Archives mensuelles : septembre 2021

Origin food schemes and the paradox of reducing diversity to defend it

Mariagiulia Mariani, Claire Cerdan & Iuri Peri (2021)

Sociologia Ruralis, 61(2), pp. 465-490.

Abstract. Origin food schemes (OFS) aim to protect and promote a unique product resulting from a specific place and know-how whose qualities are objectified in the product specifications. This paper explores the standardisation effects of OFS on the diversity of local practices and knowledge by analysing the emergence of the specifications of four origin cheeses recognised as Geographical Indications and Slow Food Presidia (Chefchaouen goat cheese in Morocco, Piacentinu Ennese in Italy, and Béarn mountain cheese and Ossau-Iraty in France). Results confirm that specifications directly preserve some genetic resources, taste, and know-how, whilst they also show that traditional production practices are taken into account differently, depending on negotiations among stakeholders during which opposing motives, strategies, and forms of knowledge may emerge. We argue that paradoxically this process results in adapting and reducing existing diversity, including in OFS that are more oriented towards localising practices and promoting a diversity of tastes.

Extract: “Thus, producers define voluntary and proactive standards to demonstrate in what way their foods differ from and are superior to conventional commodities (Brunori 2006; Guthman 2007; Holloway et al. 2007). Specifications objectify, measure, and communicate those differentiated quality attributes to consumers (Busch 2000; Vuylsteke et al. 2005; Bowen and De Master 2011) within a ‘quality convention’ (Boltanski and Thevenot 2006). In this way, the quality attributes are stabilised and reproduced over time. To obtain a premium price, these differences are ‘acknowledged, highlighted and marketed’ (Ilbery et al. 2005, p. 118)” (p. 467)

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Sociologia pragmática e pragmatism

Pragmatic Sociology and Pragmatism

Diogo Silva Corrêa & Rodrigo Cantu (eds.)(2021)

Sociedade e Estado, 36(2). Open access


  • Corrêa, Diogo Silva; Cantu, Rodrigo: Apresentação: dossiê “Sociologia pragmática e pragmatismo” Dossiê: Sociologia pragmática e pragmatismo
  • Corrêa, Diogo Silva; Talone, Vittorio da Gamma: An outline of a pragmatist theory on reflexivity: exploring the pathways of the concept through social theory
  • Sales, Samantha; Cantu, Rodrigo; Committed capitalism
  • Cefaï, Daniel: Social institutions: a dialogue between sociology Chicago and pragmatist philosophy
  • Resende, José Manuel; Carvalho, José Maria: Flowing in dwelling and dwelling in flowing: tracking the creative experience of an abstract painter resident of Pisão
  • Andion, Carolina; Magalhães, Thiago: (Re)approaching the pragmatisms of public policy analysis. Experimentation and public inquiry in a scenario of democratic crises
  • Bidet, Alexandra; Sarnowski, Solène: “You can always think further, find something better” Collapsing moments and day-to-day activism in the face of the ecological disaster
  • Porto, Camille; Werneck, Alexandre: The value of an existence: a pragmatic analysis of valuations of human life in situations related to money
  • Tomei, Francesco; Louro, Pedro Grunewald; Hey, Ana Paula: The rises of the economy of enrichment and of the extreme right: an interview with Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre


Link to the review

Kolloquium Sozialforschung

Colloquium Social Research

Organized by Kenneth Horvath and Rainer Diaz-Bone at University of Lucerne, the colloquium offers a series of lectures based on or referring to convention theory.

Präsentation. Im Kolloquium Sozialforschung werden aktuelle Projekte und Fragen sozialwissenschaftlicher Forschungs- und Berufspraxis besprochen. Im Fokus stehen methodische und methodologische Herausforderungen, Neuerungen und Probleme. Das Kolloquium deckt das breite Spektrum der empirischen Sozialforschung ab – präsentiert und diskutiert werden Arbeiten aus der Markt-, Meinungs- und Medienforschung ebenso wie aus amtlicher Statistik, Evaluations-, Akzeptanz- und Begleitforschung und aus universitären Kontexten.

