The Concept of Development Conventions: Some Suggestions for a Research Agenda

David Dequech (2017)

Journal of Economic Issues, 51:2, p. 285-296.

Abstract. Development conventions are broadly defined as socially shared systems of rules of thought or behavior (institutions) regarding development, with the properties of conformity with conformity and arbitrariness. Conformity with conformity means that the fact that others have adopted a convention, or are expected to adopt it, plays a role in leading someone else to adopt it. Arbitrariness means that a non-inferior alternative exists or is conceivable. This article identifies several social mechanisms through which the conformity of others leads one to conform. It also relates arbitrariness to the possibility of assessing development from various viewpoints, to the inconclusiveness of evidence, and to uncertainty about future consequences.

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Meat your enemy. Animal rights, alignment, and radical change

Glen Whelan & Jean-Pascal Gond (2017)

Journal of Management Inquiry, 26(2), pp. 123–138.

Abstract. Radical change can be conceived in terms of the reconceiving of ontological distinctions, such as those separating humans from animals. In building on insights from French pragmatism, we suggest that, while no doubt very difficult, radical change can potentially be achieved by creating “alignment” between multiple “economies of worth” or “common worlds” (e.g., the market world of money, the industrial world of efficiency). Using recent campaigns by animal rights organizations as our case, we show how the design of “tests” (e.g., tests of profitability, tests of efficiency) can help align multiple common worlds in support for radical change. Our analysis contributes to the broader management and organization studies literatures by conceiving radical change in terms of changing ontological categorizations (e.g., human/animals vs. sentient/ non-sentient), and by proposing that radical social change agents can be helpfully conceived as opportunistically using events to cumulatively justify the change they desire overtime.

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Marketing and compromising for sustainability. Competing orders of worth in the North Atlantic

John H. Finch, Susi Geiger & Rachel Joy Harkness (2017)

Marketing Theory, 17(1), pp. 71-93.

Abstract. The purpose of our article is to propose that compromising is a constitutive characteristic of those marketing systems that entail matters of public interest or concern. In such markets, actors design compromises as they encounter criticisms of and contending justifications for the market’s products, as these refer to price, efficiency in production and use, regulatory compliance or ecological sustainability. Tests and justifications are vital in order to determine what is valuable and by which measure. As a theory framework, the economic sociology of conventions provides a basis for assessing these contests, compromises, and justifications over the issue of worth in a marketing context. Through an ethnographic study of the regulated activities of chemicals service companies supporting the upstream petroleum industry, we assess how actors evaluate and justify the market’s products and services in this environmentally sensitive setting by means of tests drawing from different orders of worth: the green, the industrial and the market order. Our contributions show that by artful and pragmatic compromising around exchanges, actors in marketing systems can balance several conflicting orders of worth over the question of worth without needing to converge on an overriding institutional logic.

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Context, Orders of Worth, and the Justification of Meat Consumption Practices

by Cecilie Thorslund and Jesper Lassen (2017)

In: Sociologia Ruralis 57(S1), pp. 836-858.

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« Although animal welfare is felt to be important by consumers, behavioural patterns do not fully reflect this. Rather than relating this attitude‐behaviour gap to hypocrisy, this article, building on pragmatic sociological theory and an empirical study, focuses on context‐dependent moral evaluations. An analysis of focus‐group interviews conducted in three countries shows that meat‐related consumption practices involve several competing sets of moral conventions, and the results demonstrate that public concerns about animal welfare vary depending on whether they relate to an everyday or production context. In the former, animal welfare does not play a big role, and given this it can be argued that people are not hypocritical, since the practices and perceptions are actually united within the given context. It is concluded that the lack of civic justifications in the context of everyday life calls for new ways of making animal welfare relevant in this context in order to support consumers in moving towards products with high standards of animal welfare. »

The Theoretical Connection Between John R. Commons and Regulation and Convention Theories

Hiroyuki Uni and  Takayuki Nakahara (2017)

In: Uni, Hiroyuki (ed.) (2017): Contemporary Meanings of John R. Commons’s Institutional  Economics. Singapore: Springer, pp. 141-163.

