Katharina Zangerle (University of Innsbruck) & Bianca Schönherr (University of Innsbruck)
University of Innsbruck, Austria 26-27 April 2019.
In the evening of 25 April, a proper dinner constitutes the unofficial start – as it is occasionally the case with fruitful encounters – of the workshop. For the second time, the EC family gathers in Innsbruck, after prior workshops in Basel, Vienna, Lucerne, Hamburg and Reutlingen.
The next day, the host and an expert of this year’s workshop topic, Julia Brandl (University of Innsbruck), introduced into “Conventions@Work”, and warmly welcomed all Economie des conventions (EC) long-time representants, veteran performers and newcomers as well as the keynote speaker Emmanuelle Marchal (Sciences Po, Paris), well known for her intense sociological engagement with labor markets and recruitment practices. Besides her, Guillemette de Larquier (University of Lille) allowed to learn first-hand from central representatives of EC about current developments in labor market research. This year’s general focus indeed was – as the title indicates – on labor markets and personal policy work, for example understanding sources of inequalities in the labor markets by looking at recruiting practices. Also, our dear sponsor French Focus (of the University of Innsbruck) got a word in this opening session. Useful side note for researcher in financial need with a link to France: the French Focus financially supports academic exchange between academics from France and Innsbruck https://www.uibk.ac.at/frankreichschwerpunkt/index.html.de
Variety in regard to disciplines (e.g., Sociologist, Economists, Historians), origin (e.g., France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria), empirical interests (e.g., from migration, health, the digital, social policy, science, farming, to intellectual property regulations and information security…), but connected through the common theoretical perspective, characterized the audience composed of about 35 scientists. Besides, it was the workshops format, which allowed the presenters adequate time (45 minutes) to make clear their arguments and respond to the assigned discussants’ and audiences’ responses of different sorts, that triggered the discussion. The following overview serves to communicate current developments in the community, but makes no account to be complete. If some of the following issues awake your interest and if you want to learn more about it, consider to personally contact the authors (they are all quite friendly). This opportunity should also serve to honor Qamar Ali’s organizational efforts behind the event!
On the first morning, discussions were based on four presentations:
In the first session, Bernadette Bullinger (IE Business School Madrid) presented her work about mediating employment opportunities for migrants. Together with her co-authors Anna Schneider and Jean-Pascal Gond she thereby encounters the phenomenon of “Placing the Displaced”.
Eva Nadai (FHNW Olten, Switzerland) talked in the second session about the encounter of “High Tech, Low Skills” by investigating quality conventions for unskilled workers in an upskilled economy.
After the first coffee break, Esther Berner (Helmut-Schmidt-University / University of Federal Armed Forces Hamburg) centers in her work “Between Violence and Love, the Public and the Intimate. The “Citizen in Uniform” in the Perspective of the Sociology of Engagement” from a historical perspective the changing role of military officer.
Katharina Zangerle (University of Innsbruck) applies together with the co-authors Konstantin Hondros and Sigrid Quack, the EC to prominent court trials where actors litigate Intellectual Property claims in the music and pharmaceutical industry.
After lunch in the canteen of the University of Innsbruck, Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne), Kenneth Horvath (University of Lucerne), Lisa Knoll (University of Hamburg), Guillemette de Larquier (University ofLille) and Julia Brandl (University of Innsbruck), long standing representants of EC, discussed on the panel “Big Data, Methods, Value Chains – Conventionalists’ Perspectives on Research Practices”.
Finally, Emmanuelle Marchal (Sciences Po, Paris) gave her keynote about “Hiring Practices as (De)valorization”. Based on the sociology of markets, she critically encounters recruiting processes and practically asks for example: How can we know what skills are necessary for a job and how to evaluate those skills? What does a recruiter do, when she reads a CV? What game is played at personal meetings between recruiter and job applicant? BTW: The keynote referred to her book Les Embarras des Recruteurs. Enquête sur le Marché du Travail (English: The Recruiters’ Embarrassment. A Labour Market Survey/Deutsch: Die Verlegenheit der Personalvermittler. Eine Arbeitsmarktuntersuchung, Paris, EHESS, 2015, ISBN: 9782713224911).
Even though “work” was central in every sense, conventionalists also know when it’s time to celebrate. At the end of the day Christian Imdorf (University of Hannover) and Regula Leemann (FHNW Basel-Muttenz) announced the publication of their upcoming book together with Gonon Philipp on “Bildung und Konventionen” (English: “Education and conventions”) available at Springer Verlag: https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783658233006 in the new book series “Soziologie der Konventionen” (https://www.springer.com/series/15571?detailsPage=titles). Therefore champagne was cheerfully raised, accentuated by honoring words from Rainer Diaz-Bone. Congratulation again!
After an intensive first day, the group enjoyed a dinner in Innsbruck’s old town.
The second day began with the presentation of Lisa Knoll (University of Hamburg), where she introduced her current paper with Eve Chiapello on “The Welfare Conventions Approach” illustrated by social impact bonds.
Markus Schermer from the University of Innsbruck engages, against the backdrop of changing roles of and expectations towards farming, with conventions in agriculture and food production, thereby showing how farmers (re)organize and qualify their work.
Karolin Kappler and Uwe Vormbusch (both from FernUniversität Hagen) presented Orders of Justification in the Field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and framed them as ‘Spaces of Negotiation’ in the Making.
Dominik Zellhofer from the Vienna University of Economic and Business presented an excerpt of a dissertation project on information security policies in organizations and focused on building a framework based on the sociology of conventions.
After a light lunch, a session and discussion on “Methods and Research Question Spaces” followed with input from Kenneth Horvath (University of Lucerne) and Regula Leemann (FHNW) on “Reality Test” in EC-Its Theoretical AND Empirical Dimensions.
Valeska Cappel (University of Lucerne), Karolin Kappler (FernUniversität Hagen) and Sarah Lenz (University of Basel) engage in the last session with an increasingly prominent topic: “EC in the Field of Digital Health and Artificial Intelligence (AI)”, by investigating how the complex, ambiguous and contradictory moral infrastructure of late modern societies is mirrored and eventually transformed by AI.
The event was shaped by the active participation of all its attendees. Hence, special thanks to the chairs – Dominik Zellhofer (Friday) and Bernadette Bullinger (Saturday) – as well as the discussants Guillemette de Larquier, Heike Jacobsen, Arjan Kozica and Qamar Ali, Rainer Diaz-Bone, Esther Berner, Nina Pohler and Christian Imdorf who contributed to their colleagues’ scientific development.
Closing words from Julia Brandl and an outlook constituted the formal end of the two-day workshop.
Short reminder: WU Vienna invites to the 11th SoC Meeting (preliminary dates 16-17 April 2020). The central topic will be “Capitalism without Spirit? Conventions in the Age of Digital Transformation”
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.
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.
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.
[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].
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”.
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”
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).
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.
On the 7th and 8th of June 2018, two study days were held at Clersé (University of Lille) around the theme of ‘The socio-environmental issues arising out of the changes in contemporary capitalism’ and the contributions that the economics of convention might make to the topic under discussion. These study days, which were significant because they brought together numerous French academics whose approach places them within the conventionalist school, were organised by Guillemette de Larquier (Clersé, University of Lille), Nicolas Postel (Clersé, University of Lille), Richard Sobel (Clersé, University of Lille), Philippe Batifoulier (CEPN, Paris 13), Nicolas Da Silva (CEPN, Paris 13) and Ariane Ghirardello (CEPN, Paris 13).
The programme, full to overflowing, saw some 20 participants presenting their research in progress or taking stock of existing work in the conventionalist school. Particularly noteworthy was the presence of many doctoral students and young PhDs, which seems to suggest that the succession is already assured. Without looking at each presentation in detail, the main points that unite or divide the participants’ methodological or theoretical approaches can be summarised.
Thus the first difficulty anyone wishing to use the tools of the economics of convention encounters is how to define the term ‘convention’ itself and how he or she is to use it in their work.
In the first paper, which focused on the actors in domestic help services, Sylvain Vatan (Triangle, Université Lumière Lyon-2) used the term not in the sense of an intentional agreement or compromise but in that of a shared representation based on the ‘precedent principle’ that enables the actors involved to operationalize the prevailing rule imposed by a power relationship. In her case, pricing by the nature of the tasks performed by domestic support workers, which amounts to quantifying qualities to quote the oft-used expression, gives rise, she argued, to a new convention on the valorisation of work, the main purpose of which is to facilitate the coordination of the actors concerned. This approach is echoed in the work of Anaïs Henneguelle (IDHES ENS-Paris-Saclay) on judgments in the criminal courts. She showed that judges’ sentencing decisions are based on various conventions, which are shared by the public prosecutors and serve to homogenise decisions. She drew a parallel with recruitment procedures, which also constitute evaluation tests, the aim of which is to reach agreement on employees’ future productivity, while judges seek to determine the quality of a case on the basis of the estimated likelihood of recidivism and reintegration into society and the labour market.
Adopting a different perspective, Nathalie Magne (University of Montpellier 3) was concerned with conventions in so far as they are based on principles of justice or legitimacy. In a re-examination of the transformation of ‘standard enterprises’ into cooperatives, she outlined the various types of legitimacy put forward by employees in justification of their chosen forms of corporate governance; in doing so, she drew on Suchman’s typology: normative or moral legitimacy, pragmatic legitimacy and cognitive legitimacy. In each case, there are distinct tests of legitimacy. Leslie Carnoye (Ethics, FUPL) adopted the ‘conventionalist’ approach in developing an environmentalist critique of capitalism. Taking as her starting point the absence of any ‘green’ order of worth or mode of justification (grandeur) and hence of a green polity (cité) in Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s justification model, she showed that there is a multiplicity of environmentalist critiques, ranging from green growth (a critique endogenised by capitalism) via sustainable development (an intermediate form) to ‘degrowth’ (a radical critique). Philippe Semenowicz (Université Paris-Est Créteil), in his work on integration through economic activity, also adopted this definition of conventions as a principle of justice.
Finally, the study by Nicolas Da Silva and Victor Duchesne (CEPN, Paris 13) drew on a definition of conventions based on principles of justification but without using the polities model in order to investigate the history of French social security. They identified three ‘social security conventions’: an anti-capitalist convention, a solidaristic convention and a liberal convention. Here, they spoke of conventions in the sense of vague, arbitrary arguments that do not have the force of law and whose origin is vague (this echoes certain criteria set out by Christian Bessy and Olivier Favereau in 2003). From this perspective, it can be shown that the formation of arguments by the various actors concerned is conflictive and results from a sometime violent process of negotiation between divergent conceptions of the institution of social security.
