Archives de catégorie : Publications

Education and Conventions

Christian Imdorf & Regula Julia Leemann (2023)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. This contribution provides a research overview of how the economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC) are applied in the field of education. It reviews European research from various disciplines like sociology, educational sciences, science studies, political science, and social work. The empirical studies cover institutions such as schools, vocational education and training, and higher or adult education; topics such as the transition from school to work, curricula, or professional practices; challenges such as inequalities or digitization; or phenomena like governance and reform in education. After an introduction that summarizes the main methodological differences to common theoretical approaches in educational sociology, the review continues by systematizing conventions in education on the basis of the work of, among others, Luc Boltanski, Laurent Thévenot, and Jean-Louis Derouet. The chapter then proposes three complementary approaches to convention theory in the field of education. The first perspective understands conventions as orders of justification and principles of justice. It serves to analyze how inequality is performed, how justice is disputed, and how inclusion is justified. The second approach conceptualizes conventions as orders of worth and principles of quality. It allows to understand how quality comes into being through (e)valuation and how recruiting and selection of students is enacted by practices of classification. The third view conceives of conventions as grammars of action and forms of coordination. It provides a path toward explaining processes of educational institutionalization and resistance to organizational reforms or mechanisms of educational governance. The chapter concludes with some reflections on the general potential of EC/SC for educational research and on future lines of empirical, theoretical, and methodological work.

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Law in Convention Theory: Regulation in Regularities

Christian Bessy & Claude Didry (2023)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. Law has been considered in the approach of economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC) as a tool enabling the actors to consolidate the regularity they aim for in their coordination. The first part presents the specific perspective on law that EC/SC develops, renewing institutionalist approaches in economics and sociology. It underlines the distinction between legal rules and behaviors, and suggests a conception of law as a frame for collective actions. The second part analyzes the place of law in economics and sociology of conventions as it emerges in the first works of this approach, and evokes the conception of law as an investment in form. The third part considers court action as a possible break in the continuity of conventions, from a “regime of adjusted actions” to a “regime of dispute in justice.” The fourth part sheds light on the historical dynamics of law, using the example of labor law in a perspective of several “worlds of law.” The fifth part presents the critical character of recent research, in face of the neoliberal de-institutionalization.

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„Eigentlich war es immer sonnenklar.“ Zur Invisibilisierung von formaler Organisation in Bewertungspraktiken

It was pretty much always clear as daylight.” On the invisibilization of formal organization in valuation practices

Gabriele Wagner, Juan S. Guse & Monika Hasenbruch, (2023)

Berliner Journal für Soziologie, Online first. Open access

Zusammenfassung. Der Beitrag knüpft an eine aktuelle Debatte in der Bewertungssoziologie an, indem er sich der soziologischen Modellierung von Transsituativität in Bewertungspraktiken widmet. Während bisherige bewertungssoziologische Arbeiten mehrheitlich ihren Fokus auf spezifische Situationen legen, in denen Akteur:innen intersubjektiv aushandeln, was warum wie wertvoll ist, plädiert der Beitrag für den analytischen Gewinn eines organisationssoziologischen Zugangs. Formale Organisation, so wird gezeigt, setzt durch das Bereitstellen von Personen, Regeln und Infrastrukturen transsituative Wechselwirkungen zwischen den beteiligten Akteur:innen in Gang, die Bewertungsentscheidungen grundlegend prägen – und zwar in einer Weise, die nur im Kontext formaler Organisation möglich ist. Empirische Grundlage des Beitrags ist eine Studie zu Auswahlverfahren an zwei renommierten Kunsthochschulen. Anhand dieser Studie wird verdeutlicht, wie im Kontext formaler Organisation gegensätzliche Wertlogiken – in diesem Fall von Auswahlkommission und Verwaltung – trotz aller behaupteter Rivalitäten konfliktvermeidendend verwoben werden. Das Fazit lautet, dass Bewertungen sich im Kontext formaler Organisation nur nach außen überhaupt nur als „Situationen“ darstellen, indem ihre inhärente Organisationsförmigkeit von den Beteiligten gekonnt unsichtbar gehalten wird – und zwar mit den Mitteln der formalen Organisation.

