The elusive “good” : how performance measures shape the US child support enforcement program, by Ana Carolina Macatangay

PhD thesis. University of St. Andrews.


“Performance measures do not just capture an organization’s ‘good performance’; they intervene in the valuation and construction of what counts as ‘good’ so it can be valued, enacted, and measured. This is the central theme of this thesis. Using a performativity lens, and drawing on valuation studies and the sociology of quantification, this research investigates the framing processes and mechanisms by which the federal performance measures, through a network of actors and devices, enable a U.S. child support enforcement agency to enact the ‘good performance’ that can be measured. Using ethnographic and case study methods, the study examines how actors and devices, through a framing process, qualify and negotiate the boundaries of their interactions to produce the ‘good performance’ that can be counted and measured. The boundaries they establish, however, produce overflows that potentially threaten the production of the qualified and quantified ‘good’. Such overflows emerge due to unexpected events, different versions of ‘good’, and conflicting frames of valuation of what counts as ‘good’. Based on the findings, the study offers a taxonomy of performative framing to explain how measures stimulate the organizing work of an agency so the ‘good performance’ can be organized, articulated, produced, and validated. It also offers a taxonomy of counter-performation to describe the uncertainties, multiplicities, and rivalries that the measured ‘good performance’ generates.”


“Individuals, organizations, and societies use categories to make sense of and interact with the world. Categories (e.g. car types by engine size or hotel quality by star rating), which have been ‘collectively crafted, sustained, and enforced’ (Fourcade, 2016: 176), often are held as fact and used for determining how things are similar and, by implication, different from others that have been excluded from a ‘category’. They enable the ordering of things based on a general principle of worth (Boltanski &Thévenot, 2006) and guide or format people’s choices and actions. They are used to assess, compare, or assign values (e.g. price or scores) to things, and to interpret the social and physical world. When things or entities are qualified into some type of ‘thing’, their qualities are reduced to a finite number that will unify them, establish their ‘equivalence’ (Desrosières, 1998), and turn them into realizable and recognizable categories (Diaz-Bone & Didier, 2016). The qualities that make the ‘thing’ (e.g. engine size for car type) become the parameter for sorting and grouping entities into a category to which other entities could be assigned through a process of encoding. As Desrosières (1998) explained, coding signifies a ‘reduction’, a ‘sacrifice’, as other qualities have been disregarded. But by doing this, entities could easily be coded to discrete categories and compared to others based on their selectively compressed qualities (Espeland & Lom, 2015) that had been articulated through the coding’s evaluative form. By making entities and their selective qualities visible, they become measurable ‘objects of reference’ (Centemeri, 2012) for interpretation, coordination and action, supported by huge ‘investments in conventional forms’ (Thévenot, 2015) – such as the use of indicators, statistics, ratings, etc. – to formalize the categories and classifications of information. It may be said therefore that while qualification defines categories, quantification formalizes them. The very forms that help name or construct them also reveal them; and by revealing them, they are made ‘real’ (Desrosières, 1998; Fourcade, 2016).” (p. 44)

Supervisors: Philip Roscoe and Shona Russell

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Die Konnektivitätsökonomie des Internets, Architektur – Konventionen – Community, von Uta Meier-Hahn

Internet connectivity economics. Architecture, conventions, community, by Uta Meier-Hahn

Doctoral dissertation (2019). Freie Universität Berlin

Jury : Jeanette Hofmann, Martin Gersch, Timo Braun, Leonhard Dobusch & Jörg Sydow

Abstract. Internet connectivity forms the basis of the digitally networked society. About twenty-five years after the onset of the commercial internet, this thesis explores the economics of internet interconnection. It explores the question of how network operators worldwide overcome the tension between cooperation and competition and jointly provide internet connectivity. For this purpose, this dissertation develops a cross-disciplinary research perspective. It puts the architecture of the internet, economic coordination and community structures between internet engineers into relation. Conceptually, the study draws on approaches from science and technology studies, economics of convention, and heterodox economics. Empirically, the study is based on interviews with network operators worldwide. Taken together, it can be shown that when it comes to internet connectivity economics, network operators are exposed to architectural uncertainties, which in turn induce the coexistence of market coordination (transit) and cooperative co-production (peering). In the co-production of connectivity economic equivalence is established without the medium of money. This explains to a large extent why product-centered quality conventions play a pivotal role in interconnection negotiations. The community of networkers forms an arena in which these quality conventions are negotiated and tested. This thesis also contributes a new order of worth to the economics of convention tradition. It is the quality convention of connectivity, in which internet connectivity is regarded as a commons worth protecting, whose provision serves the common good.

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Bottling the Colonial Unconscious: Ethical value networks and the commodification of fairness in the South African wine industry, by Kelle Howson

Thesis submitted to the Victoria University of Wellington in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (2019)

Advisors: Warwick Murray & John Overton

Abstract. The rise of ethical certifications was greeted with optimism by scholars, activists and development practitioners, who predicted they would help to redistribute power and profit more equitably in South-North commodity trade, which has long been an engine of wealth extraction and underdevelopment in the resource periphery. The explicit attachment of value to the social and territorial origin of agro-food products would allow marginalised producers to resist corporate governance, race-to-the-bottom processes, and commodity fetishism. This would result in the retention of higher value at the production end of the chain, thereby fostering sustainable development in rural areas in the Global South. I investigate the extent to which power and profit is indeed redistributed more equitably in these new ‘ethical value networks’, through a case study of the South African wine industry. Complex apparatus of standards-setting, verification and auditing have formed the basis of strategies for post-apartheid transformation, redistribution and development in the South African wine industry, with progress conceptualised as taking place at the level of business. In this context, ethical certification constitutes a contemporary labour relations paradigm which in key ways reproduces ‘colonial unconscious’ discourses derived from the legacies of slavery, apartheid and farm paternalism. These embedded discursive power formations restrict the transformative potential of ethical certification. For ethical development to occur as a result of ethical value network formation, I argue that workers must gain greater agency and regulatory capability in the governance of these networks. I find also that ethical certification has not been an effective economic upgrading strategy for the South African wine industry. Instead, due to their deployment within oligopolistic networks, ethics have become commodified, and subject to neoliberal governance. Northern retailers have used their existing power to accumulate the value created by alignment with ethical conventions, and to avoid the costs. Ethical certifications compound the severe ‘cost-price squeeze’ faced by wine producers. This case study has broader implications for the theory of ethical value networks: showing that they are relational, geographically contingent, and remain susceptible to asymmetric governance and accumulation patterns.

