Archives mensuelles : juin 2021

Dark times for cosmopolitanism? An ethical framework to address private agri-food governance and planetary stewardship

Jose M. Alcaraz, Francisco Tirado & Ana Gálvez (2021)

Business Ethics. Online first

Abstract. The scholarly tradition of cosmopolitanism (illustrated by the old saying, “I am a citizen of the world”) offers important insights into the examination of agri-food multinational corporations (MNCs) as powerful global actors. Acknowledging that agriculture is the business sector with the highest planetary environmental impact, in this paper, we advance existing discussions around cosmopolitanism and the normative implications of considering agri-food MNCs as political actors. Relying on an integrative literature review, we propose a tripartite ethical framework that gives a new momentum to the ideals and tenets of cosmopolitanism. This novel lens offers an integrated, seamless ethical approach and revolves around three dimensions: culture, morality, and governance. The first dimension examines key agri-food cultural and social-ecological issues, the second acknowledges interdependence and causality as central to understanding MNCs’ ethical responsibilities, and the third outlines several governance parameters around legitimacy, planetary reach and efficiency. Hence, our integrative framework resituates the planetary geographical imagination of cosmopolitanism within the biophysical parameters outlined by the planetary boundaries concept, advancing key issues on private agri-food environmental governance and planetary stewardship.

Extract: “The moral dimension refers to the bigger frames of thought and action that shape actors’ quotidian activities and evaluations. Despite being intimately linked to the cultural and psychosocial realm, every moral dimension exceeds the cultural one, as it offers actors a positioning before the surrounding world (as convincingly and provocatively argued by Goffman, 1974). In other words, it is the moral dimension, our positioning before the world, what essentially shapes our cultural-political coordinates, and not the way around (Boltanski & Thévenot, 1999; Thévenot, 2001, 2007).” (p. 7)

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Institutional work in the transformation of the German energy sector

Patricia Graf & Heike Jacobsen (2021)

Utilities Policy 68, pp. 1-9

Abstract. Two European and German policies – one transitioning to sustainable energy and the other enhancing competition – strained the German electricity sector’s organizational structures, which had been designed for network stability and a secure supply. Digital technologies and the new business models were important factors in these changes. Based on qualitative interviews, we analyze how changes caused by liberalization and energy-transition policies are related to the internal organizational changes at publicly owned energy providers. While some companies legitimate new forms of work organization and employment, thereby disrupting old institutions, others block internal change with reference to the external institutional framework.

Extract: “Klopfleisch (2018, 146) asks: “Can corporations and municipal utilities manage the feat of reinventing themselves during this energy transition with more and better qualified staff?” Thus far, there is only a single study that attempts to answer this. Jacobsen et al., (2017) analyze changes to the organization of work at municipal energy suppliers by applying the concept of the sociology of conventions (Boltanski and Thevenot, 2006). They show that the prior “industrial-” and “family”-oriented conventions of evaluating conflicts arising from the reorganization of work tend to be overridden by more “market-” and “network-”oriented conventions. These findings imply some weakening of the historically deep-rooted dominance of supply security as the overarching orientation for management and employees in the energy supply sector.” (p. 3)

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“Simple jobs” for disqualified workers. Employability at the bottom of the labour market

Eva Nadai & Anna Gonon (2021)

In: Suter, Christian/Cuvi, Jacinto/Balsiger, Philip/Nedelcu Mihaela (eds.): The future of work. Zürich: Seismo, pp. 199-221. Open access.

Extract: “9.2 Theoretical Framework and Empirical Database
In everyday language the term qualification refers to the certified proof of a specific education and training. For the Economics and Sociology of Convention it has the more encompassing meaning of attributing properties to social objects as well as conferring a quality or value (Diaz-Bone 2018, 143). A prominent explanation for the low value of unqualified workers holds that educational attainment serves as an indicator of productivity and trainability; the lack of qualification, therefore signals low productivity (Gesthuizen et al. 2011). In contrast, Salais (2001) argues that labour and its value do not yet exist at the moment of selling it in the market, i.e. when employers and workers enter into an employment contract. What matters is not the work per se but ‘the (very material and singular) product of work’ (Salais 2001, 7). Hence, the value of labour is only realized at the moment of selling the product in the market. Hiring thus requires prognostic judgments on how the prospective worker contributes to production and market success. Valorization comprises two analytically distinct operations: valuation as ‘adding value to something’ and evaluation as ‘producing a judgment by assessing the value of something’ (Bessy and Chauvin 2013, 85).” (p. 201)

