the recent European public sector accounting reform which introduces controversial calculative practices for the recognition of criminal activities in national accounts. Namely, accounting for unlawful drug production and drug trafficking, and accounting for prostitution. Challenging the presumption of accounting neutrality, this study analyses this “accounting for crime” policy from a semantic and an epistemological view point as a cognitive system of creation of meaning and formation of knowledge. The analysis reveals the polyhedrality of neoliberalism, and the way it exerts its influence on society through its circuitous discursive process of social construction and transfiguration of reality which flows crosswise its multiple dimensions. At the macro level this policy operates as a ‘hegemonic project’: It bonds together the economic and political interests of different ‘historical blocs’, making the implementation of these practices a matter of ‘common sense’. At the micro level this policy functions as an ‘apparatus of governmentality’: It encapsulates the cognition of crime within a panoptic logic of economic rationality, transforming its outcome into a contributory value of a country’s prosperity. In this context, this study outlines the centrality of accounting practice as a pivotal tool of the neoliberal ideology: It permits extending the realm of calculative methodologies to the commodification of human weaknesses, addictions, and sexuality, in a rational process of accounting to balance the supply and demand of sex and drugs, between prostitutes and clients, pushers and addicts.
Keywords: Government accounting, crime, accounting neutrality, ideology, neoliberalism and accounting, neoliberal discourse hegemony, governmentality
The importance of accounting in society is accentuated by its potential for quantifying many aspects of contemporary life. The emergence of new calculative practices is a matter worthy of analysis due to their aptitude for translating matters of quantification into issues of the social order (Miller, 2001, Vollmer, 2003). Albeit accounting has an ‘aura of neutrality and objectivity’ (Funnel, 1998), its calculative practices are not an instrument of neutral depiction of reality. Accounting mediates the comprehension of the external reality through the use of ‘conventions’ (Diaz-Bone and Salais, 2011, 2012) which are ‘arbitrary, political and moral in nature’ (Chiapello, 2017, p. 57). In this sense, the calculative practices of accounting can be better explained as a cognitive tool through which some aspects of reality are mentally classified, understood and represented. […] Foucault theorises ‘neoliberal governmentality’ as a system of social construction of epistemological mechanisms necessary to channel the individual cognition of reality within a panoptic logic of economic rationality in a manner which is suitable to the pursuit of specific political and economic interests (in Foucauldian parlance these are called ‘apparatuses of conduct of conducts’). The use of Foucauldian discourse analysis implies, therefore, examining the calculative methodologies for the computation of the outcome of crime (and its corresponding representation in financial reports) through this theoretical lens to explain ‘the effects of the conventions incorporated into accounting’ (Chiapello, 2017, p. 57). In this light, in the discourse analysis the focus is on the way the policy of “accounting for crime” fulfils the objectives of ‘framing and education’, i.e. it ‘describe[s] the world from a specific standpoint and teaches users to see the world from that perspective’, and in the ‘construction of the world’, i.e. it brings ‘things into existence that would not exist without them’ (Chiapello, 2017, p. 57).” (p. 2/7-8)