Excerpt. “Some scholars have employed the French ‘convention theory’ first promulgated by Boltanski and Thevenot (1991), which identifies a series of norms governing economic exchange, to contend that ethical certifications can be defined through their alignment with moral ‘civic’ ‘domestic’ and ‘ecological’ conventions (Barham, 2002; Ponte, 2009; Ponte & Gibbon, 2005). In short, this means they insert place-based social and environmental values expressed in production processes into determinations of product quality. As ethical certifications predominantly appeal to consumers and rely on consumer demand for their market power, they may also be defined in relation to a labelling aspect, that signals ethical quality to consumers through terms like ‘fair’, ‘ethical’, and ‘eco’. For the purposes of this thesis, an ethical certification conforms to the following criteria: It is adopted voluntarily to certify that a product incorporates certain normative social or environmental qualities in its production process according to a set of pre-determined standards, and it communicates these qualities to consumers through the use of product labels.”

(p. 5-6)

Link to the Archive of Victoria University of Wellington

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Duale Berufsbildung als Teil der “Bildungsexpansion”. Der Kanton Luzern als Beispiel für die expansive Entwicklung der dualen Berufsbildung von 1954 bis 1980 by Karin Büchel

[Dual vocational training as part of “educational expansion”. The Canton of Lucerne as an example of the expansive development of dual vocational training from 1954 to 1980.]

PhD thesis. Zurich: University of Zurich.

Supervisers: Prof. Dr. Philipp Gonon and Prof. Dr. Lucien Criblez



“In Switzerland, dual vocational education and training underwent a period of quantitative and qualitative growth between 1954 and 1980. This has been researched and presented at a national level. Until now, however, there has been a gap in research concerning its development at a local or cantonal level. To fill this gap, the present empirical investigation seeks to answer the questions “Why and in what way has education and vocational training developed in the canton of Lucerne?” and “In which way is this reflected in education policy?” Educational policy measures were implemented in the canton of Lucerne between 1954 and 1980 in an attempt to remedy the shortage of young engineers and to promote dual vocational education and training as an accessible and attractive option. Weak economic structures, an increase in the number of grammar schools and the first university project in central Switzerland were all deciding factors in the choice made by the canton of Lucerne to opt for a strategy of innovative vocational education and training policies. The quantitative and qualitative increase in the prevalence of dual vocational education and training was examined and presented from the perspective of convention theory, taking the infrastructural development of the vocational training centres, the founding of the “Berufsmittelschule“ and the establishment of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts as a basis. This analysis was based on archive  ources from national, cantonal and local municipal organizations, supplemented with qualitative interviews. The content analysis was carried out from the perspective of the multi-level dual vocational education and training system, and was based on the theory of “Economics of Convention”. The first application of this theory of convention to analyze the development of dual vocational education and training resulted in a micropolitical insight into the locally managed coordination of actions and actor-specific patterns of argumentation.“


“In der Schweiz hat sich die duale Berufsbildung zwischen 1954 und 1980 sowohl quantitative als auch qualitativ expansiv entwickelt. Auf nationaler Ebene ist dies erforscht und dargestellt. Die Entwicklung auf lokaler bzw. kantonaler Ebene erwies sich jedoch bis anhin als Forschungslücke. Um diese Lücke zu schliessen, wurden im Rahmen der vorliegenden empirischen Untersuchung die Fragen «Wie und warum hat die Berufsbildungsentwicklung im Kanton Luzern stattgefunden?» und «Wie wurde diese bildungspolitisch begründet? » untersucht. Im Fall des Kantons Luzern galt es zwischen 1954 und 1980, bildungspolitische Massnahmen zu treffen, um den technischen Nachwuchsmangel zu beheben und die duale Berufsbildung mit dem Argument der Durchlässigkeit anschlussfähig sowie attraktiv zu gestalten. Die schwachen Wirtschaftsstrukturen, expandierende Gymnasien und ein erstes Universitätsprojekt in der Zentralschweiz liessen innovative berufsbildungspolitische Bemühungen vermuten und konstituierten die Wahl des Falls Kanton Luzern. Die quantitative und qualitative Expansion der dualen Berufsbildung wurde anhand des infrastrukturellen Ausbaus der Gewerbeschulhäuser, der Gründung der Berufsmittelschule sowie der Errichtung des Zentralschweizerischen Technikums Luzern aus der konventionentheoretischen Perspektive untersucht und dargestellt. Dieser Analyse lagen Archivquellen aus nationalen, kantonalen und kommunalen Organisationen, ergänzt durch qualitative Interviews, zugrunde. Die Inhaltsanalyse erfolgte aus der Perspektive des Mehrebenensystems der dualen Berufsbildung und stützte sich auf die Theorie der «Économie des Conventions». Die erstmalige Anwendung dieser Konventionentheorie für die Analyse der Entwicklung der dualen Berufsbildung ermöglichte einen mikropolitischen Einblick in lokal geführte Handlungskoordinationen und in die akteursspezifischen Argumentationsmuster.”

