Archives mensuelles : septembre 2017

Workshop Sociology of Conventions: The Format of « Bildung » or how research shapes Convention

Raffaella Esposito & Sandra Hafner (School of Education Basel, Switzerland)

On September 14 and 15, the biannual workshop ‘Sociology of Conventions’ took place in  Zurich, hosted by Philipp Gonon and Lea Zehnder from the chair of Vocational Education at the University of Zurich. It was the 8th meeting after prior workshops in Innsbruck, Basel, Vienna, Lucerne, Hamburg and Reutlingen.

Having discussed EC concepts and their appliance mostly in the economic field in former meetings, this workshop was specifically dedicated to the issue and format of ‘Bildung’ (education) as well as to methodological questions concerning the EC approach. Eric Verdier was attending as a special guest and keynote speaker as he works with the concept of conventions for comparative analysis of different national educational systems.

On Thursday morning, Philipp and Lea welcomed the audience and introduced into the topic. As usual, the workshop audience was as interdisciplinary as the EC approach itself and consisted of Sociologists, Economists and Historians as well as researchers from Educational Sciences and Social Work. This year, also a remarkable amount of PhDs was attending the workshop.

Katharina Pernkopf from the Vienna University of Economics and Business held the first talk. She presented a working paper based on an ongoing study on the implementation process of a law to reduce the work time of hospital doctors to comply with the European Work Time Directive. Trying to understand organizational change, the research team investigated the emerging conflicts and challenges for the hospitals as organizations and the doctors as professions from an EC perspective. Thereby she strived to inspire traditional strands of theory that usually deal with this research objective: new instutionalism, sociology of professions and human resource management literature. She could show that different organizations response and react differently to institutional pressure and that institutions in the sense of rules are interpreted differently. Especially highlighted was the explanatory power of EC concepts like regimes of engagement (Thévenot), investments in forms and actors’ competences.

Kenneth Horvath from the University of Lucerne shared thoughts and considerations about the applicability of interview research from an EC perspective. He presented snippets from his study on how teachers classify their students along different categories. He raised the question about the validity of the data, as the answers of the teachers could rather be seen as a reaction to the coordination situation in the interview situation than what they really do in the classroom on an everyday basis (teaching practices). As Horvath argued, teachers thus rather use classifications to communicate with outsiders than in the classroom – here, ethnography would come into play. It followed a discussion about the interview situation and how to use interviews as a tool for EC research, especially if methodic holism is strived for.

After the coffee break, Henning Middelschulte from the University of Bielefeld talked about methodological possibilities and limitations of computer based semantic EC-analyses (lexicon method). With this method, he and his research team tried to get a grasp of the question, whether economization of social sciences education in upper secondary education in Germany took place in the curricula. He presented some first results, which triggered a lively discussion about the appropriate use, operationalization and explanatory power of EC concepts in quantitative text analysis.

After lunch, Regula Julia Leemann from the School of Education in Basel presented some preliminary results from her ongoing research project on the positioning and profiling of the Specialized Middle School as a third educational track on upper secondary level in Switzerland. Applying concepts like valuation practices (Kornberger 2017), the power of conventions and investments in form, she could show how the Specialized Middle School was established as a new category on upper secondary level between 1970 and 1980. In this process, she could identify different valuation practices. The new school type was established in a process of assigning existing schools to a programmatic idea of that school type, based on a compromise of the domestic and civic convention. This compromise was later criticized and led to the integration of more market-industry based elements in the recent past.

Karin Büchel from the University of Zurich presented her PhD project. Her research was guided by the question, in how far the development of dual VET in Switzerland in 1954-1980 might be connected to the notion of educational expansion. She focused on the Canton of Lucerne and showed the benefits of a situational (yet historical) EC approach for explaining educational governance processes. Her presentation triggered a discussion about concepts of educational expansion and the explanatory power of EC.

In the later afternoon, the first round table of the workshop took place. Eric Verdier, Philipp Gonon and Esther Berner opened the discussion with their individual statements on the added value of EC concepts within the field of educational research.

