Economics of convention and Science and Technology Studies: Some notes on the annual meeting of the Gesellschaft für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung in Berlin

Karolin Kappler (FernUniversität Hagen)

On 15/16 November 2018, the annual meeting of the German Gesellschaft für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung e.V. (Association of Science and Technology Research – GWTF) took place at the TU Berlin.

During the two days, about 40-50 participants discussed research on the topic “Verhalten und Vorhersage. Die techno‐sozialen Zukünfte algorithmischer Bewertungssysteme” (Behavior and prediction. The techno-social futures of algorithmic valuation systems) organized in thematic blocks on smart cities, predictive policing, the fluidity of algorithmic valuation, behavioral prediction and control, ascriptive inequality in machine learning and theoretical perspectives.

In the block on theoretical perspectives, Karolin Eva Kappler from the FernUniversität in Hagen presented the Economy of Conventions as a theoretical approach to explore socio-technical assemblages. Underlining the concepts of investments in forms, the statistical chain and intermediaries, she illustrated her presentation with empirical examples from genetic diagnostics and genetically induced training plans for athletes.

Gesa Lindemann and Katharina Block discussed different social theories to tackle predictive systems. On this behalf, they insisted on the important difference between property and possession and criticized that most of theoretical approaches – among them the EC – ignore that aspect.

In the session on predictive policing, Selma Lamprecht from the Weizenbaum-Institut in Berlin presented different theoretical perspectives to look at “predictive policing for all”. Apart from the ANT and the analysis of discourses and dispositives, she discussed the EC in order to explore not only practices regarding the development and design of such technologies, but also the disposition of people and end-users to adopt such a system of predictive policing.

In many interesting discussions during the conference, the EC was clearly considered to be a rather unknown theoretical approach in the field of science and technology studies, but its analytical value in identifying the plurality and conflictivity of orders of worth and conventions was highlighted and referred to during the whole conference.

Further, the development and the design of technology “for the good of the people” was discussed as an emergent field of research in many disciplines, such as in informatics, engineering and science and technology studies. In this context, the EC could evolve towards a major theoretical reference in this interdisciplinary field of research.

Program (as pdf) 2018-programm-GWTF

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)

 

Jury

– 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)

Link to download the PDF document

Robert Salais, Dr. h.c. – Lecture “Products: Objects and/or Things”

Robert Salais talks on coming challenges to EC on the occasion of being named honorary doctorate by the University of Lucerne

Kenneth Horvath (University of Lucerne) and Guy Schwegler (University of Lucerne)

On 8 November 2018, Robert Salais received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Lucerne, among others for his groundbreaking interdisciplinary engagement linked to the formation of Économie des conventions. In his laudatory speech, Rainer Diaz-Bone emphasized Salais’ central position for the development of new French pragmatism, an approach that, as Diaz-Bone nicely summarized, offers “many solutions to many problems”—and opens many new perspectives for social sciences.

Rainer Diaz-Bone, Robert Salais, Bruno Staffelbach (Rector)

On the occasion of the academic celebration, Robert Salais held an evening lecture in which he provided insights into his current studies of the relation between nature and conventions, with a focus on the convention-based creation of objects and things. An object, in this understanding, is created via an equivalence principle, making both a classification and comparison possible. A thing, on the other hand, is based on a specific identification and addresses something in all its particularities. Such a differentiation, Salais went on, is well established in philosophy. In the social sciences, however, most writers tend to use both terms indiscriminately—even within the same paragraph. For Salais, the conceptual differentiation between objects and things is essential, but the same entity could become an object or a thing depending of the types of conventions used by actors. Hence the conceptual distinction should not be used as an ontological opposition in the social sciences, the use of entities is dependent on two different types of conventions—one type already widely covered by EC research practices as well as one to be added to EC’s analytical repertoire.