Abstract. After discussing the uniqueness of Dewey’s philosophy in relation to (1) the world’s plurality and multiplicity, (2) the primary significance of multifarious interactions, and (3) the interrelation between habit and intelligence, we clarify the uniqueness of Commons’s institutional economics: (1) value theory based on multiple causation; (2) transactions as the ultimate unit of analysis; and (3) the interrelation between habitual assumption and collective action. We examine the theoretical connection between Commons and regulation and convention theories. The former partly shares and develops the first characteristic listed above, multiple causation, while the latter shares and develops the third characteristic, the interrelation between habitual assumption and collective action. In Institutional Economics (Commons, J.R., Institutional economics: Its place in political economy. Macmillan, New York, 1934), applying the idea of “multiple causation,” Commons approached macrodynamics based on the expansion of some key concepts and studies on income distribution and demand growth. This was a prototype of growth analysis based on the cumulative causation model with various forms of coordination, later formulated as regulation theory. Commons, following and developing Dewey’s theory of habit and intelligence, created the concept of “habitual and customary assumptions” and discussed a collective process for achieving “reasonable values,” such as the common-law method. Two-layered coordination in convention theory attempted to explain the psychological means and social mechanisms involved in the persistence of customs and institutions, which Commons briefly mentioned. Using Commons’s theory as a medium, it may be possible to articulate the macrodynamics developed by regulation theory and the micro theory of human interaction developed by convention theory.

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Dispositiv und Ökonomie. Diskurs- und dispositivanalytische Perspektiven auf Märkte und Organisationen

Rainer Diaz-Bone & Ronald Hartz (eds.) (2017)

Wiesbaden: Springer VS

Der vorliegende Band bietet einen aktuellen Überblick über die Vielzahl neuerer sozialwissenschaftlicher Forschungen zur Bedeutung, Funktion und Theorie von Dispositiven in und für die Ökonomie. Denn die Ökonomie ist „instrumentiert“ – Organisationen und Märkte sind durchzogen und ausgestattet mit Objekten, Materialitäten, Technologien, Diskursen und Subjektivierungsweisen, deren spezifische Verknüpfungen die Ökonomie hervorbringen. Für die Analyse der Dispositive muss „Ökonomie“ daher notwendig transdisziplinär gefasst werden, gerade um die bisher weitgehende Ausblendung von Dispositiven in der Analyse von Märkten und Organisationen zu überwinden und diese durch neuartige theoretische aber auch vielfältige methodologische Zugänge zu erschließen. Diese Erschließung der materiellen und immateriellen Ausstattung der Ökonomie erfolgt nun nicht nur transdisziplinär, sondern auch international. Der Band präsentiert Beiträge von Forschenden aus Deutschland, Frankreich, Großbritannien und der Schweiz.

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Revue Française de Socio-Économie 2017/1 (n° 18)

Dans le n°18 de la RFSE, trois articles de chercheurs en économie des conventions :

Favereau, Olivier (2017): Hommage à François Eymard-Duvernay. Révolutionnaire discret. In: Revue Française de Socio-Économie 2017/1 (n° 18), p. 5-12.

Abecassis, Philippe /Batifoulier, Philippe /Coutinet, Nathalie/ Domin,  Jean-Paul  (2017): La généralisation de l’assurance maladie complémentaire. Comment faire rimer inefficacité avec inégalité. In: Revue Française de Socio-Économie 2017/1 (n° 18), p. 13-22

Bessy, Christian (2017): La fin de l’économie. In: Revue Française de Socio-Économie, 2017/1 (n° 18), p. 195-205.