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Values of Quality in ‘Natural’ Wine Production – The study of ‘natural’ wine in Germany

Maximilian Hågård Brown (2021)

MA thesis. Uppsala: University of Uppsala

Abstract. The current food production system based on a globalized network of economic efficiency and productivity relies on resource intensive production methods that are often environmentally destructive and unsustainable. Therefore, a growing body of research seeks to understand how different alternative food networks (AFNs) are potentially shaping new approaches to agriculture and our relationship to food in order to combat the current environmental crisis. The ‘Natural’ wine movement (NWM) positions itself as an alternative food network with the potential to shape new conventions of quality in contrast to mainstream forms of industrial food production. In this study, I investigate the values of ‘natural’ wine producers (NWPs) in Germany in order to understand what conventions of quality they associate with food production. In order to interpret the values of the NWPs, I conducted semi-structured interviews along with the application of the conventions theory framework. The findings of the study show that the NWPs in Germany share values associated with environmental sustainability, transparency, and artisanal expression.

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Alternative Food Networks and the Socialization of Food

Gilles Allaire (2021)

In: Maurer, Andrea (ed.), Handbook of Economic Sociology for the 21st Century. Cham: Springer, pp. 221-235

Abstract. The Alternative Food Networks’ (AFN) conceptual framework appeared in the context of the internationalization of food provision systems, and of the so-called quality turn, to distinguish food networks connecting territories, products, and people, which claim to be alternatives to conventional food systems, or alternatives to dominant food supply chains. Alternativeness and localness are not clearly defined. However, the concept of AFN covers a wide variety of phenomena related to product qualifications: organic, fair trade, geographical indications, and regional, local, artisanal, natural, ethnic, and premium specialties. It also covers phenomena related to market social infrastructures, from transnational standards to a variety of local food. This chapter puts the analysis of the development of AFNs in the historical perspective of industrialization and socialization of food, by addressing several theoretical propositions: food regimes approach, conventionalization and commodification debates, and nested markets. These analyses cause one to rethink markets as social spaces. We propose a conceptual framework which considers markets as control projects, quality as social order, and regimes of competition as market social infrastructures. Alternative dynamics appear to participate in a shift from an industrial market regime (modern socialization) to a media market regime (neoliberal socialization).

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Participation for what? Organizational roles, quality conventions and purchasing behaviors in solidarity purchasing groups

Filippo Barbera, Joselle Dagnes & Roberto Di Monaco (2021)

Journal of Rural Studies, 73, pp. 243-251


– Quality of the exchange relationship distinguishes Solidarity Purchase Groups (SPGs) from conventional food chains.

– Exchanges in an organized setting with specific organizational roles qualify SPGs member as meaning-making prosumers.

– Intrinsic motivation, shared values, and meaning-making mechanisms are correlated with consumer attitudes and roles.

– The organizational SPGs context allows members to modulate their ideological or expressive relationship with the producers.

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The logic of play. Implications for institutional theory

Alistair Mutch (2021)

In: Vesa, Mikko (ed.), Organizational Gamification. Theories and Practices of Ludified Work in Late Modernity. London: Routledge.

Extract: “An alternative approach, one which has found a little traction within organizational studies, is the ‘conventions of worth’ approach associated with the French social theorists Boltanski and Thévenot (2006) in their work on justification. This proposes a number of ‘orders of worth’ and has been influential in the French school examining the sociology of conventions (Cloutier & Langley, 2013). They propose a number of such orders of worth or worlds’: these are inspired, domestic, fame, civic, market and industrial. They suggest that each is drawn upon when persons justify their actions, giving them a sense of worth and identity. There are some suggestive elements to this, but there are also critiques to do with the derivation of these orders. For the purpose of this chapter, however, it is sufficient to recognize, as the authors do, that ‘The model of justification we have presented here in its broad outlines does not claim to account for the behavior of actors in any and all situations they may encounter’ (Boltanski & Thévenot, 2006, p. 347). Play is unlikely, given the focus on justifications, to find a place in this list, although their focus on fame is something to which we will return. However, neither of these approaches gives any attention to the meanings that humans attach to their activities through the medium of play.”

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Musicalized images. Composing, playing, remixing, and performing net art

Jean-Paul Fourmentraux (2021):

In: Hennion, Antoine/Levaux, Christophe (eds.), Rethinking music through science and technology studies. London: Routledge, pp. 268-282.