After introducing central axioms of EC, Salais continued to elaborate the distinction between thing and object using the example of forest management in France. On the one hand, through the standardized planting of trees and through the possibilities of advance woodcutting machines, the forest can be turned into an object. The planting techniques and machines enable to establish relations of equivalence for trees. This corresponds with a rapid investment of capital and a specific temporality for a tree, determined e.g. by the duration of production cycles. This first way of handling products as objects is based on the first type of conventions in a classic EC sense: coordination based upon situations’ commonality. On the other hand, there is the work of lumberjacks who assess trees and decide which one to cut one by one. Within randomly growing forests, the lumberjacks handle trees as things. As a result, the self-sustaining regulation of nature is used as capital, where there is no standardized idea of time for the production cycle. Treating products as things is then based on a second type of conventions: a trans-identification, that is always based upon the particularity of a situation.

Salais further explained the consequences of the distinction between products as objects or as things. Handled as objects, products become subordinated to subjects. Through this subordination, the particularities of the things are being denied, the products as a consequence only exists as the object. At the end of a life cycle of a product, however, its existence as a thing becomes apparent again. Old computer and other electronic devices, for example, result in specific forms of waist that very often were not considered in their production as objects in the first place. Salais went on to explain why products should be treated as things—especially in relation to environmental issues. Unexpected or even perverse effects of environmental regulations become apparent. Those effects, he claimed, are a result a consequence of a conventional logic of products as objects. Furthermore, these effects are also a consequence of regulatory policies following a top-down logic. For Salais, however, the starting point for regulations should be a different one. Central for him is the coordination of actors. Starting there would allow for an openness to things. The goal is to have things taking part in the deliberation itself. Ultimately, Salais closed his lecture, such an assemblage to influence production would correspond with the German etymology of thing: Ding, as a gathering for decisions.

The Sociology of Work in France

Guillaume Tiffon & Jean-Pierre Durand (2019)

In Stewart P., Durand JP., Richea MM. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of the Sociology of Work in Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

Abstract. Between 1945 and 1975, the sociology of work was nurtured by Friedmann and Naville, operating in an environment defined by post-war national reconstruction. The sociology of work was largely influenced by American psychological methods, often based on quantitative and empirical analyses, distant from a critical position. In the second phase (1975–1990), the crisis of simple labour became a focus of activity. Contemporaneously, sociology began to professionalise, thus marginalising radical agenda. From 1990, the rise of lean production, the sociology of work increasingly became more a companion than a critic of change.

Link to the chapter


“It became obvious to me very quickly that economics of convention is a particularly fruitful theoretical approach for analyzing the health sector”

Interview with Philippe Batifoulier, director of the laboratory CEPN at Paris 13 and co-editor of the “Dictionnaire des conventions”.

Anna Gonon (FHNW Olten, Switzerland) & Valeska Cappel (University of Lucerne, Switzerland)

Cappel/Gonon: You are the director of the Laboratoire CEPN in the University Paris 13. What are the focus areas of this Laboratory and how would you describe your position and activities there?

Batifoulier: Since November 2015, I have headed the Paris Nord Center for Economics [CEPN, UMR CNRS 7234], a bi-disciplinary economics and management laboratory. This research laboratory has 160 members, including 70 professors and associate professors and 80 PhD students. As director, I represent the laboratory in all management and administration acts and manage the scientific policy.

Philippe Batifoulier

The CEPN is a reference laboratory of the study of capitalisms and the institutions that regulate them or are at the origin of crisis. The dynamics of capitalisms are analyzed through the structural analysis of contemporary economies as well as the diversity of management modes of organizations and corporate governance. One of the most important characteristics of the CEPN is its pluralism. The CEPN relies on large array of theoretical approaches: post-Keynesian, regulationist, Marxist, economics of convention, critical management studies etc. CEPN researchers use different methods that range from the tools of political economy and socio-economics to quantitative economics (micro and macro econometrics). One of the essential consequences of this pluralism – of both: paradigms and methods – is the valorization of transdisciplinary approaches. The original research conducted by the CEPN uses history, psychology, law or sociology to broaden the scope of the analysis. Because of its unusual positioning, the CEPN is a focal point of pluralism. The CEPN helps to keep heterodox approaches alive and encourages scientific controversy. Without the CEPN, the diversity of economic thought would be weakened. For this reason, CEPN appears as a privileged contact for French and international projects with a strong heterodox dimension. Due to this attractive positioning, the CEPN aims at responding to social demands on many subjects. It constitutes a civic-conscious research structure with an outstanding capacity to foster public debate.