During the ensuing discussions, some participants wondered whether the notion of ‘polities’ (cités) was a strictly necessary part of defining oneself as a conventionist. Nevertheless, it was argued, the polities model has the advantage of revealing the ideologies at work behind institutions and reminding us of the deep-rooted normative conflicts that run through the social world. The question of the transformation of these justification mechanisms into conventions in the broader sense was also raised. Conventions as cognitive aids or higher principles of justice should not blind us to the grand narrative that structures contemporary capitalism; one way of rediscovering that narrative might be to take up once again Michel Foucault’s concept of the ‘dispositif’ or apparatus. Participants were also reminded of the importance of not losing sight of power relations in their analyses.
On this point of the rise in generality, the paper presented by Christian Bessy (IDHES ENS-Paris-Saclay) proved invaluable. In order to explain the changes taking place in capitalism, the economics of conventions had moved from an economics of quality or of worlds of production to an economics based on the value and valorising power of certain economic actors. From this point of view, Luc Boltanksi and Arnaud Esquerre’s 2017 book Enrichissement might lead economists in the convention school to further develop the forms taken by the valorisation of things by placing greater emphasis on the new sources of profit and capital accumulation than on moral judgements that reflect different ways of establishing the common good.
Like that given by Christian Bessy, the various presentations often highlighted the plurality of values, of rationalities and of forms of valorisation (or quality conventions) that characterise the various facets of contemporary capitalism.
Turning firstly to the social and solidarity economy, Philippe Semenowicz highlighted the apparently contradictory objectives pursued by the social enterprises in France supporting integration through economic activity (structures d’insertion par l’activité économique/SIAEs): financial viability and continuity of production but also support for populations who are marginalised in the labour market as they seek to return to work. Taking up the concept of an ‘enterprise’s founding convention’ put forward by François Eymard-Duvernay, he showed that the SIAEs are based on a civic founding convention and that they display a certain degree of social voluntarism’. The difficulty, in his view, lies in the linkage between that convention and the market and industrial principles with which the SIAEs also have to deal; this difficulty can be mitigated by a ‘civic-connectionist’ compromise. Daniel Urrutiaguer (Passages XX-XXI, Université Lumière Lyon 2) also showed that there is a multiplicity of principles around which action and evaluation are organised, this time in the worlds of the theatre. Thus evaluations may be artistic, connectionist, civic or even market in nature. Driven by mechanisms based on financial solidarity, which take different forms in the world of commercial theatre and that of publicly subsidised theatre, the market principle often combines with a principle that is more artistic or civic in nature.
Gaël Plumecocq (INRA, AGIR), in his work on environmental valuation theory, shows that there are a number of different environmental valuations rather than just the single one generally envisaged by economists in the form of a price. Here, the value of the environment is regarded as fundamentally social and therefore inseparable from the evaluation processes put in place. In particular, the evaluation method has several political effects, such as the elimination of nature in favour of ‘financial compensation’ should the evaluation be monetary. Camille Chaserant (CES, Université Paris 1) and Sophie Harnay (BETA, Université de Lorraine), in their presentation on the deregulation of the legal profession, focused not on the plurality of valuations but rather on the plurality of quality conventions that serve to coordinate the activities of these representatives of the law. They drew on Lindenberg’s goal-framing theory (Lindenberg 1993) in order to examine the effects of opening up the legal professions in Europe to competition. It would appear from their research that the regulations specific to each legal practice produce different effects. For example, there is a “high-end” segment of practices in which the predominant organising principle is innovation and the strengthening of the market principle could result in higher prices as a quality signal. The diversity of the quality conventions characterising legal practices was also highlighted by Franck Bessis (Triangle, Université Lumière Lyon-2).
During the discussions, it was noted in particular that the economics of convention was proving to be of great heuristic value in understanding the inequalities generated by the contemporary economic system that may affect certain communities that have suffered a deterioration in their situation (which also brought to mind the question of power relations mentioned above). For example, certain communities affected by environmental degradation have succeeded in gathering evidence of the cumulative impact of pollutants by drawing on their local knowledge, which has enabled them to enforce their individual rights in the courts.
These two study days also provided an opportunity to raise methodological questions about the economics of conventions, both in concrete terms and in terms of the organisation of the economics discipline itself. With regard to the practical application of the economics of conventions, the presentation by Franck Bessis dwelt on the notion of “grounded theory” (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) as a means of analysing qualitative interviews. The aim, after all, was to avoid the mistake of “tacking” the polities model (modèle des cités) on to all subjects indiscriminately (what he describes as “routine conventionalism”), as well as that of producing only a partial interpretation of empirical data that merely confirms previously held ideas. In concrete terms, this theory makes it possible to interpret the material more systematically by coding it in the form firstly of labels, then of properties and finally of categories. Thus the aim is to raise the level of abstraction by taking the initial interviews as a starting point and subjecting them to conceptual cross-checks. A similar procedure was used to isolate the main strands of the typology of legal practices and to clarify the links between quality conventions, the representation of market dynamics and the forms of reflexivity.
The round table “Around the Dictionary of Conventions”, at which the discussants were Olivier Favereau (University of Paris Nanterre) and Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne), focused on the diffusion of the economics of convention. The lack of textbooks was highlighted, despite Rainer Diaz-Bone’s book in German. This book marked the beginning of a new book series entitled “Sociology of conventions”. In French, the Dictionnaire des conventions simply cannot be ignored. Olivier Favereau also presented an overview of the conventionalist paradigm, showing how this dictionary extended two earlier synthesis essays (the first following the article in the 1989 Revue économique, the second following the book edited by François Eymard-Duvernay, L’économie des conventions. Méthodes et résultats, which was published in 2006).
During the discussions, it was suggested that joint seminars could be held on the economics of convention or that we could contribute articles on this “French theory” to English-language journals.
These questions about the future and legitimacy of the economics of convention in the academic world were raised on numerous occasions during the discussions. One question that was raised particularly frequently was that of the relationship between the convention and régulation schools. In his presentation, for example, Christian Bessy, emphasised the specific approach of the economics of convention, which bases its arguments on the existence of a plurality of evaluations, in contrast to regulation theory.
More broadly, the second round table, which was entitled “What is the future of the convention school?” (there was a debate on the very notion of a “school”, which is far from being universally accepted), provided an opportunity to take stock of the current situation. It brought together Thomas Lamarche (Ladyss, University of Paris 7), André Orléan (CNRS) and Nicolas Postel (Clersé, University of Lille) for the closing event of these two study days.
Thomas Lamarche highlighted the importance of not confining oneself to the macroeconomic dimension but also investigating the meso-economic level and the way in which it does or does not function independently. He also mentioned the possibility of investigating “futurity”, i.e. the projection of the actors into the future, which may in particular be translated into conventions as well as into representations or even confrontations (for example, what will the term “excellent” encompass in the so-called “universities of excellence” and who will define it?). For his part, Nicolas Postel noted that the future of the economics of conventions did not lie in the word “conventions”, which caused more problems than it resolved. The aim rather was to manage to link the problematics around values, coordination, reproduction and rationality in order to understand collective agreements. In particular, we had now to understand how capitalism could continue and regulate itself in a post-nation state context. To end these study days, André Orléan noted that the economics of convention was concerned with the question of group formation outside the framework of methodological individualism. According to the philosopher John Searle, collective intentionality cannot be reduced to individual intentionalities, which gives institutional phenomena a conventionalist dimension, in the general sense of collective agreement. To that extent, the conventionalist project is situated at the intersection of a number of disciplines (economics, philosophy, sociology, anthropology).
Finally, it should also be remembered that these study days were also an occasion for much conviviality, both formal and informal, which is undoubtedly essential for the incubation of future research.
 Bessy Christian and Favereau Olivier, “Institutions et économie des conventions”, Cahiers d’économie politique 2003/1, N°44, pp. 119-164
 As a matter of interest, let us recall that the value of the environment was evaluated in 1997 at 33,000 billion dollars per year, which represents 1.8 times global GDP. In 2011, a fresh evaluation put the value of the ecosystem at 130,000 billions dollars per year (these figures are available here).
 On the question of the development of ‘environmental justice’ in the USA, see Francis Chateauraynaud and Josquin Debaz, Aux bords de l’irréversible. Sociologie pragmatique des transformations, Editions PETRA, 2017.
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.
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).
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.
Upcoming publication (2018)
Imdorf, Christian, Leemann, Regula Julia & Gonon, Philipp (Eds.). Bildung und Konventionen. Die “Économie des Conventions” in der Bildungsforschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Thomas Duve (director at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt) and Marian Füssel (fellow at Historisches Kolleg, Munich) organized a workshop „Praktiken, Konventionen, Multinormativität. Historische Perspektiven“ which took place 21/22 June 2018 at Historisches Kolleg Munich. Marian Füssel presented the approach of practice theory, Thomas Duve introduced the notion of multinormativity and Rainer Diaz-Bone introduced economics of conventions. It was inspiring to realize that all three concepts could be easily related to ongoing research in the field especially of legal history, focusing on pluralism of legal reasoning, emphasizing the importance of social practices, materiality, objects and opening new research perspectives.
Round about a dozen scholars from history, legal history, law science, sociology and psychology were invited to present ongoing research and relate it to the three concepts of practices, conventions and multinormativity. (See Program Multinormativity)
Stronger applications of EC were presented by Tim Neu (Bochum), who argued about the methodological advantages, using convention theory in the analysis of the emergence of a regional constitution (landständische Verfassung) in Hessen in the 17th and 18th century. Also Hanna Sönkarjärvi (Rio de Janeiro) applied convention theory in her study of the practices of commercial justice in the 19th century in Brazil. Participants critically evaluated convention theory as an approach in the field of legal history. It was interesting to attend to other research presentations in the intersection(s) of history, law science and legal history. The atmosphere at the Munich Kolleg was supporting this intense exchange.