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Trying the unemployed. Justification and critique, emancipation and coercion towards society. A study of contemporary reform in France and Denmark

Magnus Paulsen Hansen  (2017)

Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School, PhD Series 10.2017

Abstract. Since the late 1980s, European welfare states and labour market regulation have gradually but radically been transformed into ways of underpinning a more “active society” where active usually entails paid work or activities, such as training and qualification, that aim towards work. The thesis investigates the transformation towards the ‘active society’ through the spectre of unemployment and how it is governed. Two puzzles in the transformations have motivated the inquiry: firstly, the co-existence of a plurality of different, and often contradictory, conceptions of who the unemployed are and why they are unemployed; and secondly, the co-existence of wills to emancipate the unemployed alongside the justification of using coercive measures towards them.
This thesis argues that if we want to understand the varieties within the transformations, the “what?” question, it is necessary to address the “how?”; i.e., how transformations are legitimised. Here, ideas and morality are pivotal. Inspired by French pragmatic sociology (Boltanski and Thévenot), the ideas are approached as cities of unemployment that are mobilised to justify and criticise policies related to the governing of unemployment. In these situations where the question of what is the best way to govern unemployment is put to the test, cities of unemployment enable actors to prepare and qualify the reality of the situation for critique and justification.
Each city of unemployment is founded on a principle with specific principles to try or test both those who govern and the subjects inhabiting each city, thus entailing a specific understanding of what emancipating the unemployed involves, i.e., what kind of moral subject the unemployed person is with what kind of needs and characteristics. The thesis thus asks which cities of unemployment are mobilised in contemporary reform processes of the governing of unemployment, how are the cities mobilised to justify and criticise, and how do the cities sediment into instruments and institutions governing the unemployed?
The questions are operationalised through an in-depth comparative study of four key contemporary reform processes: two in Denmark and two in France. The thesis is the first systematic investigation into the test situations that unfold in the public debates with a focus on the plurality of ideas that are mobilised to qualify and evaluate existing policies and justify changes.
The thesis shows how the governing of unemployment is the result of an ongoing sedimentation in the cities tied together in compromises. This makes the governing inherently composite and unstable. The thesis identifies and maps seven distinct cities of unemployment that are mobilised in all debates surrounding all four reforms: the cities of Demand, Redistribution, Insurance, Incentives, Mobility, Investment and the Paternal city. Regardless of differences between the four cases, all analyses show that reforms are particularly driven by justifications from the Paternal, Mobility, Investment and Incentives cities, which are all tied together in multiple ways. The other three cities do not vanish completely, but in the qualification of the unemployed they are increasingly put to the margins.
Finally, the thesis shows how the tensions between the cities that are mobilised for justificatory purposes are mitigated in categorisations and various institutionalised tests that continuously evaluate the behaviour of the unemployed. The tests, such as triage, screening, interviews and contracts, thus question and settle what kind of subject the unemployed person is, i.e., what city he lives in, how worthy he is, and what instruments will bring him closer to emancipation (i.e., the ‘active society’). In this way, the possibility of requalifying the unemployed is made permanent. A similar experimentalist dynamic is identifiable in the public debates concerning justification and critique. Here unemployment is increasingly seen as a multi-causal phenomenon that, in the end, is a matter of how to make the unemployed act in certain ways. The result is a constant uncertainty as to how to attach particular causes to particular categories of unemployment. Hence, the demand for targeting or “personalising” the governing in order to make the unemployed respond to it results in increasingly intimate and often coercive instruments.