Cappel/Gonon: You have mentioned economics of convention as one of the theoretical approaches at CEPN. Could you tell us a little bit about your academic background and how you started to work with economics of convention?

Batifoulier: I hold a master in econometrics and a postgraduate degree in Mathematical Economics and Applied Economics at the University of Paris 10 – Nanterre. In 1987, I began a thesis on statistical theory using Shannon’s information theory and log-linear modelling to exploit a large health database in order to analyze the reforms in the health sector. I was dissatisfied with the lack of theoretical underpinnings of my work and in search of an adequate economic paradigm. With Olivier Favereau’s arrival in Nanterre, I turned to the economics of convention. I met this new approach with the publication of the special issue of the “Revue économique” in March 1989. I defended my thesis under the direction of Olivier Favereau in 1991 and was recruited as associate professor at the University of Saint Quentin en Yvelines and then at the University of Paris 10 – Nanterre.

The specificity of my work is to propose an institutionalist approach applied to health economics. It became obvious to me very quickly that economics of convention is a particularly fruitful theoretical approach for analyzing the health sector. I think mainstream economics cannot deal with the health sector because the standard assumptions about rationality and market coordination are very disconnected from what a patient or a doctor really is. The health sector is an ideal topic for heterodox economics. Healthcare and social policy are strongly normative issues and economic analysis cannot ignore it. Because economic health policies are precisely one of those domains in which coordination, value judgments and normative considerations cannot be separated, the concept of convention is well indicated to understand the specificities of the health sector. To be convinced of this, we only need to note that one of the main objectives of the economics of convention is to endogenize values within coordination and to take the ethical resources of individuals seriously. Now, the health sector is precisely one of those domains in which values and the concept of ethics (medical, in this case) are omnipresent. The conceptual work on the concept of convention has provided matter for reflection in a domain that has often been criticized for being too applied and insufficiently grounded on theoretical foundations. In return, the conventionalist approach provides a pragmatic application to the theoretical analysis of a sector that is important in terms of both the resources engaged (notably financial) and the social and political stakes involved.

Cappel/Gonon: Could you tell us a little bit more about the specific EC concepts that were fruitful in your analysis of the health sector and maybe also describe an example of application?

Batifoulier: I use EC in two different ways. To deal with coordination, I mobilize the notion of interpretative rationality. To speak about regulation and to criticize the neoliberal policies, I rely on the notion of a common world instead of extrinsic incentives.

First, I tried to capture the coordinating capacity of medical ethics. The coordination between a doctor and a patient or between physicians depends on values in order to comprehend the interaction. This interpretation relies on a collective representation of references as EC shows, in other words a way of judging the situation and of judging oneself and the other party in that situation. So, for example, when a patient consults a physician, he knows that the doctor’s behavior is governed by deontological rules. To be applied, these rules must have a “hic et nunc” interpretation, considering both the collective formed by the patient and doctor and a wider collective consisting of the whole healthcare system; the whole allowing to evaluate the quality of the service provided (the length of the consultation or the level of fees, in particular). This understanding is not only cognitive but also evaluative, with the form of evaluation determining the importance of what the agent considers. Therefore, this interpretation won`t be the same on every occasion or in every place. That’s why we have to consider the plurality of possible representations and the impossibility of reducing medical ethics to a universal and invariable conception of ethical behavior. Ethics is neither immutable nor mechanical; it is very context sensitive.

Secondly, I mobilized EC to review the neoliberal economic policy in healthcare which considers that institutions are understood to be only incentives. I expanded this analysis on health insurance. By considering that health insurance is a problem because it leads to unnecessary consumption owing to the fact that it is by and large free, its existence is not under discussion, only its harmfulness. The consequences of this economic policy are immediate: we must reduce a person’s health cover and resort to healthcare that is more expensive. Making the patient pay is a fashioned strategy that is founded on mainstream theory in which the patient has no depth. He or she does not make judgments, only calculates. This completely self-interested individual does not fit in with a network of social relationships capable of directing his or her behavior, putting the brakes on his or her opportunism. This mainstream economic theory is a political and social creation without society. Consequently, it is the vision of social welfare and healthcare that is misrepresented. In this economics-orientated point of view, national insurance must be concerned with the calculation of individual risk, discarding the aim of a shared world.