Sandra Hafner (School of Teacher Education Basel, Northwestern Switzerland)
On 14 and 15 June 2018, the workshop ‘Sociology of Conventions’ took place in Hamburg for the second time. This ninth edition was hosted by Esther Berner and her team from the chair of Educational Science at the Helmut-Schmidt University of the German Federal Armed Forces. Esther welcomed us warmly at the officers’ mess and introduced into this year’s workshop topic, “Pluralities of Conventions”. It was inspired by the observation, that since the original publication of On Justification by Boltanski & Thévenot in 1991, the areas of application of Convention Theory have multiplied. Hence, this year’s workshop specifically evolved around issues of the double complexity of orders of worth and regimes of engagement, the status of coordination principles with and without semantic content – especially in times of digitalization, and the possible emergence of a new bio(s)-convention. Tackling new and open questions right at the core of Convention Theory, the workshop group was very happy to welcome Laurent Thévenot as a keynote speaker and much valued contributor to all workshop discussions.
Esther Berner opened the workshop with the first sketch of a preliminary research plan about the qualification of the officer in Western Germany after World War II. As nowadays the German Armed Forces are under increased pressure to legitimate themselves as representatives of military forces in a democratic state, she strives to investigate pragmatic situations of negotiation in the highly conflicted field of the military. She assumed that in this highly equipped (e.g. clothing, badges, architecture, language) field, competent actors construct qualities in a discursive manner with reference to the material equipment as well as cognitive forms and classifications, which leads to a specific type of subjectification for the German soldier. Conceptualizing this constellation as a specific dispositive of education, training and leadership, Esther envisaged conducting a dispositive analysis by complementing a Foucauldian with a conventionalist perspective.
Nina Pohler (Humboldt University of Berlin) and Sam van Elk (King’s College London) presented findings about how management consultants handle the conflicting regimes of familiar engagement (creating local solutions, engaging in on-site networks, being ‘insiders’) and planned action (being ‘outside’ standardizers, perception as experts) in their everyday work. They identified five key practices how management consultants deal with the conflicting regimes of engagement: narrowing regime differences, rebalancing of regimes, creating & deploying mediating forms, precipitating blurred visions, and attacking conventional-particular links. In the discussion, questions about the distinction between conventions and regimes of engagements emerged, as well as how possible symptoms of the constant struggle to handle the conflicting regimes could look like.
After the coffee break, the first two Method and Research Question Spaces of the workshop took place. Katharina Pernkopf and Dominik Zellhofer (Vienna University of Economics and Business) raised questions about the interplay of EC concepts and how to capture them empirically, particularly grasping regimes of engagements in interview situations. They shared their considerations on the ‘how to’ of the interview itself (scene setting, interview partners, research bias) as well as identifying and reconstructing regimes of engagement on the basis of interview data.
The presented interview excerpts triggered a discussion about the interview itself as an appropriate tool to shed light on regimes of engagement, considering the format itself as a complex situation of double coordination. Hence, a more ethnographic research strategy was proposed, and questions about the status of language and discourse in different regimes emerged.
In her Method and Research Question Space, Anna Gonon (University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland) presented an ongoing research project about the employability of unskilled workers, which was initiated by Eva Nadai. She discussed employability as the result of evaluation of workers’ abilities by employers and intermediaries and raised the question whether it is possible to uncover and conceptualize workers’ skills that are not valued and remain hidden in the construction of employability. Although this question remained open, the discussion pointed to the EC framework as suitable for questions on how to frame ‘skills’, how skills are constructed through a situation, and how these situations match workers. Among the many interesting contributions in the discussion, the idea of different ‘power(s) of valorization’ emerged as a promising concept
After a hearty meal at the officer’s refectory, Sandra Hafner (School of Teacher Education Northwestern Switzerland) presented some preliminary results of her current PhD project about the valorization of two different school types on upper secondary level, that lead into teacher education studies at tertiary level. Looking a few decades back, one of the two educational tracks showed to be rather ‘unwanted’ in the political debate, but surprisingly, nevertheless was institutionalized. Sandra applied a conventionalist perspective on teacher education governance and showed that due to educational federalism, a plurality of historically relevant conventions had to be respected. Their integration into a materialized compromise in the form of regulations allowed the second pathway to get institutionalized in spite of being target to major critique.
Raffaella Esposito (School of Teacher Education Northwestern Switzerland) put up for discussion an issue that she struggled with during the analysis of empirical data from her PhD project. In that data, she found that different actors mutually critiqued each other on the basis of the same convention – the domestic order of worth. To be able to proceed in her analysis, she proposed a further differentiation of the domestic convention in the field of education, consisting of a school-based and a company-based dimension of the domestic convention. Her inspiring and demonstrative talk triggered a lively discussion, which led to the broad agreement that it might be worth it to have a closer look at compromises between different conventions and regimes of engagement in this case.
After another coffee break, Karolin Kappler (University of Hagen) and Valeska Cappel (University of Lucerne) opened the first Roundtable of the workshop, which was concerned with the issue of power in political economy of health and social insurance. As a result of their ongoing research on self-tracking via health apps, its effects on everyday practices and its role in social insurance, they shared their considerations from a conventionalist perspective. As former research on self-tracking had been mainly focused on the Foucauldian technologies of the self, health apps could also be seen as form of critique eroding power of dominant constellations by questioning its legitimacy. Further, it was discussed if the emergence of health apps and self-tracking could lead to a new bio(s)-convention, whose common good could be named as ”self-care”. Likewise, this development could also imply new characteristics for classifications through health apps, where questions of form-investments as standards with no semantic foundation, issues of scope in a digitalized world, and related practices by actors and algorithms would have to be tackled.
The first day ended with a very inspiring lecture of Laurent Thévenot (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales EHESS, Paris), which was open to public and attracted quite a few students and professors from the Helmut-Schmidt University and members of the general public. In his presentation titled Making the World Calculable and Valuable. The Power of Plural Conventions, Thévenot argued that in the example of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the political debate between disputing citizens engaging in favor of plural conceptions of the common good has been replaced by the individual consumers’ choice between certified market goods. To analyze the processes in question, he suggested a dual approach to the dynamics of a) personalities and b) communities. Whereas different regimes of engagement are perceived as components of a composite and conflicting personality and stabilize a dynamic personal identity, grammars of commonality characterize different ways of maintaining a composite community. According to Thévenot, these two analytical tools offer a dual view of the dynamics of complex personal identities and composite conflicting communities, which is needed to account for the current modes of governing selves and communities and the debate about the so-called neoliberal governance.
After this very intensive first day, everyone enjoyed a hearty dinner at the restaurant Zum Alten Lotsenhaus at the Harbor of Hamburg.
The second day began with Anna Schneider (University of Innsbruck) presenting her current research on employee’s evaluation of job quality in the tourism and hospitality sector, based on the empirical problem of the ”leisure time/ leisure work paradox” – who is actually willing to work at places where others pass their holidays. In contrast to existing models that perceive job attributes and qualities as inherently given, Anna and colleagues argue that employees are not only subject to valorization by market organizations, but themselves evaluate jobs drawing on different conventions.
Based on a conjoint based experiment and cluster analysis, they found that features of the civic, domestic and the green convention seem most important from the employee’s perspective. After discussing the possible impact of such findings for the field of tourism, the workshop participants shared their view about operationalizing EC concepts in quantitative research, methodological challenges of Convention Theory, and further analytical approaches that could be promising for EC research.
In the second Roundtable of the workshop, Rainer Diaz-Bone, Lisa Knoll, Katharina Pernkopf and Laurent Thévenot shared their view on the issue of plurality from a conventionalist perspective.
Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne) emphasized that from a conventionalist perspective, pluralism is to be understood as a co-existing reality of different worlds and ontologies rather than a single principle dominating a certain area of society (e.g. market convention in the market). He highlighted that a real pluralist perspective would necessarily have to take a closer look at combinations, constellations and different articulations of various conventions, where one principle could be shown as hegemonic but nevertheless be linked and intertwined with others. Further, he argued that in the context of plurality, there are also different kinds of coordination logics to consider – such with semantic and moral content like the orders of worth, but also other structuring and coordinating principles like standards without distinct semantics. Lisa Knoll (University of Hamburg) linked these considerations to the previous discussion about digitalization, and how the phenomenon of techniques and algorithms leave Convention Theory with a problem – that there are standards and classifications which detract from evaluation and critique. Regarding the rise of digitalization, the pluralism of conventions and standards, the presented research about self-tracking and the possible emergence of a new ”bio(s)-convention”, she also asked about the need to reconsider the eugenic body of thought as a part of the conventionalist framework again. Katharina Pernkopf noted that not only the theoretical framework of Convention Theory, but also the research community itself is becoming increasingly pluralist in the way EC concepts are used and tailored to one’s own research interest. From her perspective, this pluralism of concepts and areas of application on one hand are fruitful and liberating, on the other hand could hinder bringing across arguments to other research communities. Therefore, a more clear and structured (and for once more structuralist than pragmatist) overview over the different complexities and linkages between EC concepts could be worth striving for, integrating pluralities of conventions, regimes, grammars and the respective principles of critique and coordination. Answering to Lisa’s thoughts on eugenics, Laurent Thévenot explained that it originally was excluded from the orders of worth because of its contradiction to the principle of a common humanity. Nevertheless, the eugenic body of thought is still existing, and from a conventionalist and therefore pluralist perspective it is worth it to keep an eye on kinds of valuation that escape the common humanity based grammar. Further, he also shared his thoughts on power in the face of plural conventions, regimes and grammars. He argued that as soon as coordination takes place, there is some form of power involved – especially when the semantic content of the coordination principle is not obvious. The following discussion ended with the general agreement, that it would be interesting to have a closer look on ”empty signifiers” in the sense of coordination principles and/or standards without obvious semantic content and how they are de-semantisized in coordination situations.
After the round table, Qamar Ali (University of Innsbruck) presented his current research, in which he applies the conventionalist approach to explain how individual actors exert power in public negotiations and to what extent they were successful. After going through classical power paradigms, he shared his considerations on how Convention Theory could complement current approaches to power analysis. Drawing on data from negotiations on developing a teachers housing society in a Pakistani University, he showed how actors endowed with critical capacities were able to ‘open their eyes’ in a coordination situation. He illustrated how the situation was defined by a multitude of conventions, regimes of engagement, actors and objects, and how power as well as critique were reinforced due to this situations’ specific equipment.