Résumé. Depuis la fin des années 1980, les États-providence et les marchés du travail au sein de l’Europe connaissent des transformations radicales quoique graduelles, les amenant à privilégier une société plus « active », où actif a généralement le sens de travail rémunéré ou d’activités rémunérées comme px la formation sur le tas ou la formation professionnelle. Cette thèse étudie ce virage vers la ”société active” à travers le phénomène du chômage et sa gestion, la motivation étant d’arriver à une meilleure compréhension de deux tendances : Premièrement, la coprésence d’une pluralité de conceptions différentes et souvent contradictoires sur le chômeur et les circonstances ayant causé sa situation. Deuxièmement, la coprésence d’intentions visant à émanciper le chômeur, d’une part, et de justifications de mesures coercitives à l’encontre du chômeur, d’autre part.
La méthodologie proposée pour étudier et comprendre ces deux tendances suppose que pour savoir en quoi consistent ces transformations, il est nécessaire d’étudier comment les acteurs essaient de les justifier. À cette fin, une étude des idées et de leurs fondements moraux s’impose. S’inspirant de l’école française de la sociologie pragmatique (Boltanski et Thévenot), cette thèse propose une déclinaison du concept de cité du chômage pour rendre compte des idées mobilisées dans la justification et la critique des politiques de chômage. Dans de telles situations où la question de savoir comment gérer au mieux le chômage est mise à l’épreuve, des ‘cités du chômage’ permettent aux acteurs de préparer et qualifier la réalité afin de la critiquer et de la justifier.
Chaque cité du chômage est fondée sur un principe particulier se référant à une conception spécifique de l’émancipation du chômeur, et à partir de ce principe tant la gestion que les êtres présents qui y sont soumis peuvent être évalués ou mis à l’épreuve. Chaque cité attribue à chacun des chômeurs un sujet moral défini par des besoins et caractéristiques spécifiques. D’où la problématique suivante : Quelles cités de chômage sont mobilisées dans les processus de réforme contemporains de la gestion du chômage ? Comment les cités sont-elles mobilisées pour nourrir la justification et la critique ? Et enfin, comment se sédimentent-elles sous formes de dispositifs et d’institutions de gestion du chômeur ?
Ces questions sont traitées à travers une étude comparative détaillée de quatre processus de réforme importants – deux au Danemark et deux en France. Cette thèse est la première à étudier d’une manière systématique les ‘situations d’épreuve’ du débat public, et cela dans le but de mettre en évidence la pluralité des idées mobilisées pour qualifier et évaluer les politiques existantes et pour justifier des changements.
L’analyse montre comment la gestion du problème du chômage est le résultat d’une sédimentation continue de cités de chômage agencées par voie d’arbitrages. Cela rend la gestion du chômage hétéroclite et instable. Cette thèse révèle sept cités de chômage différentes, toutes mobilisées dans chacun des quatre débats : une cité de la demande, une cité de la redistribution, une cité des assurances, une cité des mesures incitatives, une cité des investissements, une cité de la mobilité, une cité paternaliste. Malgré les différences entre les cas étudiés, ceux-ci se caractérisent par étant fondés surtout sur la cité paternaliste et les cités de la mobilité, des mesures incitatives et des investissements. Les trois autres cités ne disparaissent pas complètement, mais elles sont de plus en plus marginalisées dans la qualification du chômeur.
Enfin ce travail de thèse montre comment les tensions décelées entre les cités mobilisées et au sein de celles-ci sont apaisées à l’aide de catégorisations et diverses épreuves institutionnalisées soumettant le comportement du chômeur à une évaluation continue. Des épreuves comme le triage, le dépistage, des interviews et des contrats questionnent et fixent le sujet du chômeur, à savoir sa cité de ‘domicile’ ou d’appartenance, sa valeur, et les instruments les plus indiqués pour l’amener vers son émancipation, c’est-à-dire vers ‘la société active’. Ainsi la possibilité de requalifier le chômeur est rendue permanente. Une dynamique d’expérimentation similaire se manifeste à travers la justification et la critique véhiculés par le débat public, où le chômage est considéré de plus en plus comme un phénomène à causes multiples et dont la solution consiste à découvrir, en fin de compte, comment amener le chômeur à agir d’une façon spécifique. Le résultat en est une incertitude constante concernant l’attribution de certaines causes à certaines catégories de chômeurs. D’où le besoin d’une gestion plus ciblée et personnalisée pour motiver le chômeur à agir ainsi que le besoin de dispositifs plus intimes et souvent coercitifs.


Special Issue « Markets and Classifications. Categorizations and Valuations as Social Processes Structuring Markets » Historical Social Research

Karoline Krenn (Ed.) (2017)

Historical Social Research, 42(1).

In the last couple of years the discussion on market classifications has received new topicality through the unbounded possibilities offered by digital technologies to track behavioral data. Understanding the social foundations of categories and classification systems is a fundamental problem in sociology. In markets, classifications are present in the variety of goods traded, in quality differentiations and their association to goods, and, also their matching with consumers. From a pure business perspective such marking of market identities is based on objective characteristics. In contrast, it is the aim of social science studies to pay attention to the formation of market categories, to examine the social construction processes underlying these classifications and to demonstrate their contingencies. In this vein, the contributions to this HSR Special Issue, which come from various theoretical schools such as the new economic sociology or the economics of convention, present recent research across a range of economic settings: financial markets, fashion markets, consumer markets and others. Despite the varieties of markets and national institution settings, essential resemblances show. Among the topics covered: The case of the French impact investment market, arguing for a dual function of judgment devices, demonstrates the close connection between boundary-building and boundary-blurring. A study on Dutch marketing agents reveals that the same actors who promote new classifications have difficulties in implementing these differentiations in their own performances. The example of self-categorizations in the British ethical fashion industry shows that the relevance of classifications is connected to reputation and power. And, analyses into the US-credit market discuss the off-label of classifications and its adverse societal consequences.