Cappel/Gonon: You use EC to criticize neoliberal healthcare policy. How do you think could an EC-inspired healthcare policy look like?

Batifoulier: EC can inform healthcare policy on at least 3 points:

First, EC invites to consider the plurality of professional values and get out of the dichotomy in which mainstream wants to lock and close the debate: the physician’s behavior cannot be generalized to the figure of the homo œconomicus. Professional commitment and the well-being of their patients are more a physician objective than self-interest is. Professional values govern the behavior of the doctor in diagnosing and treating the patient. We have to look at the plurality of professional values: liberal values as Hippocratic values. The values debate is one of EC’s messages. Liberal values have been historically controlled by the welfare state. Today, they are valued by neoliberalism (for example, many practitioners charge fees in excess), which leads to many inequalities of access to healthcare.

Second, in the neoliberal world, the hospital is now a laboratory of competition and has become very “inhospitable”, for the patient as for the employees. With EC, one can question the quality of care in the hospital: not to reduce it to an unambiguous definition and without prior deliberation. The standardization of care and the setting the medical work in protocol puts forward an “industrial” quality and deteriorated a “domestic” quality (by increasing the distance to healthcare) and a “civic” quality (by sacrificing the culture of public utilities). It is thus incorrect to say that the Hospital reform has improved the quality of care. It has developed some qualities, but has deteriorated others.

Thirdly, an aspect where EC can be mobilized is democracy in health. The question of the legitimacy of health decision-making is deeply related to the patient’s place in it. But he often seems to be ruled out of decisions. In terms of funding, the expenses that are very well reimbursed (or well supported) are not necessarily those that are medically justified. We should also draw the lessons of the development of private insurance, very unequal and inefficient, and recognize that we better control the expenditure by solidarity than by the market. There are many examples where the balance of power is not favorable to the patient. EC highlights people’s reflexivity and the type of collectivity to which we belong. This calls for the insurrection of the patient who has to reinvest in the different spaces of democracy to assert the right to participate in decisions that concern him or her in the first place and build the institutions that meet the most basic needs.

Cappel/Gonon: You are co-editor of the “Dictionnaire des conventions: autour des travaux d’Olivier Favereau“ published in 2016 (Presses Universitaires du Septentrion). In this “non-standard” dictionary, as you call it, scholars from different fields take Olivier Favereau’s work as their point of departure to explain EC concepts. Could you tell us a little bit more why this is a “non-standard” dictionary?

Batifoulier: The ”Dictionnaire des conventions” coordinated by Franck Bessis, Guillemette de Larquier, Ariane Ghirardello, Delphine Remillon and myself is a book in honor of Olivier Favereau. The form “dictionary” has imposed itself on us because a lot of scholars from different disciplines (75 authors from the younger generation to the older ones) wished to participate in this tribute. This is a “non-standard dictionary” because the book does not claim to explain all the concepts of EC but proposes a review of many contemporary debates in the social sciences starting from a conventionalist reading, that is, a non-standard point of view. The entries share a common spirit, highly critical of the mainstream economics.

Cappel/Gonon: How do you see the future of EC as an approach? Where will or should it be applied? What are its strengths, are there any weaknesses?

Batifoulier: Beyond the quality of the authors, this dictionary is, in some way, illustrative of the way of functioning of EC, which relies much on working collectives. The existence of collective works, which evolves with the different generations, is typical of the EC. Communities of work in the field of EC settle down with young scholars on topics as diverse as ecology, health, enterprise and the labor market, law and lawyers, social and solidarity economy, etc. The latest works focuses more on economic issues without neglecting the socioeconomic foundation of EC to not abandon the economics to the mainstream. The context in which EC evolves is also crucial in this trajectory. In France as elsewhere, a partial concept of economics, the neo-classical or mainstream approach, has become the established orthodoxy and monopolizes the legitimacy of economic analysis. The rejection of pluralism leads to the gradual disappearance of non-standard schools of thought. Resistance is brought by the Association française d’économie politique (AFEP), a professional association with the aim of defending and illustrating pluralism in economics since 2009. Because all AFEP members shared the same analysis and concerns, the elimination of pluralism has led the various heterodox approaches to seek more what brings them together than what oppose them. So, EC will be interested in topics that were initially introduced by other approaches (regulation theory, Marxist approach). Capitalism and its evolution is now an important issue of EC studies. In the same time, the traditional themes of EC (values, rationality, representations) are now resources for others. This climate is very stimulating for future research.