All three highlighted the concept of investments in form as one of the most innovative and promising ideas of EC and especially suitable for educational research. In this field, many cognitive and materialized forms like classifications, rules, instruments, routines and devices can be found e.g. in certifications, school programs, curricula, diplomas, regulations etc. The concept of quality conventions was discussed as equally suitable for research on education, as it allows grasping and explaining different forms and ideas of evaluation and evaluation practices, quality constructions and ideas of the common good that are observable in this highly moralized, highly public sphere of society. Here, norms and justifications play a crucial role. As a third benefit, the discussants highlighted the suitability of an EC approach to educational research because of its dynamic view of social phenomena. As a re-combination of the mega paradigms of structuralism and pragmatism, EC analyses help to conceive social processes as way of mobilizing entities and stabilizing conventions at the same time. In addition, the explanatory power and limitations of EC concepts in historical research were discussed. Overall, the conclusion of the roundtable was that EC is very fruitful to apply in the field of educational research, e.g. of organizations and organizational change, analyses of law, concepts of work, classifications and more.

To close the first day, Eric Verdier held a keynote speech about education and training regimes from an international and comparative perspective. He showed how in Europe, various compromises between conventions remain country-specific. The same reform will take on a different meaning depending on the concerned societal (historical and political) context. He proceeded to present Morocco as an interesting case of an unstable social compromise, source of non-quality in Education and Training and cause of conventional crisis.

The first workshop day then came to a happy end with a yummy dinner at the restaurant Commihalle.

On Friday morning, Eva Nadai and Anna Gonon from the School of Social Work in Olten went back to a traditional field of EC research – the analysis of labour market and employment. They presented findings from their study about the valuation of disabled labour, respectively formats and employment of ‘non-standard’ workers. Similar to Pernkopf, they could show how organizations or firms react differently when faced with challenges – in this case the valuation of disabled work. Based on a multi-data design they could show how the value of disabled workers is assessed along two models of compromise between the market, industrial, civic or domestic convention. The operational and state forms structure which conventions become relevant when evaluating a worker. Nevertheless, these formats function as dispositives for coordination, and have to be mobilized.

Katharina Pernkopf presented a conceptual paper concerning the fruitfulness and applicability of the EC approach for HRM research. She and her co-authors Julia Brandl, Arjan Kozica and Anna Schneider criticized that mainstream HRM research isn’t yet aware enough of the different logics or the co-presence of market (hiring ‘the best’ from outside) and bureaucracy-based (making use of employees within the organization) managing models in real organizations. Therefore, they proposed the EC approach with its situational stance and its pragmatist approach as more suitable to grasp the complexity of actual decision making employment issues.

Before and after lunch, the method and research question spaces took place. This format was introduced back in January in Reutlingen, and offers (especially for PhDs) the possibility to discuss particular questions concerning EC concepts’ applicability in one’s own research project. Reinhold Hedtke, Andrea Szukala and Claude Proeschel discussed the construction of the ‘Good Citizen’ in French and German schools, while Valeska Cappel presented first considerations about her PhD investigating discourses, classifications and conventions in the field of health apps. Michael Steurer discussed his PhD Project, where he analyzes conventions for critical work practices in inter-firm relationships. At the same time, Raffaella Esposito, Lea Zehnder and Sandra Hafner raised questions about analyzing investments in forms in the field of education.

The two workshop days closed with a final round table on investments in forms, power and pragmatism. The statements by Rainer Diaz-Bone, Patrick Bühler and Philipp Gonon triggered a discussion about the position of EC between pragmatism and structuralism. Again, the importance and explanatory power of concepts like investments in form and the plurality of quality conventions were highlighted, and the exertion of power from an EC perspective was discussed. Different discussants voiced the need to discuss, clarify and conceptualize the notion of actors’ competences in future workshops.

Interrogating the social. A critical sociology for the 21st Century

Fuyuki Kurasawa (ed.)(2017)

London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Abstract. This book brings together a collection of work from emerging and established scholars who have put forth a vision of what critical sociology is and what it could be in the early decades of the 21st century. Pushing beyond the theoretical outlines of sociological critique, the authors demonstrate how critical sociology is practiced through conceptual innovation and empirical analyses interweaving the themes of society, power, and culture. Interrogating the Social reinvents the project of critical sociology in two ways: by reflecting upon society as an object of inquiry; and by questioning the existing social order’s self-evident character and exclusionary effects. In doing so, it answers three related questions: How should social relations and interactions be re-thought today? What new institutional and discursive configurations of power are emerging? How do we make sense of contemporary cultural performances and movements?