Abstract. The article ties in with a current debate in the sociology of valuation by addressing the sociological modeling of transsituativity in valuation practices. While previous work has mostly focused on specific situations in which actors intersubjectively negotiate what is valuable and how and why, the paper advocates the analytical gain of an organizational sociology approach. It demonstrates that formal organization, by providing people, rules, and infrastructure, initiates transsituative interactions between involved actors that fundamentally shape valuation decisions—in a way that is possible only in the context of formal organization. The empirical basis of the article is a study on selection procedures at two renowned art schools. Based on this study, it is shown how, in the context of formal organization, opposing logics of value—in this case those of the selection committee vs. those of the administration—are interwoven in a conflict-avoiding manner despite all alleged rivalries. Against this background, the article concludes that valuations in the context of formal organization present themselves as “situations” only because their inherent organizational form is skillfully kept invisible by the participants—with the means of formal organization.

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The Structure of Common Sense and Its Relation to Engagement and Social Change – A Pragmatist Account

Srđan Prodanović (2022)

Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 51(3), pp. 211-226. Open access.

Abstract. There are three approaches one can take toward the epistemic value of common sense. The pessimists will argue that common sense, due to its intrinsic tendency to reproduce prejudice and ideology, should somehow be displaced. Conversely, the optimist will maintain that common sense is a valuable type of knowledge because it prevents us from overlooking evident practical problems. This article aims to show that (a) neither of these two widespread accounts can explain why public invocation of common sense is, in fact, a reliable indicator that the reproduction of norms and rules of a given society is in crisis, and is therefore essentially a call for social engagement. And, more importantly, that (b) only the third, pragmatist approach to common sense can provide insight into its structure. This more diversified and interdisciplinary view can, in turn, shed new light on the relation between everyday knowledge and social theory.

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Towards an ontology of contemporary reality?

Simon Susen (2023)

Theory, Culture and Society. Special Section: Boltanski-Esquerre on Enrichment, Online first, open access

Abstract. The main purpose of this paper is to provide a critical overview of the key contributions made by Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre in Qu’est-ce que l’actualité politique? Événements et opinions aux XXIe siècle. Whereas Enrichment: A Critique of Commodities is essentially a study in economic sociology, Boltanski and Esquerre’s latest book reflects a shift in emphasis towards political sociology. As demonstrated in this paper, their inquiry into the ontologie de l’actualité – that is, the ontology of contemporary reality – contains valuable insights into the relationship between the production, circulation, and consumption of news, on the one hand, and the emergence of processes of politicization, on the other. The first half of this paper comprises a summary of the central arguments developed in Boltanski and Esquerre’s investigation, before moving, in the second half, to an assessment of its most significant limitations.

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‘Enrichment’ as a Pragmatist and Structuralist Contribution to Economic Sociology: Perspectives on the Approach of Economics and Sociology of Conventions

Rainer Diaz-Bone (2023)

Theory, Culture and Society. Special Section: Boltanski-Esquerre on Enrichment, Online first, open access.

Abstract. The article discusses main contributions and results of the monograph Enrichment: A Critique of Commodities, written by the French sociologists Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre. Boltanski and Esquerre focus on the strategy to transform ‘the past’ (patrimony, luxury objects, tradition, collections) into new sources of richness. The book focuses on valuation forms and valuation discourses. Enrichment links Boltanski’s work again to the socio-economic movement of the economics and sociology of conventions (in short, EC/SC), which is part of the new French social sciences and regards conventions as logics of valuation and interpretation. This approach of EC/SC is introduced as a frame to evaluate the recombination of pragmatism and structuralism which is proposed by Boltanski and Esquerre. Finally, open questions and desiderata are addressed from the standpoint of EC/SC.

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An Interview with Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre on Enrichment: A Critique of Commodity

Rainer Diaz-Bone (2023)

Theory, Culture and Society. Special Section: Boltanski-Esquerre on Enrichment, Online first, open access

Abstract. In this interview, Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre introduce their book Enrichment and core concepts for the analysis of new developments in contemporary capitalism. The study focuses the analysis of the enrichment economy, which is grasped as a new form to explore and exploit ‘the past’ as a source for capitalist profits. The interview presents forms of valuation, which are more general principles of how value and prices can be ascribed to goods. The approach of Boltanski and Esquerre assumes an organized plurality of such forms of valuation. Also, the two sociologists stress the importance of discourses of valuation, which bring these forms of valuation into operation. As the interview makes evident, one major aim is to present a new perspective on the relationship between values, prices, and practices how prices are legitimatized or criticized on the basis of discourses of valuation. The interview situates Enrichment in the context of other contemporary sociological works, which focus on the economic core issue of value and valuation. The book can also be recognized as a proposal to reconcile structuralism and pragmatism in sociology. At the end of the interview, the more recent outcomes of the continuing collaborative work of Boltanski and Esquerre after Enrichment are discussed.