In the parallel Method and Research Question Space, Guy Schwegler (University of Lucerne) presented a first draft and current state of his PhD project on extended performativity within music. After an introduction into the change happening within music from a bourgeois, to a modern and now a post-modern era, Schwegler went on to introduce the performative effects of social theory happening in music. As a result of this effects, Schwegler claimed, a new field of expertise for social science and music emerged where social theory is not only used, but also advanced. Artists and music critics lead this new field, whereas academic knowledge on social process for and in music is more and more left behind. So far, the PhD project mostly is informed by ideas of Actor Network Theory – like Callon’s performative effects –, while possible roles for EC were discussed after the presentation. Another major point introduced by Laurent Thévenot in the discussion was whether or not this new field is building up expertise and whether and how academic knowledge can still differ from that expertise.
After lunch, the workshop group again split up into two parallel sessions. Kenneth Horvath and Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne) presented Hilary Putnam’s concept of ”epistemic values” and discussed its relevance for Convention Theory. This concept’s goal is to analyze values underlying social science’s methodology. The values determine for example how research in itself should work and be done – independently of qualitative or quantitative approaches –, what results should be or what a good research questions is. Horvath and Diaz-Bone’s goal was to show the value-laden construction of empirical data through epistemic values and how these values are a starting point for all research. Furthermore, the idea is to look into conventions as a base for these values. This project, they claimed, is a necessary effect of pragmatist thinking. Following Putnam and his 2002 The Collapse Of The Fact Value Dichotomy they were trying to show a continuity between facts and values — and not a separation of the two. Their own empirical application of the concept will focus on law and judges’ decisions in courts. The discussion that followed the presentation mostly revolved around the clarification of what these epistemic values are and where they are visible although hardly discussed in general.
Matthias Alke (Humboldt University Berlin) and Doris Graß (German Institute for Adult Education Bonn) presented their current research on educational profiles in adult education. After an introduction to the research topic and research questions, they distributed excerpts from interviews with educational mangers from adult education centers. The group was invited to share thoughts about how to interpret the data with the aim of reconstructing the relevant conventions used to justify and organize educational work. After a first silent reading, a lively discussion about the data, possible interpretations and methodological challenges in EC research emerged. As the day before, the issue of how to conduct and analyze interviews from a conventionalist perspective showed to be a sticking point.
Lisa Knoll (University of Hamburg) then provided the last talk of the workshop, sharing her theoretical considerations about the necessity to analyze sustainable markets from the perspective of the state. Caused by the multiple ways of constructing differences between state and market, welfare economists’ conceptual struggles could be resolved by applying a conventionalist view. Due to its pluralist approach, Convention Theory overcomes the state-versus-market divide and is able to grasp disputes and compromises between different conventional forms. Lisa presented an analytical grid displaying four logics of sustainable markets, and showed how the state is relevant in all four models – but in a different manner and with different relevance. Her inspiring talk was followed by a discussion about the consequences of her conceptualization and how this could imply different forms of agency. As one of the recurring themes of this workshops, the role and impact of digitalization in the different logics of relation between market and state was brought up again and provided an adequate close of the workshop.
The next workshop Sociology of Conventions will take place on 25./26. April 2019 at the University of Innsbruck organized by Julia Brandl, Anna Schneider and Qamar Ali.
Les 7 et 8 juin 2018 se sont tenues au Clersé (Université de Lille) deux journées d’étude autour des « Enjeux socio-écologiques des mutations du capitalisme contemporain » et des apports de l’économie des conventions à ce sujet. Ces journées, importantes puisque rassemblant de nombreux chercheur.se.s français.e.s se revendiquant d’une approche conventionnaliste, étaient organisées par Guillemette de Larquier (Clersé, Université de Lille), Nicolas Postel (Clersé, Université de Lille), Richard Sobel (Clersé, Université de Lille), Philippe Batifoulier (CEPN, Paris 13), Nicolas Da Silva (CEPN, Paris 13) et Ariane Ghirardello (CEPN, Paris 13).
Le programme, très riche, a vu se succéder une vingtaine de participant.e.s exposant leurs recherches en cours ou dressant un état des lieux des travaux existants dans cette perspective. En particulier, on notera la présence de nombreux.ses doctorant.e.s ou jeunes docteur.e.s, ce qui semble indiquer que la relève est d’ores et déjà assurée. Sans revenir en détails sur chaque présentation, il est possible de revenir sur les principaux points communs ou divergences entre les approches, méthodologiques ou théoriques, des intervenant.e.s.
Ainsi, la première difficulté rencontrée pour qui souhaite utiliser les outils de l’économie des conventions consiste d’abord à définir le terme « convention » lui-même et l’usage qu’il.elle en fait dans ses travaux.
Dans la première communication portant sur les acteurs.trices de l’aide à domicile, Sylvain Vatan (Triangle, Université Lumière Lyon-2) a insisté sur la convention non pas au sens d’un accord ou d’un compromis intentionnel mais au sens d’une représentation commune reposant sur une « logique de précédent », permettant de rendre opérationnelle la règle en vigueur imposée par un rapport de forces. Dans son cas, la tarification selon la nature des tâches dans l’aide à domicile, qui revient à quantifier des qualités selon l’expression souvent utilisée, donnerait lieu à une nouvelle convention de valorisation du travail. Ici, la convention permet avant tout la coordination des acteurs.trices. Cette perspective se retrouve dans le travail d’Anaïs Henneguelle (IDHES ENS-Paris-Saclay) sur le jugement pénal. Elle montre en effet que les décisions des juges de l’application des peines sont fondées sur différentes conventions de jugement, partagées par les magistrat.e.s et homogénéisant les décisions. Elle trace un parallèle avec les procédures de recrutement, qui correspondent également à des épreuves d’évaluation durant lesquelles il s’agit de se mettre d’accord sur la productivité à venir des salarié.e.s tandis que les juges cherchent, eux.elles, à établir la qualité d’un dossier en fonction de sa probabilité estimée de récidive et de réinsertion.
Dans une optique différente, Nathalie Magne (Université de Montpellier 3) s’est intéressée aux conventions en ce qu’elles renvoient à des principes de justice ou de légitimité. Revenant sur le passage des « entreprises classiques » aux coopératives, elle a présenté les différents types de légitimité mis en avant par les salarié.e.s justifiant leurs choix de gouvernance en reprenant la typologie de Suchman : légitimité normative ou morale, légitimité pragmatique, légitimité cognitive. Dans chaque cas, il existe des épreuves de légitimité distinctes. Leslie Carnoye (Ethics, FUPL) reprend cette approche des conventions en s’intéressant à la critique écologiste du capitalisme. Elle part de l’absence de grandeur verte (et donc de cité verte) dans le modèle de la justification de Luc Boltanski et Laurent Thévenot, pour montrer qu’il existe une pluralité de critiques écologistes allant de la croissance verte (critique endogénéisée par le capitalisme) à la décroissance (critique radicale) en passant par le développement durable (forme intermédiaire). Philippe Semenowicz (Université Paris-Est Créteil), dans son travail sur l’insertion par l’activité économique, se rattache également à cette définition des conventions comme principe de justice.
Enfin, le travail de Nicolas Da Silva et de Victor Duchesne (CEPN, Paris 13) a mis l’accent sur l’histoire de la Sécurité sociale en utilisant une définition des conventions fondée sur des principes de justification mais sans recourir au modèle des cités. Ils distinguent ainsi trois « conventions de sécurité sociale », une convention anticapitaliste, une convention solidariste et une convention libérale. Ici, ils parlent de conventions au sens d’argumentaires arbitraires, vagues, qui n’ont pas force de loi et dont l’origine est floue (reprenant ainsi certains critères édictés par Christian Bessy et Olivier Favereau en 20031). Cette perspective permet de montrer que la formation des arguments par les différent.e.s acteurs.trices est conflictuelle et résultent d’un processus de négociation parfois violent entre conceptions divergentes de l’institution de la Sécurité sociale.
Durant les discussions, certain.e.s ont pu demander s’il fallait nécessairement passer par la notion de « cités » pour se définir comme conventionnaliste. Le modèle des cités présente néanmoins l’intérêt de révéler les idéologies à l’œuvre derrière les institutions ainsi que de rappeler les conflits normatifs profonds qui traversent le monde social. La question de la transformation de ces dispositifs de justification en conventions au sens plus large s’est également posée. La convention comme support cognitif ou comme principe supérieur de justice ne doit pas faire oublier le « grand récit » structurant le capitalisme contemporain ; pour retrouver celui-ci, une piste pourrait être de reprendre le concept de « dispositif » mis en avant par Michel Foucault. Par ailleurs, il a été rappelé l’importance de ne pas occulter les rapports de force de l’analyse.
Sur ce point de la montée en généralité, la communication de Christian Bessy (IDHES ENS-Paris-Saclay) s’est avérée précieuse. Pour expliquer les transformations du capitalisme, l’économie des conventions est passée d’une économie de la qualité ou des mondes de production à une réflexion sur la valeur et le pouvoir de valorisation de certains acteurs économiques. De ce point de vue, l’ouvrage Enrichissement de Luc Boltanski et Arnaud Esquerre (2017) peut amener les économistes des conventions à approfondir les formes de mise en valeur des choses en mettant plus l’accent sur les nouvelles sources de profit et d’accumulation du capital que sur des jugements moraux renvoyant à différentes façons de fonder le bien commun.
A l’instar de celle de Christian Bessy, les différentes présentations ont souvent souligné la pluralité des valeurs, des rationalités et des formes de valorisation (ou des conventions de qualité) caractérisant les différentes facettes du capitalisme contemporain.
En ce qui concerne d’abord le secteur de l’économie sociale et solidaire, Philippe Semenowicz a souligné les objectifs apparemment contradictoires poursuivis par les Structures d’insertion par l’activité économique (SIAE) : viabilité financière, accomplissement de la production, mais également accompagnement vers le retour à l’emploi de populations marginalisées du marché du travail. Reprenant le concept de « convention constitutive d’entreprise » mise en avant par François Eymard-Duvernay, il montre alors que les SIAE reposent sur une convention constitutive civique, en faisant preuve d’un certain « volontarisme social ». La difficulté réside dans son articulation avec les principes marchand et industriel auxquels les SIAE sont également confrontées, qu’un compromis « civique-connexionniste » permet d’atténuer. Daniel Urrutiaguer (Passages XX-XXI, Université Lumière Lyon 2) montre lui aussi qu’il existe une pluralité de logiques d’action et d’évaluation, cette fois-ci dans les mondes du théâtre. On peut ainsi pointer l’évaluation artistique, connexionniste, civique ou encore marchande. La logique marchande entre souvent en hybridation avec une logique plus artistique ou civique, selon des mécanismes de solidarité financière qui prennent des formes différentes dans le monde du théâtre privé et dans celui du théâtre public.