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Concevoir des bâtiments performants : prescriptions publiques, coordination, apprentissage, par Hélène Haller

Soutenance de thèse le 13 février 2019 à l’Institut d’Urbanisme et de Géographie Alpine, université de Grenoble-Alpes

Jury :

M. Rémi BARBIER, Professeur, Ecole Nationale du Génie de l’Eau et de l’Environnement de Strasbourg, Rapporteur
Mme Véronique BIAU, Architecte-Urbaniste en chef de l’Etat, Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris-La Villette, Examinatrice
M. Nicolas BUCLET, Professeur, Université Grenoble-Alpes, Directeur de la thèse
M. Gilles DEBIZET, Maître de conférences, Université Grenoble-Alpes, Co-encadrant de la thèse  
M. Rainer DIAZ-BONE, Professeur, Universität Luzern, Examinateur
M. Taoufik SOUAMI, Professeur, Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, Rapporteur

Résumé : Dans le contexte de développement durable et de transition énergétique, le secteur du bâtiment représente en France une véritable mine pour mettre en oeuvre les ambitions de maîtrise de la demande en énergie. Réglementations nationales et locales ont été progressivement et substantiellement modifiées, et le processus de conception des bâtiments a dû évoluer pour les respecter. La conception a ainsi été questionnée par d’ambitieuses prescriptions visant la performance énergétique.Nous nous interrogeons sur les réajustements opérés par les concepteurs de bâtiments suite à cette série de prescriptions. Nous montrons que les prescriptions énergétiques des collectivités locales passent en majeure partie par des outils relevant de l’urbanisme opérationnel. De plus, après une période d’apprentissage en raison d’une nouvelle définition de la performance énergétique, le secteur de la conception se caractérise par une certaine stabilité, caractérisée par le retour de routines, la recherche de conventions partagées entre la maîtrise d’ouvrage et la maîtrise d’oeuvre et le maintien d’un désintérêt tacite pour la prise en compte des usages. Nous étudions alors comme une innovation (la performance énergétique globale) s’est développée pour être ensuite intégrée au régime de la construction. Nous mobilisons la sociologie pragmatique, et plus particulièrement le courant des économies de la grandeur développé par L. Boltanski et L. Thévenot, ainsi que les travaux du courant conventionnaliste pour analyser trois opérations immobilières en logement collectif, de taille variée mais caractérisées par la recherche de la performance énergétique : la Tour Elithis Danube (Strasbourg, 67), l’éco-quartier des Passerelles (Cran-Gevrier, 74) et Les Jardins de Mûres (Mûres, 74). 

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Exploring the Complexities of Governing Inter-Firm Links: A Conventionalist Account of Work, by Michael Steurer

PhD project supervised by Julia Brandl (main supervisor) and Ronald Maier (co-supervisor)

PhD exam will be 22 February 2019, University of Innsbruck


  • Julia Brandl, University of Innsbruck
  • Ronald Maier, University of Innsbruck (internal examiner)
  • Arjan Kozica, University of Reutlingen (external examiner)

Abstract. One of the various consequences of the ongoing bureaucratization of larger firms is the emphasis on the formalization of the firm structures in general and work more specifically. This bureaucratization, among other reasons, is facilitated by the fact that large firms are clearly visible to the public and can be easily denounced in front of a vast audience. Increasing formalization of work is expected to suppress the evasion to informal systems and keep the individuals in firms accountable. Firms tend to implement formalized structures to regulate complex and critical work practices to counteract adverse effects based on individuals’ misconduct. One such work practice is the governance of global value chains at the inter-firm links. When firms establish inter-firm links, governance is required to counteract or react to any deviations from the expected or agreed to terms. Mainstream economic literature, in this context especially transaction cost economics, rarely acknowledges the complexity of governance. By developing normative propositions for practice, the approach degrades the actual work practice to predictable formulas and simple decisions on the top management level. Formalization and regulation of coordination in a firm’s structure is rarely assumed to increase the complexity for individuals to coordinate their work practices. This thesis proposes a conceptualization of inter-firm governance as a situated work practice, which emphasizes the importance of the individuals’ efforts in doing work. I explore possible variations in coordination based on two distinct product-typologies of two subsidiaries underlying similar formal structures. Finally, this study provides an analytical framework that combines the individual governance efforts with the formalized structures and the production system’s characteristics. This combination provides a basis to better understand the actual complexities individuals experience when they coordinate governance efforts with other parties in global value chains. The findings show that the employee is a critical resource in successfully defining coping strategies to uphold production processes and avoid breakdowns.

Sagelsdorff, Rebekka (2018): Soziale Ungleichheit in der flexibilisierten Berufsbildung. Erweiterte Kompetenzanforderungen und milieuspezifische Passungsverhältnisse in Lehrbetriebsverbünden.

Opladen: Barbara Budrich.

«Der Schweizer Arbeitsmarkt ist seit den 1990er-Jahren von tief greifenden Umbrüchen betroffen. Dabei haben sich nicht nur die Organisation von Unternehmen und Arbeit, sondern auch die Qualitätskriterien wirtschaftlichen Handelns und die Qualifikationsanforderungen an Arbeitnehmende grundlegend verändert. Die durch Dezentralisierung, Flexibilisierung und Projektifizierung charakterisierbare Reorganisation von Arbeit stellt das in der Schweiz etablierte System der dualen Berufsbildung vor große Herausforderungen. […] Lehrbetriebsverbünde, auch Ausbildungsverbünde genannt, entstanden in den späten 1990er-Jahren als Reaktion auf diese Herausforderungen. Am Gegenstand von Lehrbetriebsverbünden untersuche ich zunächst auf organisatorischer Ebene, wie sich die Dezentralisierung und Flexibilisierung der beruflichen Grundbildung in Lehrbetriebsverbünden konkret manifestiert und inwiefern die Neuformation der Berufslehre mit erhöhten Anforderungen an Flexibilität und Selbstorganisation einhergeht. In einem zweiten Schritt wird auf  der individuellen Ebene der Lernenden analysiert, wie diese erweiterten Kompetenzanforderungen durch die Lernenden selbst erlebt werden und inwiefern sich in unterschiedlichen Erfahrungen soziale Muster von Ungleichheit abzeichnen. Diese beiden thematischen Schwerpunkte werden anhand verschiedener theoretischer Ansätze untersucht. Für die Analyse der organisatorischen Ebene orientiere ich mich […] an der Soziologie der Konventionen von Thévenot und Boltanski (1999; 2007) sowie Boltanski und Chiapello (2006). Die  Kombination dieser Ansätze bietet einen geeigneten Rahmen, um die Komplexität von Lehrbetriebsverbünden aus organisationssoziologischer Perspektive zu untersuchen und für jeden der untersuchten Lehrbetriebsverbünde ein differenziertes Verständnis der jeweiligen institutionellen Logik, der konkreten Organisation der Ausbildung sowie deren Implikationen für die Lernenden zu entwickeln.» (p. 13/15)



– Dr. Regula Julia Leemann, Pädagogische Hochschule der Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz
(PH FHNW), Basel
– Prof. Dr. Christian Imdorf (University of Basel)
– Prof. Dr. Ueli Mäder (University of Basel)