Extract: “But alongside these studies in the sociology of art, other sociological domains accorded importance to the objects that provide for and result from coordinated human activities. The sociologies of sociotechnical networks, situated action, and distributed cognition proved less reluctant to incorporate objects! into their framework for analyzing activities, proposing a more direct approach to the articulation of technical and social facts. Accordingly, the relation to technical objects would no longer solely concern instrumentation or alienation but could also extend to modes of frequentation and contact or even of play. This interpretive shift offered anew perspective on different domains of social life, from the fabrication of scientific discoveries (Latour and Callon 1991) or industrial innovations (Vinck 1999) to the most ordinary of activities, now equipped with a wide variety of technical objects that themselves would be put to the test of social relations (Boltanski and Thévenot 1991; Conein, Dodier, and Thévenct 1993). By resituating social interactions in the places, practices, and worlds of objects, these sociologies offer alternatives to the approaches of technical determinism and social constructivism. No longer seen as mere signs or symbolic representations of the social and cultural issues leading to or following from their manipulation, the technical objects now equip social exchanges and participate in the dynamic of the interaction by giving the actors new resources and reference points. Two new notions—-prises and mediation—would enable the sociology of art to take advantage of these reflexive advances. The notion of prise put forth by Christian Bessy and Francis Chateauraynaud seeks to explain, in an active mode, the perceptual grasp as well as the assessment of objects; the concept was chosen for its symmetrical character, implying both that which gives affordance to (donne prise a) and that which exerts control over (a prise sur) (Bessy and Chateauraynaud 1995).” (p. 268-269)

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Between Daily Routine and Violent Protest

Interpreting the Technicity of Action

Ernst Wolff (2021)

Berlin: De Gruyter.

Extract: “2 On Critique
Let us first consider from which perspective and to what extent the previous five chapters may be called critical. Roughly following Luc Boltanski, I distinguish between two kinds of social scientific critique on the basis of their “simple” or “complex” exteriority. One assumes a position of simple exteriority by taking a spectator’s position, outside of the normal unfolding of social events, in order to subject the phenomena to careful study and reporting. Here, critiquing means bringing to light what may be overlooked, or what may be too vast to be observed by participants in the usual course of events. Critique is then exercised as if the aspect of reality studied appears arbitrary, but has to be clarified as necessary. Furthermore, such scientific work is critical in pursuing accurate and coherent descriptions, learning from experts and falsifiable reporting. By contrast, one assumes a position of complex exteriority by first taking the position described as simple exteriority (since critiquing in the second sense depends on the descriptive accuracy provided by the first). But this is coupled with a normative assessment. Critiquing in this sense fulfils the functions of unmasking or denouncing. It typically exposes what things are and the values they have obtained in society as exploitative, dominating or unjust, rather than as just powerful.” (pp. 160-161)

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Perception of Quality Attributes in Short Agri-food Chains

Andréa Scalco, Gilberto Ganga, Sandra Oliveira, Roberta Piao, Machado Pigatto & João Guilherme Gessuir (2021)

International Journal on Food System Dynamics, 12(2), pp. 108-124.

Abstract. This paper aims to identify quality attributes in products from short agri-food chains, highlighting the perception of these attributes in three types of short chains (face-to-face, spatial proximity, and spatially extended). We conducted a survey with 904 consumers in six distribution channels. The results indicate that the perception of quality attributes for consumers in short agri-food chains is not homogeneous. The results also shed light on the mechanisms adopted for transmitting information from producer to consumer in spatially extended short chains, restricted to the use of seals or brands.

Extract: “The quality turn underscores a shift in the quality concept of the industrial world emphasizing trust, tradition, custom, history, and ecological practices instead of standardization of products and processes (Murdoch and Mielle, 1999; Murdoch, 2000). This modern concept for product quality can be explained by the convention theory, which explains the behavior of consumers in the process of purchasing agri-food products. The convention theory addresses sociological aspects in the assessment processes of consumer product quality (Migliore et. al, 2015).” (p. 111)

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Standard quality as a boundary object – A conceptual study

Svein Ole Borgen (2021)

Sociologica Ruralis, Online first

Abstract. This is a conceptual article that uses the concept “boundary object” in order to discuss what role the loosely defined notion “standard product quality” plays with regard to coordination and controversies in the Norwegian agrifood market. The Boundary object theory offers a unique approach to exploring the boundaries (shared spaces) between standard and non-standard product qualities as framed by the involved actors. This theory emphasises the difference between doing and being: Analysing what quality does in social settings is a more informative approach than discussing what quality is. The core arguments are illustrated by a review of available studies of the Norwegian agrifood market. The first part of the article concludes that standard quality coordinates the hegemonic stakeholders (producers, retailers, regulators and consumers) without presupposing consensus between them. The second part of the article addresses the controversies in the boundaries between the hegemonic agricultural agrifood system and competing alternatives related to organic, terroir and animal welfare-qualities. The study discerns no signs of any transformative quality-turn away from the Norwegian hegemonic agrifood system and the inherent emphasise on “standard product” quality. On the other hand, this is not static since different interpretations of quality continuously challenge each other.