Gaël Plumecocq (INRA, AGIR), dans son travail sur la théorie de la valeur de l’environnement, montre qu’il existe une pluralité de valeurs de l’environnement et non une seule telle que les économistes l’envisagent généralement sous la forme d’un prix2. Ici, la valeur est envisagée comme fondamentalement sociale (inséparable des processus d’évaluation) ; en particulier, l’évaluation a plusieurs effets politiques comme l’effacement de la nature au profit d’une « compensation financière » dans le cas où l’évaluation est monétaire. Camille Chaserant (CES, Université Paris 1) et Sophie Harnay (BETA, Université de Lorraine), dans leur présentation sur la déréglementation de la profession d’avocat, reviennent non pas sur la pluralité des valeurs mais sur la pluralité des conventions de qualité permettant de coordonner des activités de ces auxiliaires de justice. Elles s’appuient sur la théorie du cadrage de Lindenberg (1993) pour étudier les effets de l’ouverture à la concurrence des professions juridiques en Europe. Il apparaît alors que les régulations propres à chaque cabinet d’avocats conduisent à différents effets : on trouve par exemple un segment des cabinets « haute couture » où la logique prédominante est celle de l’innovation et où le renforcement de la logique marchande pourrait conduire à une hausse des prix comme effet de signal de la qualité. La diversité des conventions de qualité caractérisant les cabinets d’avocats a également été soulignée par Franck Bessis (Triangle, Université Lumière Lyon-2).
Durant les discussions, on a pu souligner notamment que l’économie des conventions s’avérait très heuristique pour comprendre les inégalités générées par le système économique contemporain et qui peuvent affecter certaines communautés partageant des expériences de dommage (ce qui rejoint la question des rapports de force mentionnée précédemment). Par exemple, certaines communautés affectées par des dégradations environnementales réussissent à faire la preuve d’impacts cumulatifs de polluants, en s’appuyant sur leurs savoirs locaux, et ainsi à faire respecter leurs droits individuels devant les tribunaux3.
Ces deux journées d’étude ont aussi été l’occasion de poser des questions méthodologiques quant à l’économie des conventions, à un niveau à la fois concret mais également au niveau de l’organisation du champ économique lui-même. En ce qui concerne la mise en pratique de l’économie des conventions, la présentation de Franck Bessis s’est attardée sur la « théorisation ancrée » (Glaser et Strauss, 1967) pour traiter des entretiens qualitatifs. Il s’agit en effet d’éviter le travers de « plaquer » le modèle des cités sur tous les sujets (ce qu’il qualifie de « conventionnalisme routinier »), tout comme celui d’avoir une lecture partiale de nos données de terrain, fondée sur la confirmation d’idées que nous avions déjà. Concrètement, cette théorie permet de lire plus systématiquement le matériau en le codant d’abord sous la forme d’étiquettes, puis de propriétés et enfin de catégories. Il s’agit alors de produire une montée en abstraction à partir des entretiens initiaux en se fondant sur des recoupements conceptuels. C’est une démarche similaire qui a permis de dégager les axes de la typologie des cabinets d’avocats et d’expliciter des liens entre conventions de qualité, représentation des dynamiques de marché et formes de réflexivité.
La table-tonde « Autour du Dictionnaire des conventions », réunissant Olivier Favereau (Université Paris Nanterre) et Rainer Diaz-Bone (Université de Lucerne), a quant à elle été concentrée sur la diffusion de l’économie des conventions. Ainsi, le manque de manuels en la matière a été souligné, malgré le livre de Rainer Diaz-Bone en allemand. Celui-ci marque le début d’une nouvelle série d’ouvrages, intitulée « Sociologie des conventions ». En français, le Dictionnaire des conventions est incontournable en la matière. Olivier Favereau a aussi dressé un panorama du paradigme conventionnaliste, en montrant comment ce dictionnaire vient prolonger deux essais de synthèse antérieurs (la première suite à l’article de la Revue économique de 1989 ; la seconde suite au livre collectif dirigé par François Eymard-Duvernay, L’économie des conventions. Méthodes et résultats de 2006).
Les discussions ont permis de soulever l’idée de séminaires communs sur l’économie des conventions ou de notre participation à des revues de langue anglaise avec des dossiers sur la « French theory ».
Ces interrogations concernant l’avenir et la légitimité de l’économie des conventions dans le monde académique sont revenues à de nombreuses reprises lors des discussions. En particulier, il a souvent été question du rapport entre conventionnalistes et régulationnistes. Christian Bessy a par exemple pu insister lors de sa présentation sur l’approche spécifique de l’économie des conventions, qui raisonne à partir de la pluralité des conventions d’évaluation, contrairement à l’économie de la régulation.
Plus largement, la deuxième table ronde intitulée « Quel avenir pour l’école des conventions ? » (il y a eu un débat sur la notion même « d’école » qui est loin de faire consensus) a été l’occasion de faire le point sur cette question. Elle a réuni Thomas Lamarche (Ladyss, Université Paris 7), André Orléan (CNRS) et Nicolas Postel (Clersé, Université de Lille) pour clôturer ces deux journées d’étude.
Thomas Lamarche a insisté sur l’importance de ne pas s’en tenir à la dimension macroéconomique, pour étudier également le niveau mésoéconomique et la façon dont celui-ci s’autonomise ou non. Il a aussi évoqué la possibilité d’étudier la « futurité », au sens de la projection dans l’avenir des acteurs.trices, qui peut notamment se traduire par des conventions, mais aussi des représentations, voire des confrontations (par exemple, qu’est-ce que recouvrira le terme « excellent » dans les universités d’excellence et qui le définira ?). Nicolas Postel de son côté a rappelé que l’avenir de l’économie des conventions n’était pas dans le mot « conventions », qui pose davantage de problèmes qu’il n’en résout. Il s’agit plutôt de parvenir à lier les problématiques de valeurs, de coordination, de reproduction et de rationalité pour comprendre les accords collectifs. En particulier, il nous faut désormais comprendre comment le capitalisme peut continuer et se réguler dans un contexte postérieur à celui de l’Etat nation. Pour clôturer ces journées, André Orléan a rappelé que l’économie des conventions s’intéressait à la question de la formation de collectifs hors du cadre de l’individualisme méthodologique. Suivant le philosophe John Searle, l’intentionnalité collective n’est pas réductible aux intentionnalités individuelles, ce qui confère une dimension conventionnelle aux faits institutionnels, au sens général d’un accord collectif. En cela, ce projet est au croisement de nombreuses disciplines (économie, philosophie, sociologie, anthropologie).
Soulignons enfin que ces journées d’étude ont également été l’occasion de nombreux moments de convivialité, formels ou informels, ce qui, à n’en pas douter, est essentiel à l’éclosion de nouvelles recherches futures.
Bessy Christian et Favereau Olivier, “Institutions et économie des conventions”, Cahiers d’économie politique 2003/1, N°44, pp. 119-164 [↩]
Pour l’anecdote, rappelons que la valeur de l’environnement a été évaluée en 1997 à 33 000 milliards de dollars par an, ce qui représente 1,8 fois le PIB mondial. En 2011, une nouvelle évaluation a estimé la valeur du système écosystémique à 130 000 milliards de dollars par an (ces chiffres sont disponibles ici). [↩]
Sur la question du développement de la « justice environnementale » aux Etats-Unis, voir Francis Chateauraynaud et Josquin Debaz, Aux bords de l’irréversible. Sociologie pragmatique des transformations, Editions PETRA, 2017. [↩]
Olivier Favereau (Université Paris-Nanterre et Collège des Bernardins)
Les 16 et 17 mars 2018 s’est tenu au Collège des Bernardins le 3ème et dernier colloque de la vaste recherche interdisciplinaire sur l’entreprise, qui avait démarré en 2009. Les deux précédents ont eu lieu en mai 2011 (dont les Actes ont été publiés : Baudoin Roger (éd.), L’entreprise, formes de la propriété et responsabilités sociales, éditions Lethielleux, 2012) et en novembre 2014 (pour une synthèse, cf. Olivier Favereau et Baudoin Roger, Penser l’entreprise : nouvel horizon du politique, Collège des Bernardins, Perspectives et Propositions, vol.5, 2015). Chaque fois il y a eu une partie « académique », suivie d’une demie-journée « société civile », où il est demandé à des responsables syndicaux, patronaux et politiques de réagir aux analyses et aux recommandations contenues dans les textes produits par l’équipe de recherche (pilotée par Baudoin Roger, professeur de théologie morale et d’anthropologie aux Bernardins et Olivier Favereau) .
Le point de départ de cette recherche qui aura mobilisé une cinquantaine de chercheurs d’au moins 5 sciences sociales (anthropologie, droit, économie, gestion, sociologie) était l’idée – due à Jean-Philippe Robé – que les actionnaires ne sont propriétaires ni de l’entreprise (l’organisation économique) ni de la société (l’entité fondée par les actionnaires et dotée de la personnalité juridique). Elle ruine le principe de la primauté actionnariale (share-holder value) qui structure l’approche dominante de la firme comme emboîtement de relations d’agence, partant des actionnaires pour aboutir aux salariés. Restait à en déployer toutes les conséquences et surtout à reconstruire une théorie positive de la firme. Le 3ème colloque rassemble une vingtaine de textes, tournant tous autour de l’idée que l’entreprise est l’institution politique de la création collective dans l’espace marchand.
Cette proposition théorique qui peut paraître fort générale et abstraite débouche sur deux implications institutionnelles précises, de surcroît en résonance immédiate avec le débat ouvert par le gouvernement sur une réforme de l’entreprise (de fait Jean-Dominique Sénard qui avait co-dirigé avec Nicole Notat la commission d’enquête faisait partie des responsables animant la partie « société civile » du colloque, avec, entre autres, Laurent Berger, secrétaire général de la CFDT, et Dominique Potier, député « Nouvelle Gauche », rapporteur de la Proposition Parlementaire de Loi « Entreprise nouvelle, nouvelles gouvernances »).