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The Global South, Albert Hirschman, and Convention Theory

Juliette Alenda-Demoutiez & Bruno Boidin (2023)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. This chapter, given over to the application of economics and sociology of conventions to countries of the Global South, begins with an outline of the tradition shared by convention theory and heterodox development economics (Sect. 2). The overview of this shared vision takes as its starting point the work of Albert Otto Hirschman, one of the most influential economists in the heterodox strand of development economics. Section 3 illustrates the relevance of applying convention theory to the countries of the Global South, taking the example of three sectors that are particularly crucial in the field of development, namely, healthcare, energy, and food. Finally, in Sect. 4, the argument is widened by showing what convention theory contributes to development economics and what the countries of the Global South have contributed to the framework in terms of conventions. Several areas of progress are highlighted, such as perceptive studies of the relations between actors with different values, analyses of global power relations, and the questioning of the dominant paradigms by means of a pragmatic rather than overarching empirical method.

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Compte rendu de “L’expropriation par le droit. Propriété intellectuelle, valeur et travail” de Christian Bessy

Review of “Expropriation by Law. Intellectual property, value and work” by Christian Bessy

Fabien Girard (2023)

Droit et Société, Online

Introduction. “Les travaux sur l’extension continue de la propriété industrielle à de nouveaux objets (avec la spectaculaire consécration du brevet sur le vivant dans les années 1980), « l’embastillage cognitif » auquel aboutissent la portée toujours plus grande des brevets, l’érosion des exceptions à la brevetabilité et le rétrécissement du domaine public, se comptent désormais en grand nombre, surtout dans le monde anglo-américain. L’ouvrage de Christian Bessy, économiste et directeur de recherche au CNRS, apporte une contribution complémentaire qui, loin d’être une simple synthèse ou une actualisation de la littérature disponible, ouvre de nouvelles pistes de réflexion qui seront d’un grand intérêt pour les intellectualistes, ainsi que pour les sociologues et économistes de l’innovation. L’ouvrage L’expropriation par le droit. Propriété intellectuelle, valeur et travail reprend les grands thèmes classiques de ce que l’on appellera la littérature critique de la propriété industrielle, mais offre une vision souvent beaucoup plus nuancée qui tient à la fois à l’ancrage théorique dans l’économie des conventions, à la méthodologie qui fait la part belle à l’interdisciplinarité (économie, bien sûr, mais aussi droit, sociologie et histoire), à la méthode de l’entretien et à l’analyse statistique, et à une approche du droit qui est qualifiée « d’endogène », sur laquelle nous reviendrons.”

Introduction. “There is now a large body of work, especially in the Anglo-American world, on the continuous extension of industrial property to new objects (with the spectacular consecration of the patent on living organisms in the 1980s), the “cognitive hijacking” to which the ever-increasing scope of patents leads, the erosion of exceptions to patentability and the shrinking of the public domain. The book by Christian Bessy, economist and director of research at the CNRS, makes a complementary contribution which, far from being a simple synthesis or update of the available literature, opens up new avenues of reflection which will be of great interest to intellectualists, as well as to sociologists and economists of innovation. L’expropriation par le droit. Propriété intellectuelle, valeur et travail” (Expropriation by law. Intellectual property, value and work) takes up the major classical themes of what will be called the critical literature on industrial property, but offers a vision that is often much more nuanced, due to its theoretical anchoring in the economics of conventions, to its methodology, which gives pride of place to interdisciplinarity (economics, of course, but also law, sociology and history), to the method of interviews and statistical analysis, and to an approach to law that is described as “endogenous”, to which we will return.”

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The Ordering of Green Values. Ecological Justification in Public Fracking Controversies in Germany and Poland

Claudia Foltyn, Reiner Keller & Matthias S. Klaes (2023)

Nature & Culture, 18(1), pp. 88-125. Open access.

Abstract. The article presents a comparative study of shale gas media debates in Germany and Poland. Drawing from the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (SKAD), it addresses discursive conflicts over the use of hydraulic fracturing and its environmental impacts in both countries. The authors relate their analysis to the theoretical debate that emerged in the 1990s in French sociology concerning the question of “green justifications” that form a specific way of how social actors intervene, dispute, and build compromises in public discussions to protect non-human entities. Referring to these discussions, this article identifies several ecological justification clusters and the associated social actors that are ‘compromised’ or enclosed in existing orders of worth.