Cappel/Gonon: At last, what would you recommend for young scholars who are interested to work with EC?

Batifoulier: I think the current period is particularly challenging to commit to this research program. EC is carried by new generations (second and third generations) that do not only relay the initial project but also pilot it in different directions. The progression of the program, from generation to generation is strength. A young scholar easily finds his place. The economics of convention is supported by several major research laboratories, in France as elsewhere giving more opportunities. In short, go for it.

Session “Agro-food branches, food markets, and global value chains – between local tradition and global value chains: Production, distribution and consume of food as sociological research objects”

[Agro-food Branchen, Nahrungsmittelmärkte und Global Value Chain – Zwischen lokaler Tradition und globalen Wertschöpfungsketten: Produktion, Distribution und Konsum von Lebensmitteln als Gegenstand der Soziologie] at the 39th sociology congress of the German Sociological Association at University of Göttingen, 28 September 2018

Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne)

At the five day congress of sociology (24-28 September), a session took place presenting convention theory applied in the analysis of food, food markets, food production, food consumption and value issues around food. The session was organized by Lisa Suckert (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne) and Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne). The organizers introduced into the session and sketched the tradition of economics of convention (EC) as an important and long lasting approach in these field of social research. Also, the phenomenon of food was identified as offering a kind of “crossroads” to different research fields as economic sociology, cultural sociology, life style analysis etc. But also the whole question of value and quality was related to food issues in EC for some decades now (see the contributions in Allaire/Daviron 2017 and the review article of Ponte 2016). The session then had three lectures.

Linda Hering and Nina Baur (both Technical University of Berlin) presented their research project “Standards for freshness in Germany and Thailand – a historical inspired comparison of pattern of consumption and production” [Frischestandards in Deutschland und Thailand. Ein historisch angeleiteter Vergleich von Konsum- und Produktionsmustern].

Linda Hering

This Berlin group explores the ways how food was offered to consumers at sales points in Berlin and Bangkok, focusing on presentation, situational embeddedness and (concepts of) freshness. The research reconstructed the quality convention, intermediairies and objects involved. Linda Hering and Nina Baur emphasized the important role of the local gatekeepers and technical innovations for the establishement of concepts for food freshness.

Lisa Suckert relied on her PhD-project “Discursive construction of ecological product quality – the discovery of the region as quality dimension for organic milk” [Die diskursive Konstruktion ökologischer Produktqualität – Die Entdeckung der Region als Qualitätsmerkmal für Bio-Milch] to present discursive networks and national developments of value chains for milk in Germany (see Suckert 2015). She started her lecture with the problem of the uncertainty of product quality and identified the different strategies of regional milk producers (diaries) to develop marketing strategies based on discursive concepts of “region”.

Lisa Suckert

But the different diaries base their discursive strategies on different discursive foundations to mobilize a knowledge concept of “quality”. The study combined field theoretical elements with EC to grasp the market position of diaries also.

Xiomara Quinones Ruiz (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna) gave a talk about her ongoing research on coffee value chains, starting from Colombian coffee production. Her lecture “Interacting and evolving quality conventions: An institutional Analysis of international Coffee Value Chains”

Xiamara Quinonez-Ruiz

In Colombia first developments of fairtrade or organic coffee, and the protection of the coffee origin through geographical indications could be identified by Xiamara Quinonez-Ruiz. But she also found cultural impediments in Colombia, where people where accustomed to new ways of producing coffee and new tastes of differently produced coffees. The project identifies the transformation/reorganization of dominant quality conventions of quality chains, the involved intermediaries and technologies.

The session demonstrated the emergence of a field of conventionalist aggro-food studies in the German speaking countries and was also a start for a planned book project (in the new Springer VS series “sociology of conventions” https://www.springer.com/series/15571).

 

References

Allaire, Gilles/Daviron, Benoit (eds.) (2017): Transformations et transitions dans l’agriculture et l’agro-alimentaire. Versailles: QUAE.