La 1ère est que la codétermination (c’est-à-dire le partage du Conseil d’Administration ou de Surveillance des Sociétés Anonymes entre représentants des actionnaires et des salariés) devrait être considérée comme la forme normale du gouvernement d’entreprise : à la fois la plus répandue (2/3 des pays membres de l’Union Européenne admettent des salariés dans leurs CA ou CS) et la seule justifiée théoriquement, dès lors que l’on intègre dans le raisonnement économique la différence entre « entreprise » et « société ». Cette thématique est développée sous une forme ou sous une autre, et à partir de points de vue multiples dans 15 textes, aujourd’hui disponibles (cf livret du colloque). Ces textes forment l’ossature d’un futur traité de la codétermination, à partir de l’économie, de la gestion, de l’histoire, de la philosophie politique et du droit.
La codétermination est la 1ère traduction logique du caractère « politique » de l’institution « entreprise ». Elle étend clairement l’exigence démocratique aux relations entre les trois parties « constituantes » de l’entreprise que sont le capital, le travail et le management. Le plus étonnant est qu’une pratique bien plus répandue en Europe que le modèle actionnarial ait été si peu théorisée.
La 2nde implication du caractère « politique » procède du potentiel de création collective qu’incarne l’entreprise. Historiquement, il a transformé le monde dans lequel on vit, depuis la fin du 19ème siècle, à travers de nouveaux produits, de nouvelles technologies, de nouvelles organisations, de nouvelles conceptions du travail et de l’activité, etc. Cette puissance de transformation ne peut laisser les pouvoirs publics indifférents. Mais, de façon plus surprenante, cette impossibilité de l’indifférence fonctionne aussi dans l’autre sens : bien au-delà (ou bien en amont) du mouvement de Responsabilité Sociale et Environnementale, des préoccupations relatives au bien commun ont souvent été intégrées dans les projets d’entreprise, à côté de l’objectif du profit. Le moment est venu de consacrer institutionnellement ce constat empirique (souligné par les historiens de la gestion) en donnant un statut aux « entreprises à mission » ou aux « sociétés à Objet Social Etendu ». Cela restaurerait une forme de continuité entre les firmes standard et l’Economie Sociale et Solidaire. Cette thématique – avec son impact sur la conception de l’actionnaire et sur celle du dirigeant – a donné lieu à une demie-douzaine d’exposés.
La complémentarité entre les deux recommandations est évidente, même si l’une passe par une norme contraignante, tandis que l’autre crée un statut optionnel. L’une et l’autre refondent le fonctionnement collectif de l’entreprise, sur un intérêt plus général, défini de façon soit plutôt procédurale (codétermination), soit plutôt substantielle (mission).
L’ensemble de ces travaux constitue un matériau empirique ou analytique d’une richesse, qui le prédispose naturellement à une exploitation selon les méthodes de l’économie des conventions. Pour deux raisons : d’abord l’interaction entre les disciplines se situe à un niveau de profondeur inhabituel, qui affecte leur fonctionnement propre (spécialement droit et économie, mais aussi gestion et histoire) ; ensuite, conformément à la grammaire dégagée par Boltanski et Thévenot, il est impossible de ne pas tenir compte du normatif dans l’explication des pratiques d’entreprise.
Deux textes, aux deux extrémités de cette longue recherche collective, se réfèrent ouvertement explicitement à l’économie des conventions :
François Eymard-Duvernay, lors de Bernardins 1 (Cf. « Le travail dans l’entreprise : pour une démocratisation des pouvoirs de valorisation », chap. 3 in Baudoin Roger (dir.), ouv.cité) avait proposé d’analyser l’économie comme une architecture de « pouvoirs de valorisation » – l’entreprise devenant dans cette vision le lieu principal où se fixe (et se transforme) cette architecture.
Olivier Favereau , dans son texte de Bernardins 3 « la codétermination est la forme normale du gouvernement d’entreprise », montre que la distinction société/entreprise pose un problème de coordination qui est insoluble en droit et qu’il faut cependant résoudre impérativement en pratique. Cette contradiction est rendue gérable pragmatiquement par des conventions, dont on peut reconstituer l’historique (le Fordisme, puis la primauté actionnariale) et que l’on peut évaluer normativement : la primauté actionnariale est une « mauvaise » convention, la codétermination serait une meilleure convention. Ce texte doit être lu en complément de « Société par nécessité, entreprise par convention » (Colloque de Cerisy, in : Blanche Segrestin, Baudoin Roger & Stéphane Vernac (dir.), L’entreprise point aveugle du savoir, éditions Sciences Humaines, 2014), et L’impact de la financiarisation de l’économie sur les entreprises et plus particulièrement sur les relations de travail, Rapport pour l’OIT, octobre 2016. Dans ce dernier rapport, est introduite la notion de « régimes d’intersubjectivité et de normativité », qui permet de caractériser les formes stabilisées d’ « architecture de pouvoirs de valorisation ». Le lien est établi avec la démarche pionnière de François, Eymard-Duvernay.
Pour l’avenir : il faudra que des chercheurs s’intéressent au traitement, dans cette grille d’analyse, de la notion de « mission » (textes à venir de Hatchuel, Segrestin, Levillain) ; de même il faudra aborder la question fondamentale du langage comptable (textes disponibles de Bachet, Charolles, Richard, Rambaud), paradigme n°2 des conventions, le paradigme n°1 étant le droit !
Elisabeth Späth (Furtwangen University) & Valeska Cappel (University of Lucerne)
A two-day symposium on “Digital Self-Tracking: Between Empowerment and New Barriers“, organized by the Schader-Stiftung and Furtwangen University, took place from 17.-18. April 2018 at the Schader-Forum in Darmstadt, Germany. The symposium was initiated by Stefan Selke, Johannes Achatz and Elisabeth Späth, who are examining the ethical aspects of digital self-tracking in the research project VALID (see project description, in German). The idea to start this symposium was to meet project partners as well leading experts in the field of self-tracking in order to exchange views on current self-tracking practices and their potential to create (more or less) barriers and empowerment of patients. Following the foundation’s motto “Dialogue between Social Sciences and Practice“, experts from a wide range of scientific disciplines (sociology, ethics, health and culture sciences, and medicine) and specific fields of practice, such as patient participation, health insurances, development and certification of health-apps, were invited. This motto was also reflected in the symposium’s structure by providing presentations of ongoing and completed projects as well as four workshops.
On the first day, Stefan Selke welcomed all guests, introducing the VALID project. Discussions on concepts and ideas on sampling criteria were led by scientific advisory board member Claudia Bozzaro (University Freiburg). Gerrit Fröhlich (University Trier) presented their on-going project “Reflexive Self-Scientificization” („Reflexive Selbstverwissenschaftlichung”) on lay-people’s perspective on as well as experiences with diet-tracking apps, pointing out that they try to minimize subjective impact on estimating their well-being/health status (“they make the world a laboratory“). Highlighting relevant insights from a completed project, Nils Heyen (Fraunhofer-Institut ISI Karlsruhe) introduced the prosumer approach, which captures the idea that the self-tracker is producer and consumer of “knowledge“. Furthermore, he shed light on the “future(s)“ of self-tracking by applying a scenario-methodology to current practices and projecting possible societal consequences of self-tracking activities. After a coffee-break, participants split up to attend workshops on “Data and Performance/Achievement“ given by Jana Wegener (Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen) and “Data and Barriers“ given by Peter Langkafel (Healthcubator GmbH). On the following day, two sub-projects of the VALID project were presented: Christof Dame (Charité Berlin, Neonatologie) gave interesting insights into practices of data tracking/monitoring done by parents regarding their premature infants, calling to “track“ and interpret the interaction between father, mother and infant (e. g. bonding). Melike Sahinol (Orient-Institut Istanbul) gave an overview of her research topics, such as human enhancement and cultural meanings of human interventions in bodies, with specific regard to regulations in Turkey, and addressed the particular methodological challenge to conduct interviews with vulnerable groups (here: children with 3D-printed prostheses). After a lunch break, Christina Westphal emphasized in her workshop on “Data and Measuring“ the pitfalls of defining “good“ – in a quality- and ethics-related sense – criteria for the certification of health-apps. Manuela Pfinder (AOK Baden-Württemberg, department of health promotion) presented the pay-as-you-live tariff model from a health insurance perspective. Exemplifying the interface between theory and practice, Sylvia Sänger (University of Applied Health Sciences, Campus Gera) gave an empirical-analytical account on whether the health care system empowers or rather hinders patients to be “health literates“. In respect to evaluating where to “place“ digital self-tracking on a spectrum between empowerment new barriers, she posed the question of how knowledge can be shared so that everyone can benefit from and contribute to knowledge production at the same time.
In the following, we want to highlight the talks specifically revolving around the economy of conventions (EC) as well as related topics. Valeska Cappel (University of Lucerne) gave a theoretical introduction on the EC to illustrate the benefit of conventionalist thinking in the field of self-tracking. She presented some main concepts of the EC, like the investments in forms, to show how this theoretical frame can help as a methodological approach to start empirical research for analyzing preventive health-apps. The EC hereby serves as a useful approach to grasp the variety and normativity of the situation. In her presentation she focused on the question of the genesis of classifications in preventive health apps and the situational practice. Her empirical research involves qualitative expert interviews, focus groups with different actors from the health sector as well as an artefact analysis. Interestingly, a guest compared the theory of EC with the design thinking approach, because it, too, essentially falls back onto non-hierarchical thinking and exchanging different motives, which might be particularly relevant for a developer’s perspectives. An important aspect was raised in respect to the methodological approach as one should distinguish between an interviewee’s verbal response and their actual behavior. This might be an important hint in the context of analyzing how people justify their behavior, indicating the challenge especially in the field of self-tracking, to get into the situation of visible orders of justification.
Drawing from interviews with self-tracking people, Karolin Kappler (University Hagen) illustrated different types of ambivalences evolving from self-tracking practices in her talk on the habitualization of the body-subjective body relationship („Körper-Leib Habitualisierung“). One type of ambivalence she highlighted lies in the “confusion“ of the relationship between well-being and counting calories; against the supposing benefit of self-tracking by structure and self-monitoring, it is not that clear that self-tracking really does good to one’s health and well-being. Although the data recommended to eat more or less calories, the interviewees explained in some cases, they physically speaking do not feel well after following this advice and prefer to act in a different way. Through qualitative interviews with self-trackers, she caved out the orders of justifications in regard to the use of self-tracking apps. She emphasized self-care as a new form of order of justification: the practice of self-tracking brings a certain type of valence to the fore in the sense that it is “good“ to “be able to take care after oneself“. In this light, theories on individualism and hedonism may gain new relevance in the study of digital self-tracking. An important open question she raised was directed towards which kind of understanding of common good is compatible with this new self-care order of justification.
Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne) subsequently gave a stimulating overview of the EC and its main concepts, introducing pragmatism, and structuralism as a form of megaparadigm to frame the EC; following this line of thought, conventions are seen as logics of coordination, which fall back onto certain values and practices. Diaz-Bone brought in John Dewey’s process philosophy, which serves as a useful additional insight into EC, taking reality as constantly-changing entity and, with it, changing values and habits.
From an ethical perspective, EC may be relevant because this theory shows that situations are characterized through a plurality of normativities: actors, objects and dispositives are involved in mobilizing specific valences, valuations and qualities in situations. Therefore, quantification is always based on normative fundamentals. The insights provided by the EC basically demand to look at the genesis of data production and question the situational definition of health, to be able to understand how these quantifications and classifications are invented and who exactly pushes a certain view, or like Alain Desrosières said: “Quantification means to invent a convention first and measure then”. Diaz-Bone emphasized that the starting point of the research concerning self-tracking should not focus on the data itself, but rather on the initiation of the process of the data formation.
In the light of the different ambivalences concerning the potentials, and downsides coming along with digital self-tracking, we may repeat Karolin Kappler’s illustrative quote at the very end of her presentation: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.“ (Albert Einstein)
School systems in France and Germany are very different in their historical development and institutional characteristics. Nevertheless, in times of growing pluralization, both systems must respond to similar challenges and contradictions. On the one hand, school is supposed to guarantee political integration and socio-economic insertion as well as creating cooperation in classrooms. On the other hand, teachers and students are exposed to a vast number of discourses about social challenges, held by society, economy, government and politics. How can school under these conditions still be the essence of what a nation wants to transmit culturally, and how can social integration take place? Consequently, teachers and students are constantly confronted with various expectations and dilemma-situations in the classroom. To stabilize their domain-specific acting, teachers have to make use of specific conventions and justifications. Especially in the domain of civic education, performative justifications regarding society, economy and politics are permanently demanded from the teachers. But, are these conventions and justifications they use the same in France and Germany? How do civic education teachers refer to the social scientific discourse? Do they use devices in a different manner?
Andrea Szukala (Münster University), Claude Proeschel (Université de Lorraine/ GSRL/EHESS) and Reinhold Hedtke (Bielefeld University) initiated a workshop from 7th to 8th December 2017 at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris that aimed to open new theoretical and methodological perspectives on civic education and social integration in France and Germany.
Experts from France, Germany and Switzerland in the fields of Civic and Social Science Education, Sociology of Conventions, Methodology and Sociology of Education were brought into a scientific exchange to discuss new ways to carry out a comparative analysis that goes beyond a holistic description of citizenship models and school systems by making use of the Sociology of Conventions.
Claude Proeschel and Reinhold Hedtke opened the first session of the workshop by presenting and discussing the idea to make use of the Sociology of Conventions to compare citizenship education in France and Germany. They identified three research directions that would be interesting to follow in a comparative study of civic education in France and Germany: Situations, Practices and Professional Conventions.
Subsequently Rainer Diaz-Bone (University of Lucerne) introduced the participants of the workshop into neopragmatism and explained pragmatist and neopragmatist perspectives on civic education and comparative studies. Furthermore, he elaborated on how methodological situationalism, which uses situations as analytic and interpretive unit, could be used in comparative studies.
The first day of the workshop ended on a contribution from Jean-Louis Derouet (École Normale Supérieure de Lyon). He explained how, in the transition from the 20th to the 21st century, a certain number of “great divisions” that founded the modern age were called into question: the division between the normal and the pathological, between scientific, religious and indigenous knowledge, between man and nature, humans and non-humans. A certain number of these divisions are taken into consideration by the now prevailing idea of integrative societies. This also affected the education policy in France: many attempts were made to develop new conventional systems that would consider the differences of students, for example regarding handicaps, sex, culture, religion or talent.
The workshop session on Friday morning started with a talk by Tobias Röhl (Siegen University). He gave some practical methodological insights into how ethnographic research could be used for classroom studies and explained how material things (like chalk, books, an experimental toolkit or a blackboard) contribute to the formation of knowledge in the classroom.
Géraldine Bozec (Université Nice Sophia-Antipolis) pointed out in her talk that it would be interesting to look at the routines of civic education that are constantly take place in the classrooms. But she also expressed the objection that routines, which seem to stabilize civic education, might make it difficult to observe situations of crisis and conflict in which performative justifications of the teachers are inevitable. In this case, a binational perspective might help to identify, deconstruct and analyze situations and conventions that were not taken into consideration before because they seemed to be self-evident for the biased “local” researchers.
Anne-Claire Husser (École Supérieure du Professorat et de l’Éducation de Lyon) enriched the workshop by presenting the state of research on civic education in France. She explained that there is a lot of theoretical and historical research, but very little scientific insights on the process and the situations of teaching.
The workshop was closed by Andrea Szukala who gave a short introduction into the structures, traditions and challenges for citizenship education in schools and civic education research in Germany. During the past years, citizenship education in German schools has not only undergone a process of economization and globalization, but it has also been didactically over-stabilized. In the context of the new materialistic sociology of education, she raised questions about how professional actors and learners define critical classroom situations and how they use devices to enhance teacher-learner cooperation and communication about citizenship and belonging. The workshop gathered new perspectives on agency in the social scientific classroom and highlighted the urgent need for more comparative analysis adopting a materialistic and pragmatist vision of domain specific educational processes to better understand the stabilization and justification of the “social” in the social scientific classroom.
This Franco-German workshop was co-financed by the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst), Bureau Paris
During last semester’s social research and methods lectures at the University of Lucerne, three presentations were given that relied heavily on convention theory (EC). Two of the researchers, who gave a speech, applied the theory in the realm of educational research—Leemann’s methodological considerations and Horvath’s presentation of his post-doc research—while Cappel is focusing on the subject of digitalisation and health in her PhD project.
Regula Leemann (FHNW Basel): “The Sociology of Conventions in Social Science’s Educational Research: Methodological Considerations and Experiences”
Regula Leemann presented her approach to EC in the educational research for the “Kolloquium Sozialforschung”, the social research and methods lecture series at University of Lucerne. The former primary school teacher and now professor for educational sociology has been one of the most visible EC theorists in Switzerland. Consistent with the focus of the lectures, Leeman talked about methodological issues related to a study she did a while ago. After a commissioned evaluation of a school gender day—a future career day intended to question/re-think gender-typical job images—, she used the collected data for a secondary study.
The establishing of this gender day, she argued, could be viewed as a critical moment with two situations to analyze. On one hand, there were the individual reactions of teachers and school representatives in the conducted group interviews. On the other hand, the specific situation the schools applied to establish the day could be analysed as well. Through this example study, Leemann presented various EC concepts as well as how she applied them, what methodological challenges arose and how she dealt with the challenges through formulating methodological rules for herself. Not least, Leemann also re-formulated a neoinstitutionalist isomorphism thesis of adopting such a gender day. She was able to locate the establishment of the gender day on the level of the actors as wells as their justifications—therefore living up to EC’s combination of pragmatism and structuralism. Leemann went on to present her methodological rules for the EC concepts she used in her secondary analysis of the gender day. With the idea of a plurality of the conventions, she put the role of the researcher itself into perspective, as also her judgments (within the evaluation) should use the justifications given—and not prior normative starting points. With the ideas of justice and justesse, she stressed the fact that not only intense moments during group discussions should be of interest, but also the ones, were sought-after reactions from the participants didn’t occur. With EC’s demand for an extended actor concept, Leemann also present the limits of her secondary analysis—as she was not able to go beyond a few central actors (teachers and school officials). The discussion that followed her presentation mostly centred on the connection between the domestic convention and questions of gender. Are certain justifications via the domestic convention outdated if it comes to gender? (A discussant pointed out this article for further insights: see Talahite 2011). Or are there possibilities to imagine different gender roles (e.g. non-binary and non-stereotypical) with the domestic convention? Another aspect of the discussion brought forward that within the educational sector especially, certain conventions seem to have unchallenged notions—be it always unproblematic (civic conventions), problematic (domestic convention) or for the most part never questioned (industrial convention) like with the example of the notion of ‘fit’ students shows. Leemann’s presentation not only showed the importance of such detailed conventional question, but also their very specific methodological relevance.
Kenneth Horvath (University of Lucerne): “Measuring Educational Classification Knowledge”
For the second EC related presentation in the “Kolloquium Sozialforschung”, Kenneth Horvath presented first ideas for his post-doc research projects. Since August 2017, Horvath is working at the University of Lucerne as a post-doc researcher at Sociology’s chair for qualitative and quantitative methods. Before that, he held a position at the Karlsruhe University of Education—where he extended his former studies on migration to education, which also will be the subject for his upcoming research. He’s move to Switzerland reflects this shift not least again, if one considering EC strong position in educational issues amongst Swiss researchers. In the lecture (see Horvath et al. 2017), Horvath first presented his own starting point, moving from issues of migration to education, as he has been dealing with research topics such as children with migration background and highly gifted children.