Extract: “Unsurprisingly, the scholarly literature includes many alternative approaches to what quality is, conceptually and in practice. One well-known example is the distinction between products of premium, standard and economy quality (Seenivasan & Talukdar, 2016; Stræte & Lindgreen, 2008). Another example is nominal vs. ordinal qualities (Bower, 2009). Further examples are credence vs. observable product qualities (Lassoued & Hobbs, 2015), objective vs. subjectively perceived product characteristics (Wiggins & Potter, 2003), and horizontal vs. vertical product differentiation (Lutz, 1997). To define it more precisely and operationalise it, socially constructed notions of quality must refer to phenomena outside itself, such as business strategies (Maillard, 2013; Teece, 2018), individual consumer preferences (Schjøll & Alfnes, 2017; Warde, 2015), quality standards (Brunsson & Jacobsson, 2000; Busch, 2011; White, 1981) and quality conventions (Boltanski & Thévenot, 1999; Storper & Salais, 1997; Thévenot, 2001; White, 1981). In their discussion of quality conventions, Storper and Salais define worlds of production as coherent combinations of technologies and markets, product qualities and quantitative practices of resource use. A world of production is a convention that represents and reflects a logical interlinkage between products, individuals, organisations, objects and ideas. It is structured around two dimensions: (a) Applied technology/organisation of production (standardised technology vs. specialised technology) and (b) The firms’ market orientation (generic market approach vs. dedicated market approach). The former refers to the supply side of the economy, and the latter refers to the demand side. A standardised product is made with a known, widely diffused production technology in which quality is so widely attainable that competition comes to be inevitably centred on price. From this, standard quality products are defined as “products that originate from production process with standardized technology and characterized by a generic market approach” (Storper & Salais, 1997, p. 109).” (p. 4-5)

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L’économie encastrée dans la santé. Introduction au dossier “La santé, miroir des sociétés”

The economy, embedded in health. Introduction to the special issue “Health, mirror of societies”

Philippe Batifoulier & Nicolas Da Silva (2021)

Revue Française de Socio-Économie, 26, pp. 13-26

Extrait: “Ce capitalisme basé sur la santé peut être analysé de deux manières possibles. Une première conception souligne que l’appellation anthropogénétique n’est qu’une autre forme du capitalisme financiarisé, développant de nouveaux marchés pour un capitalisme en quête de nouveaux débouchés et transformant les revendications de démocratie sanitaire en un moyen de reproduction du capital. Une seconde conception en fait un nouveau mode de vie, qui rend nécessaire l’augmentation les dépenses de santé publiques et privées pour le bien-être des citoyens. Il donne plus d’importance aux États et aux citoyens.
Si tel est le cas, le capitalisme sanitaire peut être associé à un nouvel esprit du capitalisme. Comme l’ont montré Boltanski et Chiapello [1999], l’accumulation du capital nécessite une idéologie qui justifie l’engagement dans le capitalisme offrant des perspectives de vie attrayantes (pas seulement des avantages matériels) et des raisons morales. Le capitalisme se transforme en intégrant la critique.” (p. 21)

Extract: “This health-based capitalism can be analyzed in two possible ways. A first conception emphasizes that the anthropogenetic name is just another form of financialized capitalism, developing new markets for a capitalism in search of new outlets and transforming the demands for health democracy into a means of capital reproduction. A second conception makes it a new way of life, which makes it necessary to increase public and private health spending for the well-being of citizens. It gives more importance to states and citizens.
If this is the case, health capitalism can be associated with a new spirit of capitalism. As Boltanski and Chiapello [1999] have shown, capital accumulation requires an ideology that justifies engagement in capitalism offering attractive life prospects (not only material benefits) and moral reasons. Capitalism is transformed by incorporating critique.” (p. 21)

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Les « banques éthiques » au prisme des discours sur soi : une identité discursive et narrative hybride

The self-presentation of «Ethical banks». A hybrid discursive and narrative identity

Andrea Catellani & Amaia Errecart (2021)

Communication & langages, 207, pp. 129-147.