Ponte, Stefano (2016): Convention theory in the Anglophone agro-food literature. Past, present and future. Journal of Rural Studies 44(4), pp. 12-23.

Suckert, Lisa (2015): Die Dynamik ökologischer Märkte. Eine feldanalytische Betrachtung des Marktes für Bio-Molkereiprodukte. Konstanz: UVK.

This can(‘t) be an asset class: The world of money management, “society”, and the contested morality of farmland investments

Stefan Ouma (2018)

Environment and Planning, First online

Abstract. Drawing on several years of fieldwork-based research on and in the “farmland investment space”, this paper argues that a combined reading of debates on assets and assetization in financialized capitalism and convention theory offers novel insights into the moral struggles associated with the transformation of farmland into an “alternative asset class”. It demonstrates that central to the assetization of farmland is the globally distributed effort to bestow it with a legitimate financial worth. While many financial actors paint the picture that farmland has an absolute or intrinsic value, and that this value can be “unlocked”, the paper demonstrates that farmland only gains its financial worth through collective yet contested practices of classification, valuation and valorization. This process has internal (related to the financial industry) and external (related to “society”) dimensions. Farmland only becomes a legitimate asset class if it can be meaningfully set in relation to other asset classes, and if the underlying “assets” generate legitimate returns to investors. At the same time, the legitimation of farmland as an “asset class” has been threatened by attacks of social forces such as NGOs, as accusations of immorality (i.e. “land grabbing”) have become major reputational risks for the supertankers of the industry – institutional investors. This notwithstanding, “capital” and its supporters have worked hard to overcome these internal and external barriers. Eventually, the case presented here allows us to problematize and repoliticize the often-invisiblized morality of finance, which is as much about “value” as it is about “values”.

Keywords: Financialization, assetization, farmland, morality, land grabbing

Content List
1. Introduction
2. Placing assets and assetization in financialized capitalism
3. Assetization as a moral process: A conventionalist reading
4. Legitimation struggles: From within
5. Legitimation struggles: Outside forces
6. Conclusion

Link to the article

Link to the introduction (ResearchGate)

SGBF / SGL (Swiss Society of Educational Research/ Swiss Society of Teacher Training) Annual Congress in Zurich 2018

The “Économie des Conventions” in Education Research

Lea Zehnder & Philipp Gonon (University of Zurich)

From 27 to 29 June 2018, the annual congress of the Swiss Society for Educational Research and the Swiss Society for Teacher Training took place at the University of Zurich, hosted by the Institute of Education. Two paper presentations, which depicted the rise and development of different types of baccalaureate schemes with weaker and stronger links to vocational education and training in Switzerland referred to conventions as unfolded in the “Justification”- Book of Boltanski and Thévenot (translated in German 2007). Furthermore, the key-note speech, held by Elisabeth Chatel, highlighted the struggle over the aims of economic and social topics as a subject in French high schools (lycées).

Regula Julia Leemann and Sandra Hafner from the School of Teacher Education Department of the University of Applied Sciences Basel (Switzerland) presented their work, which focused on positioning and profiling the upper-secondary specialized school (Fachmittelschule). The upper-secondary specialized school is a very young type of school in the Swiss educational system that imparts general education and provides its graduates access to Colleges of Professional Education and Training (Höhere Fachschulen), Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) or Universities of Teacher Education (Pädagogische Hochschulen). Analyzing the genesis of this new type of school they presented three historical situations in detail. Back in the beginning of the 1970ies and during ten years, the main intention was to sum up the Helvetic Mosaic of 30 school types into one standard-model that focuses general interest (civic convention). They identified a tension between regional variation and national convergence. The standardization refers to the industrial convention and also to the civic convention. Back in the 1990ies a claim for more cantonal autonomy raised, in particular regarding admission to schools of education. Respecting regional tradition refers particularly more to domestic convention and in the logic of supply-demand to the market convention. Thus, the main arguments fit quite well to these different worlds of worth. The present structure is characterized by a plasticity that integrates plural rationalities, logics of action, and orders of worth.