This edited collection is suited to a wide and diverse audience across the disciplines of sociology, political science, social and political theory, and cultural studies.

Link to the book

Création d’une page Facebook / Creation of a Facebook page

Une page Facebook vient d’être créée :
N’hésitez pas à « aimer » la page, vous serez informé.e.s des posts du blog sur votre mur Facebook.

A Facebook page has just been created :
Do not hesitate to « like » the page, you will be informed of the posts of the blog on your Facebook wall.


Theoretische und methodologische Perspektiven auf Agency und relationale Soziologie im Spannungsfeld zwischen Strukturalismus und Pragmatismus

Rainer Diaz-Bone (2017)

In: Löwenstein, Heiko/Emirbayer, Mustafa (eds.), Netzwerke, Kultur und Agency. Problemlösungen in relationaler Methodologie und Sozialtheorie. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa, pp. 336-354.

Abstract. The German article discusses relational sociology (White, Emirbayer, Mische et al.) as one form to combine structuralism and pragmatism. Also the problem of relational sociology, to lose its structuralist impact. Convention theory is presented as an alternative to relational sociology (or as a European form of relational sociology), which offers a way to reintegrate pragmatism but keeping also structuralist elements (as the concept of convention itself). At the end methodological perspectives for a conventionalist/relationist approach are discussed.

Link to the book

Learning from the Past: How Local Economic Conventions Influence Responses to Global Crises

Nina Baur & LindaHering (2017)

Human Figurations: Long-term Perspectives on the Human Condition 6(2)

Abstract. Reactions to global crises vary locally, and a specific reaction to a particular crisis does not only depend on structural aspects (such as a city’s placement in the world system), but also on local economic practices. Based on concepts from the ‘Economics of Convention’, we argue that people handle complexity and contingency in everyday life by drawing on knowledge of approved routines and practices of how things are typically done. This knowledge is highly context-specific. Adopting the idea of the ‘intrinsic logic of cities’, which tells us that cities create and maintain their own distinct constellations of knowledge and modesof expression that are reflected in their everyday practices, we conceptualise local economy as a figuration that develops procedurally and depends on the hidden structures that over time become inscribed into urban spaces. Comparable to a series of palimpsests, one can track the history of the conditions that pre-structure this figuration over time. Using material from a comparative study carried out in four cities – two in Germany (Dortmund and Frankfurt), two in the United Kingdom (Birmingham and Glasgow) –, we show that the specific reactions to a crisis and the ability of coping with it can only be grasped by understanding a city’s past.

Link to the article

Urban assets and the financialisation fix: land tenure, renewal and path dependency in the city of Birmingham

John R. Bryson, Rachel Ann Mulhall, Meng Song & Richard Kenny (2017)

Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, online first.

Abstract. Cities are places of incremental decision-making involving complex negotiations that produce accumulations of urban assets and path dependency. The ownership, control and co-ordination of urban land and its transformation into an investment asset is a key link between economic interests and urban activities that come together in site-based “financialisation fixes”. A financialisation fix combines a development solution for a specific site with a financial model creating a locally embedded asset. This article examines how land tenure (freehold versus leasehold rights) influences the transformation of a city and the role a local authority plays in the financial management of land assets. This includes an analysis of the application of financialisation to urban assets and the first tax increment financing scheme of 1875.

Link to the article

AES 2018 – Appel à communications – L’économie sociale en quête de ressources

Les 38e Journées de l’Association d’économie sociale se tiendront à Lyon les 5-7 septembre 2018.

Depuis les années 2000, les politiques sociales et l’économie sociale et solidaire ont connu des mutations accélérées. Les premières sont rationalisées sous l’empire du new public management et font l’objet d’exigences accrues du point de vue financier. Leur externalisation pourrait consolider l’ESS, si toutefois celle-ci n’était pas en même temps soumise à des contraintes financières importantes et au développement de la concurrence par l’extension des marchés publics au détriment du subventionnement. L’ESS a par ailleurs connu en France une reconnaissance institutionnelle déterminante, à un moment où elle fait face à l’émergence d’une représentation en terme d’entrepreneuriat social qui introduit des problématiques nouvelles d’évaluation d’impact. Enfin, la révolution numérique a fait apparaître des possibilités nouvelles d’obtention de ressources (notamment par la finance participative) et un cadre intellectuel renouvelé autour des communs conduit à repenser un certain nombre d’activités dans un cadre non marchand.