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Débats et mobilisations autour de l’élevage : analyse d’une controverse, par Elsa Delanoue

Thèse présentée et soutenue à Rennes, le 15 Octobre 2018
Unité de recherche : ESO-Rennes – Espaces et Sociétés (CNRS UMR 6509)


  • Yannick Barthe, Sociologue, Directeur de recherche au CNRS
  • Catherine Disenhaus, Agronome, Professeure à Agrocampus Ouest
  • Antoine Doré, Sociologue, Chargé de recherche à l’INRA
  • François Léger, Agronome, Professeur à AgroParisTech
  • Véronique Van Tilbeurgh, Sociologue, Professeure des universités, Université Rennes 2 (Directrice de thèse)

Résumé. L’objectif de cette thèse est d’interroger la controverse autour de l’élevage et d’en étudier sa dynamique pour analyser le processus par lequel elle aboutit à une transformation des normes sociales. Pour cela, la controverse est abordée par une analyse systémique permettant de rendre compte de la complexité des relations causales entre ses multiples dimensions et ses différentes échelles d’expression. Les techniques de collecte et d’analyse des données reposent sur des méthodes qualitatives et quantitatives pour cerner au plus près les processus sociaux étudiés. Une analyse sociohistorique permet d’ancrer le processus de transformation des normes dans le long terme et montre que, depuis le XIXème siècle, le système productiviste suscite des incertitudes quant à son application dans le domaine agricole, en particulier dans ses conséquences sur les animaux et l’environnement. La description des éléments de la controverse montre qu’elle se structure autour d’incertitudes scientifiques et éthiques auxquelles les parties prenantes de la controverse, que sont le monde de l’élevage et le monde associatif, doivent apporter des réponses. L’analyse de l’audience de la controverse auprès du public permet d’identifier une variété des manières de penser l’élevage, qui s’exprime au sein d’un forum hybride dans lequel une multitude d’acteurs contribuent à donner du sens à l’activité. Les rapports de force entre les acteurs déséquilibrent toutefois les capacités de chacun à influencer cette construction des normes. Globalement, c’est vers une prise de distance avec une forme d’élevage perçue comme industrielle et artificielle qu’évoluent les normes règlementaires, professionnelles et culturelles.

Abstract. The objective of this thesis is to question the controversy about livestock farming and to study its dynamic to then analyse the process by which this controversy results in a transformation of social norms. For that purpose, the controversy is addressed by a systemic analysis that enables to reflect the complexity of causal relations between its various aspects and its different scales of expression. Techniques of data collection and analysis lie on qualitative and quantitative methods in order to understand more precisely the social processes studied. A sociohistorical analysis enables to integrate the process of norms transformation in the long run and to show that, since the 19th century, the productiondriven system creates uncertainty regarding its application in the agricultural area, mainly in its consequences on animals and the environment. The description of the controversy elements shows that the controversy is structured around scientific and ethical uncertainties. Stakeholders of the controversy (the livestock sector and the associative sector) must come up with some answers to these scientific and ethical uncertainties. The analysis of the interest of the public for this controversy enables to identify a variety of ways of thinking the livestock farming that express among a hybrid forum in which a large number of actors contribute to make sense to this activity. However, power relations between the actors unbalance the capacities of each one to influence this norms construction. Globally, regulatory standards, professional and cultural norms are changing towards a distancing with a livestock farming form that is perceived as industrial and artificial.

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Understanding the role of social media in relation to alternative food networks: a case of Chester and its region, by Henry W. Sidsaph

Doctoral dissertation (2018). University of Chester, United Kingdom.

Advisors: Phil Harris, Roy Alexander & Danny Moss

Abstract. Alternative Food Networks (AFNs) are a system of food provision which is considered as the embodiment of the Sustainable Development (SD) agenda. They typically operate counteractively to conventional food networks (CFNs) seeking to reconnect all members in the supply chain through ethical and sustainable engagements. They are grounded by the theoretical underpinnings of quality conventions (Murdoch, 2000; Thévenot, 2002) and embeddedness notions such as alterity, valorisation, and appropriation (Dansero & Puttilli, 2014; Kirwan, 2004). Many scholars have focused on exploring AFNs in various contexts, initially focusing on binary notions of dichotomy between AFNs and CFNs, then developing discourse in terms of assessing hybridity (Holloway et al., 2006; Maye, 2013; Ponte, 2016; Renting, Marsden, & Banks, 2003; Tregear, 2011). Recent studies have indicated the potential for further research concerning social media based AFNs (Bos & Owen, 2016; Reed & Keech, 2017; Wills & Arundel, 2017). Therefore a contribution in terms of further understanding this issue arises from this thesis. The research was conducted in the midst of the referendum for the UK to withdraw from the European Union, the subsequent ‘leave’ vote resulting in a level of uncertainty in terms of policy implications. One policy implication may be that the UK will have to readdress the way it engages and supports its food and agriculture sector post-Common Agricultural Policy, therefore this research comes at a timely juncture. This research adopts an interpretivistic epistemological stance, with a constructivist ontological position. Social network analysis (SNA) of Twitter connections was conducted in order to assess connectivity and density of the AFN that was present in Chester and its region. Content analysis of this network was then conducted in order to understand SD related terms and shortlist pertinent actors for further analysis. Interviews were conducted with nine actors from this network in order to critically evaluate their perceptions of SD from an online and offline perspective. The results of the SNA suggest that the AFN of Chester and its region was not particularly well connected in terms of density. However, the SNA was a useful data collection tool, especially concerning the replicability and transferability of participant selection strategy. Further results suggested that there was a need for more organisational structures to support AFNs in becoming more mainstream and collaborative. It was also clear that there was still a degree of opposition between CFNs and AFNs, despite hybridity. A final finding of the research is the consideration of smart localism. The implications of this research are discussed, along with suggestions for future research including; the need to better understand leadership, relations between AFNs and CFNs, the role played by intermediates, and the expansion of social media based research.