Regula Leemann and Sandra Hafner listening to the presentation of Moritz Rosenmund (image: Manon Criblez)

Research on the linking of general education and vocational education was the focus of Lea Zehnder, University of Zurich (Switzerland). She presented her work on the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate (eidgenössische Berufsmaturität) that was introduced in the Swiss educational system in the early 1990ies. The certificate enables graduates to enter the world of work directly or to transfer to specific academic programs at Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen). Statistical data show disparate amounts of issuing this certificate in the cantons of Switzerland. Considering only vocational education tracks, French speaking cantons issue more certificates than German speaking cantons. Three case studies, focusing the process of attributing worth and quality to this certificate in the cantons of Zurich, Geneva, and Neuchâtel, gave a detailed insight into different understandings of the public educational mandate. Actors in the canton of Zurich emphasize an industry-related and performance-based interpretation of the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate and mobilize industrial and market conventions. While Actors in the French speaking cantons Geneva and Neuchâtel attach more importance to a collective claim that this Vocational Baccalaureate should simplify access to tertiary education (mobilizing civic convention).

Elisabeth Chatel holding her keynote speech at University of Zurich (image: Manon Criblez)

Within her keynote speech, Elisabeth Chatel from IDHES, Ecole Normale Supérieure Saclay, Paris (France) focused on curriculum development: “the economic and social sciences in French high schools (lycées) from 1966 to the present day”. Her historical reconstruction of the introduction of SES (Science of Economy and Social Sciences) in the 1960s in France depicted a remarkable change from the central aim of schooling to develop a critical personality, who is learning and reflecting social and economic knowledge towards a propaedeutic teaching for the study of economics at university. Whereas originally researchers in the spirit of the “Annales”-School designed a curriculum which stressed the topical and historically grown phenomena of our days the reform of 2011 driven by economic experts and prominent economic leaders replaced this approach by a methodological and instrumental oriented syllabus. Interestingly the teachers refuse this “official” new approach and still stick to a more pedagogical and critical access to this subject. Elisabeth Chatel referred to the new spirit of capitalism, and the hereby included conventions like industry, network and market, which were and are the orders of worth the different actors refer to.

All in all, the EC-approach was present and delivered a powerful framework in explaining developments in the education system which drifts towards a more neo-liberal model.

Philipp Gonon (co-organizer of the congress), Elisabeth Chatel, and Regula Leemann enjoying the panoramic view over the city of Zurich from Polyterrasse, Federal Institute of Technology and Zurich University (image: Philipp Gonon)

Upcoming publication (2018)

Imdorf, Christian, Leemann, Regula Julia & Gonon, Philipp (Eds.). Bildung und Konventionen. Die “Économie des Conventions” in der Bildungsforschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Verträge als Element einer Historischen Anthropologie des Wirtschaftens

Jeggle, Christof (2017)

Historische Anthropologie 25(2), pp. 265-285.

“[…] Während die aus den Vereinigten Staaten kommende Wirtschaftssoziologie, die sich in den letzten Jahrzehnten zu einer starken Strömung innerhalb der Soziologie entwickelt hat, nur langsam Recht und Verträge als Themen aufnimmt, hat sich die französische Économie des conventions eingehender mit den beiden Themenfeldern befasst und inzwischen Instrumentarien entwickelt, die komplexere Analysen von Vertragsbeziehungen anregen. Ein Grund für die Beschäftigung damit liegt darin, dass die Économie des conventions unter anderem aus der Erforschung von Arbeitsbeziehungen hervorgegangen ist und dabei Arbeitsverträge und deren gesellschaftlicher Kontext relevant sind. Daneben setzen sich Autoren wie Oliver Faverau mit den Positionen der Neuen Institutionenökonomie insbesondere hinsichtlich sogenannter unvollständiger Verträge auseinander. Dabei kommt er zu ähnlichen Ergebnissen wie Macneil, auf den er sich auch bezieht, und sieht in der Économie des conventions einen Ansatz, der mit der Forderung Macneils nach der Erforschung von Verträgen als Element sozialer Relationen korrespondiert. Dieser Hinweis ist insofern berechtigt, als die Économie des conventions inzwischen einen relativ umfassenden Rahmen für gesellschaftliche Analysen entwickelt hat und die Untersuchung von Verträgen in einen breiteren systematischen
Zusammenhang stellt.” (281)

https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/ha.2017.25.issue-2/ha-2017-0208/ha-2017-0208.xml?format=INT