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Click on “Table of Contents & Abstracts”, then you can download the full articles via the repository SSOAR.

Brands, Trust and Quality in Agro‐food Production Networks: the Case of Layer Hens

Martin Franz and Sebastian Rolfsmeier (2016)

In: Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography 98(3), pp. 271–286.

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« The expansion of primary breeding companies for layer hens has reached a global scale. Two groups of companies, the Dutch Hendrix Genetics BV and the German EW Group GmbH, dominate the trade with layer hens for industrial egg production in most countries of the world. This article aims to identify the main actors of industrial egg production and to analyse the structure of the global layer hen production network. Furthermore, this paper examines the importance of brands and quality within the production network. While the primary breeding level is discussed on a global scale, the secondary breeding level and the egg production is analysed at a national level for Germany. Since the importance of brands is strongly related to the quality of the products and the trust therein, the structure of the layer hen production network in regard to the role of brands and trust is evaluated. For this evaluation, the authors combined the global production network approach with elements of the convention theory. »

Global Legal History: A Methodological Approac

Thomas Duve (2017)

In: Oxford Handbooks Online.

« Because of transformations in the world’s legal systems, there is a need for reflection about law and legal scholarship globally. There is a growing demand for global legal history; however, there is neither a consensus as to what this history is, nor what objectives this legal historiography pursues, or even how it relates to other disciplines. In addition, global legal history reflects the traditional multiplicity of methods, aims, and forms present in current juridical historiographies. This is why it is difficult to speak about a method of global legal history. This contribution—written from a Western, perspective—can only sketch out a general panorama and some particular methodological problems. It begins by considering meanings of “global legal history,” then sketches out some methodological approaches. The final remarks emphasize that not only the intellectual but also the institutional presuppositions for a global production of legal historical knowledge need to be established. »

« Interestingly, some of these phenomena have been addressed by the more recent French “sociology of conventions” (Diaz-Bone/Thévenot 2010; Diaz-Bone/Didry/Salais 2015). Here, conventions are understood in terms of interpretative frames that coordinate operative situations. These conventions develop out of concrete situations and can be stabilized network structures. They are related to specific forms of cognition and are applied with a normative intention. The conceptual reflections of this sociology of conventions seem quite helpful when reconstructing the complex process of producing normativity, especially in the context of “glocalizations.” They might provide legal history with tools for analyzing complex and diverse societies with a plurality of bodies, which produce law and do so drawing upon diverse cultural practices. »

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Orders of worth and the moral conceptions of health in global politics.

Tine Hanrieder (2016)

In: International Theory 8(3), pp. 390-421.

International Theory


« The article analyzes the contested concept of global health through the lens of orders of worth. Drawing on pragmatist political and social theory, especially the work of Boltanski and Thévenot, I conceptualize orders of worth as moral narratives that connect visions of universal humankind to ideas about moral worth and deficiency. They thereby differ from the self/other narrative of political identity that is emphasized in International Relations scholarship. Orders of worth do not pitch a particularistic identity against foreign identities, but tie collective identity to a higher common good. They provide tools for moral evaluation and the justification of hierarchy. I use this heuristic to reconstruct four main conceptions of health in global politics: The order of survival, the order of fairness, the order of production, and the order of spirit. Each of them articulates a distinct political identity, as ‘we species’, ‘we liberals’, ‘we bodies’ and ‘we souls’, and implies different notions of virtuous and selfish conduct in the global community. These orders are derived from scholarly writings and the policies of global health institutions. Finally, I discuss the nature of compromises between the four orders regarding contested issues such as health emergencies or digital medicine. »

Der verdeckte Transformationsprozess der Energieversorger – Kollisionen von Rechtfertigungsordnungen

Jacobsen, Heike/Blazejewski, Franziska/Graf, Patricia (2017)

[The Covert Transformation Process of Energy Suppliers – Collisions of Justification Orders}

In: Giacovelli, Sebastian (2017): Die Energiewende aus wirtschaftssoziologischer Sicht. Theoretische Konzepte und empirische Zugänge. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, pp. 93-117.