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The Institutional Evolution of Social Insurance in China: A Sociological Study of Law Mobilization, by Xi Shen

Thèse de doctorat de l’Université Paris-Saclay
Préparée à École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay, IDHES – Institutions et Dynamiques Historiques de l’Économie et de la Société. Ecole normale supérieure Paris-Saclay
École doctorale n°578 sciences de l’homme et de la société (SHS)Spécialité de doctorat: Sociologie

Thèse présentée et soutenue à Shanghai, le 25 juin 2018

Composition du Jury :
Monsieur Gilles GUIHEUX Rapporteur
Professeur, Université Paris Diderot (CESSMA)
Monsieur Xuesong HE Rapporteur
Professeur, East China University of Science and Technology (School of Social and
Public Administration)
Monsieur Wenhong ZHANG Président
Professeur, Shanghai University (School of Sociology and Political Science)
Monsieur Jérôme DEAUVIEAU Examinateur
Professeur, ENS (Département de Sciences Sociales)
Monsieur Claude DIDRY Directeur de thèse
Directeur de Recherche, ENS (Centre Maurice Halbwachs)
Monsieur Jun WEN Co-Directeur de thèse
Professeur, East China Normal University (School of Social Development



La réforme économique en Chine a été largement appréhendée comme un processus dans lequel le paternaliste danwei a été remplacé par le contrat de travail, un concept plutôt libéral. A cet égard, le déclin de bien-être à caractère socialiste et la montée d’assurance sociale sont considérés comme un phénomène de marche, les récents législations sociales sont discutés dans le cadre polanyien de double-mouvement qui invoque la dichotomie entre état et marche. Cette étude vise à offrir une perspective alternative en repensant l’évolution de la transformation moderne du travail en Chine d’une manière institutionnelle. Nous montrons que la structure de l’emploi héritée de danwei était au cœur des lois du travail de la Chine en temps de réforme. La protection de l’emploi reste pertinente tandis que l’afflux de main-d’œuvre informelle en provenance des zones rurales a explosé dans les secteurs privés urbains. Eux, ils sont devenus de plus en plus des outsiders du marché du travail qui sont vulnérables quant à leur condition précaire. Cette configuration institutionnelle correspond à une structure hiérarchique dans laquelle le “insider” se distingue clairement du ‘outsider’ en termes de stabilité de l’emploi et de bien-être social. Malgré les récentes législations qui visent à rendre l’assurance sociale plus inclusive, notre étude de terrain sur la résolution des conflits du travail dans l’arbitrage et le tribunal a montré que la capacité de mobiliser la loi peut différer en termes de préoccupation personnelle sur le marché du travail. L’approche de capabilité et la sociologie du droit nous permettent de développer un cadre analytique nuancé permettant d’identifier la raison sous-jacente pour laquelle les individus adoptent différentes stratégies tout en contestant la loi abstraite dans une situation concrète. Notre étude conclut que la législation du travail ne sont pas nécessairement des réactions intentionnelles à la dynamique du marché mais plutôt, en tant que forme essentielle de convention sociale, a initié le cadre dans lequel les parties coordonnent leurs activités économiques.


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Unpacking the Routines of Hiring in Pakistan: A Conventionalist Perspective, by Qamar Ali

PhD project supervised by Julia Brandl, University of Innsbruck and Wolfgang Mayrhofer, WU Vienna (co-supervisor).

PhD exam will be 19 July 2018.


  • Julia Brandl, University of Innsbruck
  • Markus Helfen, University of Innsbruck (internal examiner)
  • Arjan Kozica, University of Reutlingen (external examiner)

Abstract. Wright Mills (1970) has famously noted that the study and analysis of employment relations lack sociological imagination. This dissertation analyses the micro-politics of structurally and culturally bound human resourcing activities within the organizational situational context. It addresses the question of coordination of HR work in practice; how actors interact with their environment while coordinating across organizational and societal settings. In order to understand the everyday human problems and preferences in a social scientific analytical manner, this dissertation puts individuals’ actions in the perspective of broader societal issues. The dissertation provides a conventionalist analysis of the sociology of human resourcing practices. Taking the case of Pakistan, a ‘developing’ South Asian country, it unearths the prevailing discourse of human resource management research in the country and examines in a social scientific analytic style the underlying mechanisms of decision-making behind HRM practices, mainly of recruitment and selection. In so doing, it signifies studying the sociological side of human resourcing practices. By adopting the pragmatic philosophy of social scientific analysis, the dissertation benefits from a variety of methodological approaches and methodical techniques including ethnography, in-depth interviews, and experiments. Based on Neuman (2000)’s paradigms of social science research, the dissertation first shows how HRM research in Pakistan comprises positivist, critical, and interpretivist studies, thereby explicating dominant research paradigms in the country. By zooming in on recruitment processes, it further unearths applicants’ and recruiters’ hitherto unexplained behaviors in the context of Pakistan. First, despite significant differences of the content, style and the channels of advertisements and consequent differences in job applicants’ perceptions about organizational attractiveness, there are no statistically significant differences in their intentions to apply for the job. Second, despite significant differences in recruitment channels’ potential of producing organizational attractiveness, recruiters, on the other hand, have no preferences in choosing between these channels. These findings are put into the perspective of broader societal issues, such as unemployment, lack of entrepreneurial orientation, etc. Using the theoretical notions developed within the French pragmatic sociology, also known as sociology of conventions, (Boltanski & Thévenot, 1991, 2006), namely, modes of engagements (Thévenot, 2001b) and structures of complex domination (Boltanski, 2011), the dissertation then explores the practices and processes of selection of academicians. To this end, it illustrates how top management in the south Asian context deploys coordinative power to maneuver rules and regulations, and interpret laws in their favor, but also in what ways participating actors may resist this. In so doing, the dissertation raises researchers’ awareness of factors that can contribute to inequalities in hiring, particularly in power-driven contexts.  The studies in this dissertation explicate everyday dilemmas of employment relationships by focusing upon HRM practices in situ, thereby intending to fill the theory-practice void in HRM research. Only a limited number of studies hitherto have concentrated upon the highly political and complex nature of employment relationships in practice, in contrast to the normative studies, which mostly tend to downplay the everyday human dilemmas. The dissertation particularly emphasizes the socio-political side of HR work. In doing so, it accentuates the need for the so- called ‘practice turn’ in HRM research. Using the pragmatic-realist ‘sociology of conventions’ in the study and analysis of human resourcing practices, specifically recruitment and selection practices, in Pakistan, the dissertation unfolds the potential of this approach for benefiting HRM research concerning investigating employment relationships and theorizing the dynamic nature of employment management practices.