C’est donc sur les ressources des politiques sociales et de l’ESS, sur leur nature et leurs conséquences, que ce colloque entend mettre l’accent. Il s’agit d’un élargissement de la problématique du financement de l’économie sociale, qui n’a pas été le sujet principal des Journées de l’AÉS depuis 1991.

Il faut cependant reconnaître que les modalités d’action, les ressources et plus spécifiquement les modes de financements sont différents selon les champs d’action de l’économie sociale et selon la taille des structures : il est sans doute vain de chercher une grille de lecture unique pour l’ensemble du champ de l’économie sociale.

Les propositions pourront se décliner selon les axes suivants :

1 – Du retrait des politiques publiques au développement de l’ESS ?

2 – Quels outils et quels critères pour allouer les ressources et évaluer les activités ?

3 – Quelle coordination des ressources au service d’une dynamique territoriale ?

4 – Quel renouvellement des ressources au service de nouvelles formes de solidarité ?

5 – Quel cheminement historique pour les dispositifs de financement et la collecte des ressources, depuis le XIXe siècle ?

L’appel est ouvert à différentes disciplines (économie, sociologie, sciences politiques, histoire, sciences de gestion) et à leur croisement. Des propositions non spécifiques au thème central, relevant des champs habituels de l’économie sociale, sont également attendues.

Date de remise des propositions : 27 novembre 2017.

L’appel à communications sur le site du colloque.

As convenções das Políticas de Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação no Brasil: do Estado Empreendedor à crise do Estado Facilitador

Victor Luiz Alves Mourao (2017)

Sinais 21(1), pp. 132-154

Abstract. The article aims to conduct an analysis of Brazilian science, technology and innovation policies departing from the convention theory, a perspective that arises at the interface between sociology and economics through a focus on the situational contestation of the coordination of actions. The connection between these situations and the elaboration of policies and institutions is formulated as a problem, proceeding to the historical recapitulation of the historical process of building Brazilian scientific and technological institutions, with special attention to Science and technology public policies and conferences organized by the governments which focused to promote debate over the subject. In this way, it is possible to carry out an analysis that identifies the normative principles (cités) involved in the process of formulation, implementation and execution of the policies of science and technology, allowing to clarify continuities and discontinuities of Brazilian historical trajectory.

Télécharger / Download

Perspectives on the sustainability promise of alternative food networks, by Sini Forssell

 PhD thesis defended, with the permission of the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Helsinki,  on 15 September 2017, under the supervision of Dr. Leena Lankoski.