Presentation. In the Colloquium Social Research, current projects and questions of social science research and professional practice are discussed. The focus is on methodological and methodological challenges, innovations and problems. The colloquium covers the broad spectrum of empirical social research – papers from market, opinion and media research as well as from official statistics, evaluation, acceptance and accompanying research and from university contexts are presented and discussed.

Zeit/Time: mittwochs (Tuesday) 16.15-17.45

Ort/Room: Seminarraum 3.B47

  • Mi, 13.10.21
    Miriam Kutt (Universität Luzern)
    «Closing one’s Eyes. Methodische Ansätze zur Untersuchung von Prozessen der Konfliktvermeidung»
  • Mi, 27.10.21
    Prof. Dr. Eva Nadai (FHNW Olten)
    «’Unqualifiziert’ – zur Konstruktion von Wert(losigkeit) im Arbeitsmarkt»
  • Mi, 10.11.21
    Dr. Karolin Kappler (FernUniversität Hagen)
    «Von Datenwelten zur digitalen Kette: Eine konventionentheoretische Reflexion zur digitalen Transformation der Gesellschaft»
  • Mi, 24.11.21
    Dr. Arne Böker (Universität Halle-Wittenberg)
    «Bildungsaufstiege in der Krise? Auswirkungen der Corona-Pandemie auf First Generation Students»
  • Mi, 15.12.21 (via Zoom)
    Leonie Bisang (Universität Luzern)
    «Selektionsmechanismen/Reproduktion sozialer Ungleichheit/Bildungsmobilität im Hochschulwesen»

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Study Preparation of Refugees in Germany: How Teachers’ Evaluative Practices Shape Educational Trajectories

Stefanie Schröder (2021)

Social Inclusion, 9(3), pp. 383-393. Open access.

Abstract. Recent research shows that a remarkable share of refugees who have arrived in Germany over the past few years is highly qualified and has strong educational and academic aspirations. Preparatory colleges (Studienkollege) and language courses of higher education institutions are the two main organisations providing obligatory study preparation for non‐EU international study applicants in Germany, including an increasing number of refugees. So far, research on conditions for refugees’ successful transitions into and through study preparation, and eventually into higher education, is scarce. The article fills a research gap on the organisational level by considering the established norms and rules of study preparation organisations and the key role of teachers in shaping successful pathways into higher education. Based on central concepts deriving from the sociology of valuation and evaluation, categorisation, and evaluative repertoires, the article aims to illustrate the organisational norms and rules in play shaping teachers’ experiences and perceptions of their students’ ability to study. The qualitative analysis of seven expert interviews shows how teachers differentiate between students with and without a refugee background in terms of performance and reveals opportunities and constraints to take refugees’ resources and needs in study preparation programmes into account.

Link to the article

The New European Political Arithmetic of Inequalities in Education: A History of the Present

Romuald Normand (2021)

Social Inclusion, 9(3), pp. 361-371. Open access.

Abstract. The article describes the emergence and development of positive epistemology and quantification tools in the dynamics of inequalities in education. It contributes to a history of the present at a time when datafication and experimentalism are reappearing in educational policies to justify the reduction of inequalities across international surveys and randomised controlled trials. This socio‐history of metrics also sheds light on transformations about relationships historically established between the welfare state and education that have shaped the representation of inequalities and social programs in education. The use of large‐scale surveys and controlled experiments in social and educational policies developed in the 1920s and 30s, even if their methods and techniques have become more sophisticated due to statistical progress. However, statistical reasoning is today no less persuasive in justifying the measurement of student skills and various forms of state intervention for “at‐risk” children and youth. With the rise of international organisations, notably the European Commission, demographic issues related to school population and the reduction of inequalities have shifted. It is less a question of selecting the most talented or gifted among working‐class students than of investing in human capital from early childhood to improve the education systems’ performance and competitiveness for the lifelong learning economy and European social investment strategy. This article attempts to illustrate this new arithmetic of inequalities in education at the European level.