The Anchoring of Surveys in Survey Worlds, by Raphael Vogel

Doctoral thesis submitted by Raphael Vogel, accepted 4th of May 2018 at University of Lucerne, by Prof. Dr. Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne) and PD Dr. Christian Imdorf (University of Basel)

Rainer Diaz-Bone
Christian Imdorf
Christoph Hoffmann (as dean)

Abstract. The topic of the thesis is the production of survey-based data across different stages. Several logics of survey production and their different valuation of survey quality are analyzed. A comprehensive conception of survey quality is defined on the basis of a systematic comparison between different survey logics, which exceed the common focus of survey methodology on pure data quality. It is shown that various purposes of survey data are important to understand different survey qualities. A crucial finding of the thesis is that there is a strong relationship between different survey qualities and the organization of the survey process. Accordingly, a stronger connection between survey methodology and the challenges of survey practice is established. The empirical work is divided into two parts. In the first part, based on the model of production worlds introduced by Michael Storper and Robert Salais, four so-called “survey worlds” are identified and described. In the second part, the pragmatic reference of conventions of survey worlds in two survey projects is examined. After the empirical section, central aspects of the concept of survey worlds are advanced. First, the origin of methodical problems is analyzed as a conflict between survey worlds. It is shown that the plurality of survey worlds is a key challenge for survey practice. Second, quality criteria of survey research are criticized from the perspective of the various survey worlds. Here, it is argued that the plurality of survey worlds implies a plurality of quality criteria for survey research. The conclusion underlines the necessity of a plurality of quality criteria in survey research and a reflexive survey management. The thesis can be viewed as a contribution to a core topic of Sociology; the elaboration of methodical and methodological basics for a controlled production of data about social facts and processes.

Die Verankerung von Surveys in Survey-Welten. Eine konventionentheoretische Perspektive auf Survey-Qualität und Survey-Koordination

Der Gegenstand dieser Arbeit ist die über verschiedene Stationen ablaufende Produktion von surveybasierten Daten. Untersucht werden verschiedene Logiken der Survey-Produktion und deren unterschiedliche Bewertung von Survey-Qualität. Durch den systematischen Vergleich unterschiedlicher Survey-Logiken wird ein umfassenderes Verständnis von Survey-Qualität angestrebt, welches über den in der Survey-Methodologie verbreiteten Fokus auf Datenqualität hinausgeht. Wie zu zeigen sein wird, sind hierfür insbesondere unterschiedliche Nutzungskontexte von Survey-Daten zentral, die sich in der Folge auf die praktische Organisation der Produktion von surveybasierten Daten auswirken. Denn wie in der Arbeit gezeigt wird, gehen unterschiedliche Qualitätsauffassungen von Surveys mit unterschiedlichen Koordinationslogiken einher. Durch die Verknüpfung der Qualitätsthematik mit der praktischen Organisation des Produktionsprozesses wird eine engere Verbindung zwischen den Arbeiten der Survey-Methodologie und den Herausforderungen der Survey-Praxis angestrebt. Die empirische Arbeit ist dabei zweigeteilt. Zunächst werden unterschiedliche sog. Survey-Welten identifiziert und analysiert. In einem zweiten Schritt wird deren praktische Anwendung in der Survey-Praxis anhand von zwei Survey-Projekten untersucht. In einem folgenden Kapitel werden in vier Schritten Erkenntnisse aus der empirischen Untersuchung von Survey-Qualität und Survey-Koordination verdichtet dargestellt. Zentral ist hierbei die Darstellung der Entstehung von methodischen Problemen aus der Survey-Welten-Perspektive. In Form von fünf Plädoyers werden in der Schlussbetrachtung Schritte präsentiert, um die Survey-Methodologie näher an Problemstellungen der Survey-Praxis zu bringen. Plädiert wird für eine Vielfalt an Qualitätskriterien, für ein nicht-reduktionistisches Verständnis von Survey-Qualität, für eine neue Kategorisierung der Survey-Forschung, für eine intensivere Problematisierung des Prozesses der Erstellung von Erhebungskategorien und für ein reflexives Survey-Management. Die Arbeit versteht sich somit insgesamt als Beitrag zu einem Kernthema der Soziologie: Der Ausarbeitung von methodischen und methodologischen Grundlagen für eine kontrollierte Produktion von Daten über gesellschaftliche Tatsachen und Prozesse.

L’engagement solidaire des entrepreneurs du peuple No TAV bas-valsusain : analyse pragmatique d’un processus d’innovation sociale soutenable, par Marina Soubirou

Thèse codirigée par Nicolas Buclet, laboratoire PACTE et Pierre Judet, laboratoire LARHRA, École Doctorale Sciences de l’Homme, du Politique et du Territoire, Université Grenoble Alpes, soutenue le 26 juin 2018.

Jury :

  • Anne Dalmasso, PR Université Grenoble Alpes, UMR LARHRA
  • Jean-Michel Fourniau, Directeur de Recherche IFSTTAR, laboratoire DEST, RAPPORTEUR
  • Xabier Itcaina, Directeur de Recherche CNRS, Centre Emile Durkheim, Sciences Po Bordeaux
  • Jean-Louis Laville, PR CNAM Paris, UMR LISE, RAPPORTEUR
  • Léa Sébastien, Maîtresse de Conférence, Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, UMR Géode