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Justifying creative work. Norwegian business support and the conflicting narratives of creative industries

Åsne Dahl Haugsevje (2022)

Cultural Trends. Online first

Abstract. The article explores and unfolds the conflicting narratives of the work and competences of creatives in the era of creative industries. Based on a French pragmatic approach, the analysis sheds light on a mismatch between how bureaucrats in the Norwegian business support system valuate creative work, and how creatives valuate their own work. I find that the bureaucrats mobilise a narrow and stereotyped grammar when talking of creative work, while the creatives themselves seem to express far more complex and pragmatic understandings. I argue that the Norwegian creative industries policy seems to have limited capacity to embrace the hybridity and complexity of creative work, which also reduces its relevance and accuracy. The analysis is based on qualitative interviews with creatives and bureaucrats on a local level and contributes to the knowledge on the individual bureaucrats as non-creative outsiders, but still, actors highly significant to creative industries.

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Finance’s Wrong Turns. A New Foundation for Financial Markets, Asset Management, and Social Science

Richard O. Michaud (2023)

Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

About the book. There is a foundational crisis in financial theory and professional investment practice: There is little, if any, credible evidence that active investment strategies and traditional institutional quantitative technologies are able to provide superior risk-adjusted, cost-adjusted return over investment relevant horizons.
Economic and financial theory has been in error for more than fifty years and is the fundamental cause of the persistent ineffectiveness of professional asset management. Contemporary sociological and economic theory, agent-based modeling, and an appreciation of the social context for preference theory provides a rational and intuitive framework for understanding financial markets and economic behavior.  The author narrates his long-term experience in the use and limitations of traditional tools of quantitative asset management as an institutional asset manager in practice and as a quantitative analyst and strategist on Wall Street.  Monte Carlo simulation methods, modern statistical tools, and U.S. patented innovations are introduced to redefine portfolio optimality and procedures for enhanced professional asset management.  A new social context for expected utility theory leads to a novel understanding of modern equity markets as a financial intermediary for purchasing power constant time-shift investing uniquely appropriate for meeting investor long-term investment objectives.
This book addresses the limitations and indicated resolutions for more useful financial theory and more reliable asset management technology. In the process, it traces the major historical developments of theory and institutional asset management practice and their limitations over the course of the 20th century to the present, including Markowitz and the birth of modern finance, CAPM theory and emergence of institutional quantitative asset management, CAPM and VM theory limitations and ineffective iconic tools and strategies, and innovations in statistical methodologies and financial market theory.

Excerpt: “Negative and Positive Feedback Markets
Orléan (2014) is a contemporary economist whose views are heavily influenced by Keynes’ sociological framework for financial markets and Knight’s concept of economic uncertainty. His perspective of financial markets questions the importance of objective or fundamental value for security pricing. Orléan argues that liquidity in an equity market is the primary justification for price. His rationale focuses on a parsing of the characteristics of negative and positive feedback capital markets.” (p. 114)

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Le droit des inventeurs À propos de : Christian Bessy, L’expropriation par le droit : propriété intellectuelle, valeur et travail, EHESS

The right of inventors
About : Christian Bessy, L’expropriation par le droit : propriété intellectuelle, valeur et travail, EHESS

Sophie Harnay (2023)

La Vie des Idées, online.

Extraits : “Disons-le d’emblée, l’ouvrage de Christian Bessy soulève des questions essentielles. Il s’agit en effet d’étudier l’expansion des droits de propriété intellectuelle (DPI) durant les dernières décennies et leurs conséquences, notamment pour les travailleurs. L’auteur développe à ce sujet une thèse originale et stimulante, qui alimente la réflexion actuelle en sciences sociales sur l’appropriation généralisée comme fondement de la dynamique du capitalisme contemporain, en contrepoint utile à plusieurs analyses récentes sur des thématiques proches.
[…] Du point de vue théorique, l’ouvrage mobilise principalement la grille de lecture de la théorie des conventions, le concept de convention étant très précisément défini « au sens d’un accord inter-subjectif informel et auto-émergent » (p. 49). L’idée centrale est en effet que, selon les époques, le brevet repose sur des conventions de valorisation des créations intellectuelles différentes, « qui soutiennent son institutionnalisation et qui se renforcent bien qu’elles puissent aussi parfois entrer en tension » (Ibid.). Ces conventions évoluent en fonction notamment de la nature des acteurs impliqués, des usages et des espaces de diffusion des brevets et des conceptions de l’entreprise et de l’innovation sous-jacentes. Un apport essentiel de l’ouvrage est à cet égard de montrer comment l’évolution des conventions de valorisation dans le temps a permis la transformation des DPI en actifs négociables sur un marché et, in fine, la constitution d’un marché des brevets.”