« Energieversorger in Deutschland sehen sich durch die Liberalisierung des Energiemarktes, die Politik zur Energiewende und die Möglichkeiten der Digitalisierung aktuell vor zahlreiche Herausforderungen gestellt. Sie versuchen, auch durch interne Reorganisationsmaßnahmen, wettbewerbsfähig zu bleiben. Mehr Marktsteuerung, Flexibilisierung und Subjektivierung von Arbeit stellen Traditionen dieser bisher außerordentlich stabilen Branche in Frage. Anhand einer Fallstudie zur Reorganisation einer Abteilung in einem westdeutschen Stadtwerk werden auftretende Konflikte um die Qualität von Arbeit mit Hilfe der Soziologie der Konventionen als Auseinandersetzungen um die Geltung von Konventionen interpretiert. »


« Energy suppliers in Germany are currently facing numerous challenges as a result of the liberalization of the energy market, the energy turnaround policy and the opportunities offered by digitalization. They are also trying to remain competitive through internal reorganization measures. More market control, flexibilization and subjectivization of labor are calling into question traditions of this hitherto extraordinarily stable industry. Using a case study of the reorganization of a department in a West German public utility company, emerging conflicts about the quality of work are interpreted with the help of the sociology of conventions as disputes about the validity of conventions. »

Headquarters-Subsidiary Relationships from a Convention Theory Perspective: Plural Orders of Worth, Arrangements and Form-Giving Activities

Julia Bandl and Anna Schneider (2017)

In: Dörrenbächer, Christoph/Geppert, Mike (eds.): Multinational Corporations and Organization Theory: Post Millennium Perspectives (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Volume 49). Emerald Publishing, pp. 295-324.

Abstract. How headquarter (HQ) and subsidiary actors end conflicts and reach agreements is an important but still under-researched question in multinational corporations (MNC) literature. This conceptual article approaches these conflict dynamics from the Convention Theory perspective. Convention Theory draws attention to justice principles (known as “order of worth”) and to the material aspects in relations between MNC actors. We offer a framework that contributes to HQ-subsidiary relations research in three ways: (1) it links conflicts to justice principles, (2) it enriches the understanding of the stability of agreements, and (3) it sheds light on the activities needed for realizing preferred arrangements.


Du déchet à l’objet de collection : la sociologie de l’enrichissement de Luc Boltanski et Arnaud Esquerre

À propos de : Luc Boltanski, Arnaud Esquerre, Enrichissement. Une critique de la marchandise, Paris, Gallimard, coll. « NRF Essais », 2017.

Lilian Mathieu (2017)

Lectures [En ligne], Les notes critiques, mis en ligne le 20 février 2017

Introduction. « […] Ce terme d’enrichissement revêt dans l’ouvrage plusieurs significations. Il s’agit d’une part de la manière dont des choses sont dotées d’un prix lorsqu’elles changent de mains au cours d’une transaction commerciale — question des plus classiques en économie mais à laquelle Boltanski et Esquerre apportent des éléments de réponse proprement sociologiques. L’enrichissement est également le processus par lequel les riches construisent et entretiennent leur fortune en procédant à la valorisation des différents biens matériels qu’ils possèdent — thématique qui n’est pas sans importance dans un contexte d’accroissement considérable des inégalités de richesse. Dans les deux cas, la question centrale porte sur la valeur des choses possédées ou échangées : loin d’être la résultante inexorable de mécanismes économiques impersonnels, celle-ci mobilise des processus sociaux complexes, relevant aujourd’hui d’une économie de l’enrichissement, que le livre s’attache à décrire en détail. « 

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