Une transition globale vers la soutenabilité est un défi urgent dans un contexte actuel de dégradation rapide de la biosphère et d’accroissement des inégalités socio-économiques qui génèrent de multiples vulnérabilités. Des enquêtes qualitatives et quantitatives ont montré que des principes et des valeurs soutenables semblent émerger à l’échelle mondiale. Dans le même temps, divers mouvements sociaux revendiquent une telle transition. Le mouvement No TAV, dans la partie inférieure de la vallée de Suse en Italie, en est un exemple. Depuis les années 1990, cette zone est le théâtre d’un conflit opposant les habitants à l’Etat italien autour d’un projet de tunnel ferroviaire de 54 km sous les Alpes, reliant la vallée de Suse à la vallée française de la Maurienne. En rejetant fortement ce projet et en participant collectivement à de nombreux mouvements de résistance, les Bas-Valsusains ont progressivement donné naissance à une communauté territorialisée. Les membres sont liés par de forts liens de co-obligation et semblent partager un ensemble de principes et de valeurs soutenables. Dans cette thèse, nous interrogeons l’impact de ce contexte très particulier sur l’engagement des petits et moyens entrepreneurs locaux en faveur d’un développement soutenable à l’échelle de leur territoire. Pour ce faire, nous mettons en œuvre une démarche pragmatique, attentive à l’auto-réflexivité des acteurs.
La participation à une communauté territorialisée soutenable favorise-t-elle l’engagement solidaire des entrepreneurs – en tant que tels – en faveur d’un développement soutenable ? La première partie de cette thèse interroge la pertinence et les conditions nécessaires à la mise en œuvre d’un développement soutenable. Nous y proposons la notion de communauté territorialisée, articulant le principe politique de commun et la notion de territoire. La seconde partie a pour objet la caractérisation de la communauté territorialisée bas-valsusaine. Nous y questionnons son ancrage spatial, ses principes et valeurs, ainsi que la trajectoire à travers laquelle elle a émergé. Cette communauté s’est cristallisée à travers plusieurs décennies de luttes, Elle est ancrée dans la partie basse de la vallée entre les villages d’Exilles et d’Avigliana et ses membres semblent partager des principes et valeurs soutenables. Enfin, la troisième et dernière partie de cette thèse caractérise un processus d’innovation sociale à travers lequel a émergé et s’est diffusé en basse vallée de Suse un engagement solidaire des entrepreneurs en faveur d’un développement soutenable.

A global transition towards sustainability is a pressing challenge in the current context of fast degradation of the biosphere and of rising socio-economic inequalities which generate multiple vulnerabilities. Qualitative and quantitative surveys have shown that sustainable principles and values appears to be emerging on a global scale. Various social movements have laid claim to such a transition. The No TAV  movement in the lower part of the Susa valley in Italy is an example. Since the 1990’s, this area has been the scene of a territorial conflict pitting the local inhabitants against the Italian state on a 54km long railway tunnel project under the Alps, linking the Susa Valley to the French Maurienne Valley. By strongly rejecting this project and collective participation in numerous resistance movements, the Low-Valsusans have gradually become a territorialized community who’s members are linked by strong bonds of co-obligation to each other and seem to share a set of sustainable principles and values. In this thesis, we question the impact of this very peculiar context on the local small and medium entrepreneurs’ involvement into the sustainable development of their territory, trying to find out whether it influences their activities. We have conducted our investigation in a pragmatic style, paying attention to the actors’ self-reflexivity.
Does the participation to a sustainable territorialized community favor the involvement of the entrepreneurs into a solidarity economy oriented towards a sustainable development? The first part of this thesis questions the relevance and the conditions necessary for the implementation of a sustainable development. We propose the notion of territorialized community, articulating the political principle of the common and the notion of territory. The second part deals with the characterization of the Low-Valsusan territorialized community. We question its spatial anchoring, its principles and values, as well as the trajectory through which it emerged. This community has crystallized through several decades of struggles. It is anchored in the lower part of the valley between the villages of Exilles and Avigliana and its members seem to share sustainable principles and values. Finally, the third part of this thesis characterizes a process of social innovation through which a solidarity involvement of the local entrepreneurs in favor of a sustainable development has emerged and spread in the lower Susa Valley.


Perspectives durables et territoriales des économies de fonctionnalité légitimes. Une interprétation en termes conventionnalistes, par Benjamin Serra

Thèse préparée au sein du Laboratoire PACTE, sous la direction du Professeur Nicolas BUCLET, Université Grenoble Alpes, École Doctorale Sciences de l’Homme, du Politique et du Territoire, soutenue le 18 juin 2018.

Jury :

  • Michel ROCCA, Professeur à l’Université Grenoble Alpes
  • Muriel MAILLEFERT, Professeure à l’Université Lyon III
  • Franck-Dominique VIVIEN, Professeur à l’Université Reims-Champagne-Ardenne
  • Céline MERLIN-BROGNIART, Maîtresse de Conférences à l’Université Lille I
  • Gaël PLUMECOQ, Chargé de recherche à l’INRA Toulouse

Depuis la Révolution Industrielle, les systèmes de production et de consommation de biens n’ont cessé d’évoluer au gré des innovations technologiques, organisationnelles et politiques. Mais ils ont montré une certaine permanence dans les objectifs qui sous-tendent et justifient leurs modalités d’organisation. Ces objectifs sont ceux portés par une société marchande au sein de laquelle l’échange économique constitue un moyen de créer des richesses et de répondre aux besoins de consommation. La recherche d’amélioration continue de la productivité de l’offre et la croissance des volumes et de la diversité des biens et services demandés ont contribué à façonner un système économique marchand et mondialisé, considéré comme le meilleur moyen de créer et de faire circuler les richesses. Pourtant, au cours des dernières décennies, l’atteinte des limites de ce système, tant en termes environnementaux que sociaux, a conduit les acteurs de l’échange à envisager de nouveaux moyens de satisfaire de manière efficace les besoins de consommateurs. Parmi ces moyens, l’économie de fonctionnalité vise à proposer de nouvelles modalités de création de valeur en substituant la vente de l’usage d’un bien à la vente du bien lui-même. Souvent associée à un modèle permettant de découpler la réponse aux besoins de l’utilisation de ressources matérielles, mais aussi de re-territorialiser des activités productives déconnectées de leurs espaces géographiques de consommation, cette pratique interroge quant à sa capacité à faire évoluer le paradigme classique de production et de consommation de masse. Est-elle un simple outil organisationnel permettant de limiter les impacts négatifs du système économique sans en modifier les finalités ou permet-elle au contraire d’en infléchir la trajectoire et de modifier les finalités qu’il poursuit ? Cette thèse cherche à répondre à cette question en abordant l’économie de fonctionnalité par les représentations de l’échange de qualité qu’elle engage dans l’action. Elle s’appuie sur l’économie des conventions pour caractériser les différentes qualités légitimes de l’échange par l’économie de fonctionnalité. Elle cherche à déterminer lesquelles sont porteuses de changements dans les modalités de l’échange sans en modifier les principes fondamentaux et lesquelles sont porteuses de changements dans la philosophie de l’échange économique et dans ses finalités acceptées. Moyen innovant au service d’une fin inchangée ou nouvelle fin qui contraint autant qu’elle incite les acteurs dans l’action, l’économie de fonctionnalité est susceptible de produire dans les deux situations des effets territoriaux et durables hétérogènes. Ce travail s’attache à qualifier les dynamiques de changement en jeu, de sorte à comprendre comment les représentations légitimes de l’économie de fonctionnalité se traduisent en motivations et en effets différenciés. Il crée ainsi le cadre nécessaire à la compréhension des trajectoires de convergence ou de divergence des différents types d’économies de fonctionnalité bénéficiant d’une démarche de légitimation. Il constitue de la sorte une première étape pour envisager les différentes combinaisons de représentations susceptibles de contribuer à l’émergence de systèmes économiques territorialement durables en fonction des objectifs poursuivis par les acteurs.