The connected questions to those two topics are related to educational inequality and educational classification knowledge. Horvath named the three major approaches to the question of inequality in education: competencies and educational research, ethnographic studies in education as well as the institutional discrimination theory. All of these three approaches, he summed up, are having troubles dealing with the relationship of structure and practice and argue from an inner-educational standpoint when explaining inequality. Educational classification knowledge as used by teachers themselves on the other hand, is very much an interface between such insider and more broader knowledge—and therefore connected to wider issues to answer inequality within education. With examples of transcripts from recent qualitative interviews (where teachers had to describe their classes), Horvath then went on to explain his idea of classification knowledge through the descriptions the teachers made of their pupils. These descriptions did not only evaluate the students and their respective skills in schools, but also tried to explain why each child acted and performed the way it did. All those descriptions were in term related to certain justifications and used certain categorisations—but they did not only relate to pedagogical realms. Especially when the teachers went beyond a mere reason of their evaluation and classification to an understanding of the child, a change from justification to a regime of familiarity took place. The question for Horvath is how to measure and to quantify the knowledge that teachers use, also in their own quantifications. Other approaches (mostly the competence paradigm) are using Likert-scales to measure such classification knowledge, while somewhat ignoring the scale’s background to measure political views and possible social desirability issues. Dissatisfied with Liker-scale measurements, Horvath tries to approach the classification from a more experimental-setting—following Boltanski’s and Thévenot’s study (1983). To finish his presentation, he introduced two ideas to measure educational classification knowledge that he is currently considering. Unlike Boltanski’s and Thévenot’s experiment, Horvath would like to work quantitative. He thus presented first the idea of factorial surveys, where participants need to choose between descriptions (vignettes) in somewhat dilemma like situations ( Horvath referred to MIT’s Moral Machine (http://moralmachine.mit.edu/) and wiki surveys as an inspiration for the factorial survey). Especially interesting for Horvath would be a way to give the teachers a possibility to re-integrate their own descriptions in the survey. This first idea was all about adding an experiment like quality to a quantitative survey. His second idea to measure educational classification knowledge would be to make use of the active community of teachers in online forums. In scraping these forums, he should be able to get a solid data foundation to quantify the teachers’ classification knowledge and therefore—as with the idea of the factorial survey—get insights into the way they not only justify their evaluation of the pupils but also their descriptions of and explanations for pupils. The discussion following Horvath’s presentation started with the issues of the teachers’ self-awareness (in theoretical topics related to their work) and possible self-portrayal—and which of the two methods would be more prone to this issues. As Horvath argued, he is also very much interested in these mechanisms—not the teacher as a private, but as professional person is the focus of the research. Further discussions were concerned with how to move away from a mere discovery approach (and therefore structuralism) to explaining the processes at hand in a different way. Within this discussing, Horvath referred to the category of migration and how it is applied within the teachers’ differentiating knowledge. The ideas Horvath presented were not only interesting for their use of EC as an alternative to existing approaches in pedagogic and school settings, but because of the fact how he is aiming at categorisations and quantifications as well as the way they are the established (within and outside of a pedagogical realm) and used. The methodological ideas he presented to approach this kind of meta-perspective on the process of educational classification knowledge added another interesting level to an already worthwhile idea and presentation.
Valeska Cappel (University of Lucerne): “Health Apps – An Investment in Form for a Digital Health Condition?”
For the third EC-related (and final) presentation in the “Kolloquium Sozialforschung”, Valeska Cappel presented her project on health apps. Cappel started with her PHD this year at the University of Lucerne and for the lecture, she gave some first insights into the conceptual work she did so far. The health apps that are the focus of Cappel’s PhD project act as preventive data trackers (in contrast to certain programs for specific diseases)—such as “fitbit” or Swiss medical insurance CSS’ “myStep”. She described three particular developments related to the health trackers. First, the general usage of those apps seems to increase and they therefore gain social science’s interest more and more. However, a general focus of studies on those apps deals with motivation of usage, mostly ignoring wider consequences of such usage. Second, a new kind of interconnectedness related to (preventive) health issues takes place: between a scientific and a commercial field, individuals, welfare state and more. The recent law of the electronic patient dossier (“Gesetzgebung Elektronisches Patientendossier”) in Switzerland is an example of how also legislation needs to deal with such an interconnectedness. Finally yet importantly, the apps seem to introduce new preventive vital parameters that are quantifying every-day actions for health purposes. Against the background of those three developments and the emerged situations, Cappel wants to ask what categories and standardisations are introduced via the apps and what logics are at work. The reason she chose EC as her theoretical framework is that not an actors’ perspective is what is of interest, but how those apps are working in situations, how an interplay between physicalness and material is taking place. The central EC concept—as the title suggests—are investments in form and how apps achieve new investments and initiate coordination. In addition, the quality conventions are at play as Cappel exemplified by the “myStep” app. From the market convention, such an app is a unique feature for the health insurance company—while for its users it is a way to pay less for their insurance. Both sides are therefore primary concerned with other issues than health itself. Her empirical work as she outlined it during the presentation would include expert-interviews with health related actors (e.g. doctors, patients, developers of the apps …) accompanied by document analysis and a qualitative experiment. In the experiment, participants should develop/discuss a new health app or a new preventive health course and defend one option in a group setting. While the first approach would describe the general situation of the apps and the references being made in those situations, the experimental part would show in which situations the apps are actually working. Cappel ended her presentation with some open questions regarding her PHD project. Are those health apps just another example of a digitalisation of classification? Alternatively, is there something genuinely new happening on a cognitive level related to health? Also, the question of whether such a digitalisation is actually working and having consequences is one that needs to be addressed. The discussion that followed this last presentation of the colloquium was mainly concerned with a deepened understanding of Cappel’s research interest. In addition, some more specific issues such as how change (through the health apps) can be integrated and addressed in her methodological framework or whether health apps (as a health practice of quantification) are actually something new. Overall, Cappel’s PhD project promises already in its early stage interesting insights into digitalisation, classification and health—not at least through the application of EC.
Boltanski, Luc, and Laurent Thévenot. 1983. “Finding one’s way in social space” study. Social Science Information. 22(4/5), pp. 631- 680.
Boltanski, Luc, and Laurent Thévenot. 1999. “The Sociology of Critical Capacity.“ European Journal of Social Theory 2(3), pp. 359-377.
Horvath, Kenneth, Anna Amelina, and Karin Peters (eds.) (2017): Migration regimes in the spotlight: The politics of migration in an age of uncertainty. Special issue of Migration Studies 5(3).
Talahite, Fatiha. 2011. “L’engendrement chez Luc Boltanski et Pierre Legendre: lectures croisées.“ Enfances, Familles, Generations. 14, pp. 113-138.
The educational field is heavily affected by the societal transformations that have marked the past decades. Educational and training projects face complex and contested social constellations, marked by increasing diversity as well as intense political debates. The tension between an egalitarian perspective of democratic equality and a meritocratic focus on performance which dominated educational discourses after WWII is today accompanied by and linked to newly emerging definitions of the common good. New and old divisions and inequalities co-exist and seem to be permanently rearranged: migration and citizenship, religion and the divide between science and faith, the relations between humans and nature, the definition of sexual identities …
Jean-Emile Charlier (Catholic University of Louvain), Sarah Croché (Université de Picardie), and Jean-Louis Derouet (Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon) are currently running an international seminar that aims to further our understanding of these developments. This seminar aims to bring specialists from different subjects and different disciplines into dialogue in order to identify important challenges and analyze current dynamics. The first meeting of this seminar took place from 30 November to 01 December 2017 at the University de Picardie in Amiens, with established and younger scholars from different backgrounds as well as around a dozen students taking part.
The focus of this first meeting was on inclusive education and systems of classification, i.e. on how differences are construed, acknowledged and dealt with in educational contexts. There were two thematic sessions. The first session on Thursday afternoon discussed the inclusion of students with “special needs”. Serge Ebersold (Centre National des Arts et Métiers) discussed the interrelations between normative orders, ideas of normality, processes of institutionalisation, and the construal of “handicapped students”. Accessibility and handicap need to be seen as complex local outcomes that defy any simple definition. Analyzing and handling them hence requires that we understand the interplay of symbolic universes, inclusive politics of education, and practical conditions that structure educational situations in given local contexts.
The second thematic session on Friday morning moved to the issue of migration. Kenneth Horvath (University of Lucerne) discussed the implications of recent transformations of Western European migration regimes for educational practices. The common emphasis on cultural difference and identity neglects important other issues that directly affect educational situations as well as the forms in which teachers define and handle them. The massive politicization and the stratification of migration are two of the issues that have important consequences for everyday educational practices. New forms of critical dialogue between educational professionals and social sciences are needed in order to deal with the complex challenges that arise and that render teachers permanently on the brink of “illegitimacy”.
The seminar will be continued over the coming months. The main objective is to create a space of encounter and confrontation that not only spans different social science disciplines but also thematic areas and geographic regions, from the global North to the global South. Concepts and heuristics developed in the context of the Economie des conventions (EC) provide a promising ground for discussing the questions that arise and relating them to each other. EC concepts have been applied to educational systems from the late 1980s onwards. They have, inter alia, proven fruitful to capture interplay of local pedagogical coordination and societal conventions that inform everyday practices of educational classification and evaluation. In turn, educational contexts provide a dynamic and multi-faceted field of research that may allow to develop and refine EC’s theoretical frameworks.
Le mercredi 4 octobre 2017 s’est déroulé à Paris la remise de la Légion d’honneur à André Orléan, une des grandes figures de la pensée économique française, qui a profondément transformé la compréhension que nous avons de la monnaie et de la valeur. Pour l’école des conventions, il est en particulier un des auteurs du numéro spécial de la Revue économique (1989) « Économie des conventions ».
La cérémonie a eu lieu après le Conseil d’administration de l’Association Française d’Économie Politique (AFEP), organisation professionnelle destinée à défendre le pluralisme des approches en économie, dans un contexte difficile où certains collègues en appellent ouvertement à se « débarrasser » des hétérodoxes. La proximité des deux évènements n’est pas un hasard puisqu’après avoir été président de l’association entre 2009 et 2017 André Orléan a demandé à recevoir cette distinction auprès de ses amis de l’AFEP. Notons au passage que la présidence de l’association reste très proche de l’école des conventions dans la mesure où une spécialiste des conventions de quantification, Florence Jany-Catrice, a succédé à un spécialiste des conventions financières.
La remise de la Légion d’honneur a été l’occasion pour Florence Jany-Catrice de rappeler le parcours exceptionnel d’André Orléan, raconté telle une longue fresque faite de rencontres et d’engagements. Par ses travaux, il est l’un des plus grands contributeurs du rapprochement des deux grandes écoles hétérodoxes françaises, l’économie des convention et l’école de la régulation, ce qui a été rappelé à travers les discours émouvants de Michel Aglietta, Robert Boyer et Jean-Pierre Dupuy. Ce rôle structurant dans l’institutionnalisme français est également empreint d’une volonté de transmission dont témoigne sa contribution à la création et au développement du master « Économie des institutions ». La place d’André Orléan dans le champ académique français est difficile à résumer en peu de mots mais elle s’est vue à travers le rassemblement des chercheurs présents, de tout âge, universitaires ou non, et membres des différentes écoles de l’institutionnalisme économique.