Excerpts : “Let us say it from the start, Christian Bessy’s book raises essential questions. It is indeed about studying the expansion of intellectual property rights (IPR) during the last decades and their consequences, notably for workers. The author develops an original and stimulating thesis on this subject, which feeds the current reflection in social sciences on generalized appropriation as the basis of the dynamics of contemporary capitalism, as a useful counterpoint to several recent analyses on similar themes.
[…] From a theoretical point of view, the book mainly uses the grid of convention theory, the concept of convention being very precisely defined “in the sense of an informal and self-emerging inter-subjective agreement” (p. 49). The central idea is indeed that, according to the times, the patent is based on different conventions of valorization of intellectual creations, “which support its institutionalization and which are reinforced although they can also sometimes enter into tension” (Ibid.). These conventions evolve according to the nature of the actors involved, the uses and spaces of diffusion of patents, and the underlying conceptions of the enterprise and of innovation. An essential contribution of the book is in this respect to show how the evolution of valuation conventions over time has allowed the transformation of IPRs into marketable assets and, ultimately, the constitution of a patent market.”

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Conventions, Business Model, and Entrepreneurship

Thierry Verstraete (2023)

In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first

Abstract. This chapter presents how convention theory has shed light on the entrepreneurial phenomenon and its artifacts, the business model. The term “business model” appeared and spread with the advent of Internet start-ups. Beyond its systemic meaning (modeling a business to make it intelligible), the term has become part of the register of entrepreneurship, irrespective of whether it concerns for-profit or nonprofit organizations. An organization is taken here to be an arrangement of tangible and intangible resources coordinated into tasks, activities, and processes. Led by an entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial team, the organization gives “body” to the convention. Putting this theory into practice through managerial valuation of the convention theory perspective may serve the design of entrepreneurial projects and their deployment, with the development of tools for entrepreneurs, managers, and their advisors in an engineering approach to research (including the deployment of action research aimed at improving practices). Beyond the issue of competition, these tools may help them grasp the conventions of business function and considerably enrich their strategy. Indeed, the entrepreneurial convention is one of the many forms of interactions that structure the social spheres in which a project evolves, and which are not limited to the mere competitive dimension of a market.

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Smashing the glasshouse. Diminishing the prestige of measures of higher education

Andrea Saltelli, Alexandra Theben, Rosario Scandurra (2022)

SocArXiv Papers

Abstract. According to many authors the ranking of institutes and universities of higher education (HE) has provoked dramatic consequences in terms of transforming these institutions into a global market, sending the university prices skyrocketing and generally modifying the landscape of HE. While these measures, developed worldwide by several actors, abound in terms of measures of excellence, and in subjective indicators of prestige, none of them include as one of the criteria the price to the students of attending their courses and campuses. Substantial doubts have also been raised about the methodologies adopted by developers. If costs were included the panorama of HE in terms of desirability for students and their family would change considerably. In the present work we test this idea with a sample of universities for which data are available. We also poll the existing literature to gauge what the scholars thinks of HE rankings in terms of risks versus desirability. Finally, we use these elements to build a case against rankings of HEIs, including various strands of scholarship, including from sociology of quantification.

Extract: “Indeed, the toolbox of statactivists offers a rich repertoire of strategies that could be deployed in an effort to reduce the impact of HE rankings. For example, showing the true cost of different HE institutions goes in the direction of the example just mentioned of exposing the true costs of expulsions policies. As shown by Desrosières (2014), statistics can be a tool of liberation or oppression, and this is very well described, for the concrete case of employment statistics, by Salais (2022): those statistical concept laboriously put together between the end to the XIX century and the seventies to give concrete meaning to the concept of employment have been radically altered by the new public management policies, aimed at maximizing the rate of employment, but where employment has become of a very intermittent and precarious nature. Both when entering the labour market, and when entering a university, the panorama offered to newcomers is that of a new world, one that does not correspond to old and familiar concepts.” (p. 13)

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