Since the Industrial Revolution, systems of production and consumption of goods have followed consecutive technological, organizational and political innovations phases. But they have shown a certain permanence in the objectives that underlie and justify the modalities of their organization. These goals are those conveyed by merchant society in which economic exchange is a way to create wealth and meet consumer needs. The quest for continuous improvement in supply productivity and the growth in volume and diversity of goods and services required have helped shaping a globalized trading economic system as the best way to create wealth and make it circulate. However, over the past few decades, this system has reached its limits, both in environmental and social terms, and it has led the stakeholders to consider new ways to efficiently meet the needs of consumers. Among these means, the functional economy aims at proposing new ways of creating value by substituting the sale of the use of a good to the sale of the good itself. Often associated with a model that allows to disconnect the response to the needs of the use of material resources, but also to re-territorialize productive activities that have been disjointed from their geographical areas of consumption, this practice questions as to its ability to make the classical paradigm of mass production and consumption evolve. Is it a simple organizational tool meant to limit the negative impacts of the economic system without modifying the purposes or, on the contrary, a way to change the trajectory and change the goals it pursues? This thesis seeks to answer this question by approaching the functional economy through the representations of the quality exchange that it implies in action. It relies on the economy of conventions to characterize the different legitimate qualities of the exchange. It aims at determining which ones bring changes in the modalities of exchange without impacting its fundamental principles and which bring changes in the philosophy of economic exchange and its accepted purposes. As an innovative means serving an unchanged goal or as a new end that constrains as much as it incites the actors, the functional economy is likely to produce heterogeneous territorial and sustainable effects, in both situations. This work seeks to characterize the dynamics of change at stake, so as to understand how legitimated representations of the functional economy can be translated into differentiated motives and effects. It therefore creates the necessary framework for understanding the converging or diverging trajectories of legitimate functional economies. In this way, it constitutes a first step to consider the different combinations of representations likely to contribute to the emergence of territorially sustainable economic systems according to the objectives pursued by the actors.

Incremental Urbanism: A study of incremental housing production and the challenge of its inclusion in contemporary planning processes in Mumbai (India), by Tobias Baitsch


Whilst urbanisation reached an unprecedented dimension, in a not so distant future half of the urban population will live in ‘informal’ settlements. Often subsumed under the pejorative term slum, these habitats account for the majority of the future urban growth. Incremental urban development was once accepted as a viable means of addressing housing needs for large parts of the urban population. However, these approaches were largely abandoned in the 1990s in favour of mass housing provided through public private partnerships. While these largely failed in providing the required quantities and produced poor urban spaces, the scale of the phenomenon is such that incremental urban development needs reconsidering. However, in contrast to the well-documented experiences of the 1970s and 1980s, there is a lack of knowledge about the actual functioning of incremental development in contemporary regimes of urbanisation. Adopting an approach informed by French pragmatist sociology (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006), particularly the sociology of convention (Thévenot 1984), this research inquires into the production of slums at two levels: the intricate reality of housing production in Mumbai’s slums and the contemporary controversies revolving around urban development. Building on fieldwork in a ‘self-built’ resettlement colony in Mumbai forty years after it was established, this research examines how incrementally developing settlements are made, maintained, and transformed through everyday practices of local actors. Standing at the crossroads of the market, the political, and the social the so-called contractors are key figures engaged in the processes of construction and house making. As mediators in and of incremental urbanism they produce not only built-up space but also social space. Focusing on contractors as hitherto under-examined figures reveals that self-help housing in Mumbai, in contrast to conventional believes about housing practices of the urban poor, is by and large a professionalised mode of urban production. This research offers a refined account of the intricate reality of housing production and the ambiguous nature of incremental urbanism. Regarding urban planning, this research analyses the on-going revision of the Mumbai Development Plan 2014-2034 and the controversies accompanying it, which brings to the forefront the interplay of powers and arguments that otherwise are disguised in the dispersed and detached everyday making of the city. To better understand the discourse on current planning practices and struggles over conflicting approaches towards slums, this research examines the arguments and legitimization principles that underpin four major positions advocated in the controversies as the ‘good’ way to urbanisation. Considering them as equally valid positions allows drawing comparisons between the different conceptualisations of urban planning and development, and the role and legitimacy they confer to modes of incremental urbanism. Reading the two moments in the production of Mumbai’s slums together sheds light on the challenges to incorporate incremental urbanism into planning processes. It is argued that these challenges lie not solely with the conflicting rationalities ‘or cosmos’ of how to create a just city, which clash in the controversies, but also with the ambiguity of incremental urbanism itself. Both of which contribute to complex processes of invisibilisation, or subalternisation, of incremental urbanism.

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Thesis Director
Dr. Luca Pattaroni , EPF Lausanne

Thesis Co-Director
Prof. Dr. Christian Schmid, ETH Zurich

Dr. Florence Graezer Bideau, EPF Lausanne, president of the jury
Dr. Pushpa Arabindoo, University College London, external expert
Prof. Dr. René Véron, University of Lausanne, external expert
Dr. Jennifer E. Duyne Barenstein, ETH Zurich, internal expert

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