Résumé. Cet article propose une exploration, basée sur l’analyse du discours et la sémiotique, du discours institutionnel de « présentation de soi » de deux banques « éthiques et alternatives », le Crédit Coopératif et la banque Triodos. Notre analyse vise à approfondir la compréhension des dispositifs discursifs de construction d’une identité « différente », où la dimension financière et la rentabilité sont présentées comme étant au service de l’éthique et de la durabilité. Nous explorons ainsi la mise en scène d’identités qui empruntent à la fois au mouvement coopératif et au monde financier, à la « cité civique » et à la « cité marchande », à l’intérêt général et à l’intérêt particulier et, en termes wébériens, à l’éthique de conviction et à l’éthique de responsabilité.

Abstract. This article proposes an exploration, based on discourse analysis and semiotics, of the institutional discourse of “self-presentation” of two “ethical and alternative” banks, the Crédit Coopératif and the Triodos bank. Our analysis aims to deepen the understanding of the discursive devices aimed at constructing a “different” identity, where the financial dimension and profitability are presented as being at the service of ethics and sustainability. We thus explore the staging of identities that borrow from both the cooperative movement and the financial world, the “civic city” and the “market city”, the general interest and the particular interest and, in Weberian terms, the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility.

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Governing-by-the numbers – Résumé after one and a half years

Walter Radermacher (2021)

Statistical Journal of the IAOS, 37(2), pp. 701–711.

Extract: “1.Introduction (Along came COVID1) 
At the end of 2019, when the contribution “Governing-by-the-numbers/Statistical governance” [1] was intended to initiate a reflection and discussion on the discussion platform on the future of official statistics in a digital and globalised society, it could not yet be foreseen how much the world would change in 2020. Eighteen months later, the COVID pandemic has taught us painfully how urgent the availability of reliable statistical information is. […] This reduction to physical objects and their ‘measurement’ does not, of course, meet the typical target of observation in (official) statistics, as Theodore Porter [31], Heinz Grohmann [32] or Alain Desrosières [33] have clearly pointed out in their works. Imagine, for example, approaching the well-known indicators of statistics, such as GDP or the Consumer Price Index, with such an inadequate scientific toolkit. Desrosières’ work is closely linked to the scientific movement of the so-called “economics of convention” (in French ‘économie des conventions’) [34]. Here, the name of this movement already contains the core of the message that statistics (at least in the field of social or economic phenomena) has to deal with facts that cannot be measured directly, such as a tree, but which first require a qualitative description (or as Grohmann put it “theoretisches Konstrukt”) and subsequently its translation into a corresponding statistical concept.” (p. 701/706)

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Organisation und Grenze aus konventionentheoretischer Sicht

Organization and boundary from a convention theoretical perspective

Matthias Alke (2021)

In: Schröer, Andreas/Köngeter, Stefan/Manhart, Sebastian/Schröder, Christian/Wendt, Thomas (eds.): Organisation über Grenzen. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, pp. 109-122.

Zusammenfassung. Anknüpfend an theoretische Konzepte aus der Soziologie der Konventionen beleuchtet der Beitrag das Verhältnis von Organisation und Grenze aus konventionentheoretischer Sicht. Damit ist das Ziel verbunden, das analytische Potential für die Organisationspädagogik herauszuarbeiten, für die Fragen der Grenzen von, in und über Organisationen bedeutsam sind. Zunächst werden einige zentrale konventionentheoretische Prämissen skizziert. Darauf aufbauend wird das theoretische Verständnis von Organisationen in der Soziologie der Konventionen dargelegt. Anschließend wird auf Basis einer Fallanalyse aus einer Studie zum Steuerungswandel von Volkshochschulen das Potential der Soziologie der Konventionen für die Untersuchung von Grenzfragen in der organisationspädagogischen Forschung aufgezeigt. Das letzte Kapitel widmet sich offenen Fragen und weiterführenden Perspektiven.

Abstract. Drawing on theoretical concepts from the sociology of conventions, this contribution illuminates the relationship between organization and boundary from the perspective of convention theory. This is connected with the goal of elaborating the analytical potential for organizational pedagogy, for which questions of boundaries of, in, and about organizations are significant. First, some central premises of convention theory are outlined. Building on this, the theoretical understanding of organizations in the sociology of conventions is outlined. Then, on the basis of a case analysis from a study on the governance change of adult education centers, the potential of the sociology of conventions for the investigation of boundary issues in organizational pedagogical research is demonstrated. The final chapter is devoted to open questions and further perspectives.

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