Link to the article

Mission Accomplished? Critique, Justification, and Efforts to Diversify Gifted Education

Arne Böker (2021)

Social Inclusion, 9(3), pp. 337-346. Open access.

Abstract. Research on gifted education demonstrates how these programs contribute globally to the reproduction of social inequalities. Despite these findings, gifted education has been remarkably successful in the 21st century. However, the need to equate the inclusion of women, first‐generation students, and students with a migration background in gifted education has simultaneously intensified. Both developments are embedded in profound transformations of the education system globally, especially in the social diversification of student populations and the concurrent demand for excellence in academic research. The German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung) is the largest gifted education program in Germany and one of the oldest worldwide. In recent years, the Studienstiftung has tried to diversify their students. Based on a discourse analysis, which uses the concepts of justification, critique, and regimes of justification, I examine official documents of the Studienstiftung between 1925 and 2018. In doing so, I show that the spirit of the Studienstiftung and their handling of social statistics raise doubts concerning the successful diversification of their students—as the Studienstiftung has claimed. Finally, I discuss several measures that might be useful to support social diversification in gifted education in the future.

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Kodieren als Beruf. Die Kodierfachkräfte, eine Beschäftigtengruppe des Krankenhauses im Spannungsfeld zwischen medizinisch-pflegerischen und betriebswirtschaftlichen Ansprüchen

Coding as a profession. The coding specialists, an employee group of the hospital in the area of conflict between medical-nursing and economic demands

Andreas Pfeuffer (2021)

PhD thesis. Kassel: University of Kassel.