Abstract. This doctoral dissertation examines the phenomenon of alternative food networks (AFNs) from the perspective of food system sustainability. AFNs are seen as a promising response to the sustainability issues associated with the conventional food system, but have also attracted criticism. Criticisms include uncertainty over AFNs’ actual sustainability impacts; arguments that many AFNs are hybrid rather than purely alternative; and that their impact on food system sustainability is limited, due to their marginal position. In this dissertation, comprising three original research articles and an introductory section, I explore the above-mentioned criticisms to advance understanding of AFNs’ sustainability. I seek to i) understand what sustainability claims we can make for AFNs based on their characteristics, ii) to develop understanding of AFNs’ hybrid nature and their complex relationship to the conventional food system through empirically examining the negotiation of acceptable practice in AFNs; and iii) understand how this negotiation can be understood to drive wider food  system sustainability transitions by shaping norms. The main theoretical framework used is convention theory. This theory examines the deployment of different notions of worth in coordinating economic activity, as actors navigate in different situations, and shape these situations through their negotiation of acceptable practices. I also apply convention theory to the framework of sustainability transitions, to frame the examination of norm-shaping within the niche of AFNs. The empirical focus of this study is an often-overlooked AFN  actor, alternative food retailers, involving a qualitative, multiple case study research covering nine cases of alternative food retail in Finland and the UK.  My findings suggest that AFNs may potentially contribute to sustainability, but their sustainability should be critically assessed on a caseby-case basis. The findings also suggest a plurality of shared ideals in the domain of AFNs and several areas of tension in AFN practice that AFN actors  must navigate. In doing this, the actors may also shape the norms and ideals in the sector. The conceptual examination contributes a clarified overview of AFNs’ potential sustainability impacts and limitations, and provides a practical framework to assess different food networks’ sustainability. The empirical analysis challenges certain underlying assumptions in the previous literature, and contributes a new understanding of AFNs’ hybridity, its causes and consequences, and the challenges involved in adopting sustainable practices. The analysis can help practitioners understand consumer considerations, and opportunities and obstacles to more sustainable practices. It also deepens the understanding of how new norms are negotiated in the sector, and suggests an alternative view of AFNs’ potential to drive change, besides scaling up and gaining a larger share of the food market. It uncovers the deeper ideals that the alternative food retailers promote, and how these are different from or similar to conventional food system norms and ideals. This understanding can also help practitioners in their norm-shaping work. Theoretically, the study contributes a more dynamic application of convention theory to agri-food studies. The use of convention theory contributes a new understanding of the human and cultural aspect of sustainability transitions. AFNs are ultimately both more and less than their promise. They are not automatically sustainable, or always purely alternative, but can challenge the conventional food system. Their indirect impact on the wider food system may be greater than suggested by their small size and reach. AFNs operate in a dialogue between different parties, and the general direction of this dialogue is instrumental in shaping what AFNs might be or become, and the achievement of sustainability in AFNs.

Télécharger / Download

Supporting alternative organizations? Exploring scholars’ involvement in the performativity of worker-recuperated enterprises

Susana C Esper, Laure Cabantous, Luciano Barin-Cruz & Jean-Pascal Gond (2017)

Organization 24(5), pp. 671-699

Abstract. This article analyses the role of academics in the production and maintenance of alternative organizations within the capitalist system. Empirically, we focus on academics from the University of Buenos Aires who, through the extension programme Facultad Abierta, have supported worker-recuperated enterprises since their emergence in Argentina in the early 2000s. Conceptually, we build on prior studies on worker-recuperated enterprises as well as the ‘critical performativity’ concept that we define as scholars’ subversive interventions that can involve the production of new subjectivities, the constitution of new organizational models and/or the bridging of these models to current social movements. Our results uncover the multiple roles of academics in relation to these three facets and highlight the key interactions of these roles. In so doing, our analysis advances prior studies of worker-recuperated enterprises by clarifying how academics can support alternative organizations while offering a renewed conceptualization of critical performativity as a multifaceted process through which academics and workers interact.

Link to the review

Kolloquium Sozialforschung

Kolloquium Sozialforschung at University of Lucerne, in autumn semester 2017, offering lectures (in German) based on convention theory.

There is a series of lectures in the field of social research (methods) at University of Lucerne. Three of the six lectures are offered by conventionalists, referring topics to convention theory/applying convention theory. It will take place always on Wednesdays (16.15-17.45) at University of Lucerne (room 4.B54, Frohburgstrasse 3, Lucerne). Lectures are open for the interested public.

11.10.17 Prof. Dr. Regula Leemann (FHWN Basel) : «Die Soziologie der Konventionen in der sozialwissenschaftlich ausgerichteten Bildungsforschung: Methodologische und methodische Überlegungen und Erfahrungen»

15.11.17 Dr. Kenneth Horvath (Universität Luzern) : «Pädagogisches Unterscheidungswissen messen – Herausforderungen einer gegenstandsangemessenen Quantifizierung schulischer Klassifikations- und Bewertungslogiken»

13.12.17 Valeska Cappel (Universität Luzern) : «Health-Apps – Eine Forminvestition in einen digitalen Gesundheitsstatus?»


Seminar: L’économie des conventions – ein französischer Ansatz der Wirtschaftssoziologie

At the University of Basel the seminar “L’économie des conventions” starts next week.

Die Wirtschaftssoziologie erlebt seit den 1990er Jahren im Kontext von Globalisierung, Neoliberalismus und Finanzkrisen eine Renaissance. Zwar hatten sich bereits die soziologischen Klassiker wie Marx, Weber oder Durkheim intensiv mit wirtschaftlichen Phänomenen auseinandergesetzt. In der Zeit nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg dominierte hingegen eine zumeist stillschweigende Übereinkunft, der zu Folge sich die Soziologie mit der Gesellschaft und die Ökonomie mit der Wirtschaft beschäftigte. Diese Sicht gilt inzwischen als überholt, und heute kommt es immer öfter vor, dass soziologische und ökonomische Ansätze in direkte Konkurrenz zueinander geraten. Vor diesem Hintergrund setzen wir uns mit der «économie des conventions» (oder Konventionen-Ökonomie), einem französischen Ansatz der Wirtschaftssoziologie, auseinander. Mit dem Buch von Rainer Diaz-Bone (2015) liegt erstmals eine deutschsprachige Publikation vor, welche diesen Ansatz umfassend vorstellt. Im deutschsprachigen Raum bereits einigen Jahren bekannt ist die These vom «Neuen Geist des Kapitalismus» (Boltanski & Chiapello 2003), welche aus diesem Ansatz hervorgegangen ist. Die Auseinandersetzung mit der «économie des conventions» ist aus zweifachem Grund von besonderem Interesse: Zum einen, weil der Ansatz von Soziolog*innen und Ökonom*innen gemeinsam entwickelt wurde. Zum anderen, weil er ziemlich andere Wurzeln hat als die dominierenden angelsächsischen Ansätze der Wirtschaftssoziologie: So schlägt sich in den Konzepten der Konventionen-Ökonomie nicht zuletzt die kritische Auseinandersetzung mit so einflussreichen französischen Autoren wie Michel Foucault, Pierre Bourdieu oder Bruno Latour nieder.


Some institutions (social norms and conventions) of contemporary mainstream economics, macroeconomics and financial economics

David Dequech (2017)

Cambridge Journal of Economics. Online first.

Abstract. This paper applies an institutional approach to contemporary mainstream economics. It identifies some mental and behavioral rules of mainstream economics as a whole and of the mainstream segment of two important subdisciplines, namely, macroeconomics and financial economics. There are social reasons behind the sharing of these rules. They are institutions. More specifically, academics who do not comply with these rules are subject to punishment, while conformists may be rewarded. At the same time, many supporters of mainstream economics have internalized these rules as legitimate, in part because of the prestige of their advocates. Social sanctions and internalization characterize social norms. These institutions are also conventions. Through various mechanisms, some academics follow these rules at least in part because others have done so; in addition, the prevailing rules are not necessarily superior to existing or conceivable alternatives. The combination of social norms and conventions may have negative consequences for the discipline.

Link to the review

Konventionen der Arbeitsintegration

Alan Canonica (2017)

Zeitschrift für Unternehmensgeschichte (Journal of Business History), 62(2), pp. 233–255.

English Abstract. Conventions of Occupational Integration. The Employment of Disabled People in Swiss Enterprises (1950 to 1980). Disabled people’s access to the labour market is one of the leading ideas in disability policy. Its success depends on the willingness of employers to employ handicapped people. Both historical and social studies focus on the welfare state or the people in question, while the perspective of the employers is often neglected. Under what conditions are companies willing to employ people whose performance diverges from the common interest to maximise economic output? Switzerland is well suited for a case study, since there are no regulations for employers, such as a quota-system. Incorporating the theory of «économie des conventions», this study investigates how employers’ associations and companies justify employment of disabled people and how these people are valued. The timeframe investigated spans from the immediate post-war period to 1980.

Link to the review

The Limits of Ontological Critique: from Judgmental Rationality to Justification

Ismael Al-Amoudi & John Latsis (2017)

Cambridge Journal of Economics. 41(5), pp. 1303–1321.

Abstract. The Cambridge Social Ontology (CSO) programme’s inability to generate a meaningful dialogue with mainstream economics is difficult to understand by mere reference to judgmental rationality and without reference to CSO’s ideological configuration. Our paper uses an économie des conventions framework to draw systematic comparisons between CSO’s ideological configuration and the ideological configurations of mainstream economic theories and practice. The resulting analysis helps us to understand not only why CSO generated little response from the mainstream, but also how CSO might renew its critique in ways that might be more likely to produce a response.

Link to the pre-print version

Link to the review