Zusammenfassung. Gegenstand der vorliegenden Arbeit ist das 2003 in Deutschland eingeführte Abrechnungssystem von Krankenhausleistungen nach Fallpauschalen, die auf den Diagnosis Related Groups (DRG) basieren. Die arbeits- und berufs- bzw. professionssoziologische, organisations- sowie medizinsoziologische Fragestellungen verknüpfende Arbeit, geht auf der Grundlage semi-standardisierter Leitfadeninterviews mit Beschäftigten unterschiedlicher Kategorien öffentlicher Krankenhäuser und Mitarbeiter*innen des Medizinischen Dienstes der Krankenversicherung (MDK) sowie teilnehmender Beobachtung und Analyse von Fachpublikationen der Frage nach, was in der Praxis in und zwischen den Bereichen des Krankenhauses sowie darüber hinaus im Umgang mit dem MDK formell wie informell (Rightcoding und Upcoding) geschieht, wenn eine Krankenhausbehandlung im Rahmen des DRG-Systems „abgerechnet“ werden soll. Dabei werden die Perspektiven der verschiedenen am Behandlungs- (medizinisch-pflegerische Trajektorie) und Abrechnungsprozess (DRG-Trajektorie) und damit an der «Fabrikation» der jeweiligen DRG eines Falles beteiligten Berufsgruppen auf das Abrechnungssystem, ihr praktischer Umgang damit, aber auch die zwischen diesen Berufsgruppen herrschende Arbeitsteilung, die Auseinandersetzungen um jurisdictional claims (Abbott) und die damit verbundenen Konflikte genauer in den Blick genommen. Die Ärzteschaft reagiert in Bezug auf die ihr obliegenden Dokumentationsverpflichtung vorwiegend vermeidend, wenn sie nicht gelernt hat, das Fallpauschalensystem «auszubeuten» (Werner Vogd). Der Pflegedienst, der lange Zeit Opfer des nicht zuletzt durch das Fallpauschalensystem initiierten Stellenabbaus gewesen ist, hatte ungeachtet dessen zunächst eine durchaus positive Haltung gegenüber dem System und den ihm zukommenden bürokratischen Aufgaben, etwa dem Kodieren im Rahmen der Pflegekomplexmaßnahmen (PKMS), entwickelt, was mit der Hoffnung, die Arbeit der Pflege gegenüber der ärztlichen Tätigkeit aufzuwerten und «sichtbarer» zu machen, als Anerkennungskampf interpretiert wird. Im Zentrum der Arbeit steht aber die Genese und Berufspraxis der Tätigkeitsgruppe der Kodierfachkräfte, die in den meisten Krankenhäusern für die Kodierung der Fälle im Rahmen des Abrechnungsprozesses nicht de jure, aber faktisch zuständig sind. Anhand der Kontrastierung der Berufsverläufe der Personen aus dem Untersuchungssample ergibt sich ein recht buntes Bild an unterschiedlichen vorangegangen Tätigkeiten, Ausbildungen (ehemalige Pflegekräfte, Medizinische Dokumentar*innen, Arzthelferinnen, Stationsassistentinnen) und Motiven für den Wechsel ins Medizincontrolling. In arbeitssoziologischer Perspektive werden auf der Basis der Interviews sowie teilnehmender Beobachtung der Arbeit auf den Stationen sowie des Kodierprozesses mit Patientenakte und „Grouper-Software“ die konkreten Arbeitssituationen und Arbeitsbedingungen, aber auch die Konflikte in den Interaktionen mit den Angehörigen des ärztlichen Dienstes dargestellt, bevor dann in Form einer Fallkontrastierung unterschiedliche Deutungsmuster, professionelle Dispositionen und Praktiken von Kodierfachkräften herausgearbeitet werden. Schließlich wird als letzte Phase der DRG-Trajektorie das Verhältnis der Organisation Krankenhaus zum Kontrollorgan der Krankenversicherungen, dem MDK beleuchtet. Aufgrund von realen oder vermeintlichen Fällen von Missbrauch und Abrechnungsbetrug herrscht ein Misstrauensverhältnis zwischen der Organisation Krankenhaus und den Kostenträgern, das in Form des Auftrags der Abrechnungsprüfungen an den MDK institutionalisiert ist. Hier wird am Beispiel eines öffentlichen Krankenhauses dessen Medizincontrolling als organisationale «Grenzstelle» gefasst, die mit der Organisationsumwelt (Krankenkassen, MDK) ein Vertrauensverhältnis zu etablieren bemüht ist.

Abstract. The subject of this PhD thesis is the billing system for hospital services based on Diagnosis Related Groups (DRG), which was introduced in Germany in 2003. The sociology of work and occupation resp. On the basis of semi-standardized guideline interviews with employees of different categories of public hospitals and employees of the Medical Service of the Health Insurance (MDK) as well as participant observation and analysis of professional publications, the study, which links sociological and professional, organizational and medical sociological questions, pursues the question of what happens in practice in and between the areas of the hospital as well as beyond that in dealing with the MDK formally as well as informally (rightcoding and upcoding), when a hospital treatment is to be “accounted for” within the framework of the DRG system. In this context, the perspectives of the various professional groups involved in the treatment (medical-nursing trajectory) and billing process (DRG trajectory) and thus in the “fabrication” of the respective DRG of a case on the billing system, their practical handling of it, but also the division of labor prevailing between these professional groups, the disputes about jurisdictional claims (Abbott) and the conflicts associated with them are examined more closely. The medical profession reacts in a predominantly avoidant manner with regard to the documentation obligations incumbent upon it, if it has not learned to “exploit” the per-case flat rate system (Werner Vogd). The nursing service, which has long been a victim of the downsizing initiated not least by the fee-per-case system, had, notwithstanding, initially developed a thoroughly positive attitude toward the system and the bureaucratic tasks incumbent upon it, such as coding within the framework of the nursing complex measures (PKMS), which is interpreted as a struggle for recognition with the hope of upgrading the work of nursing vis-à-vis that of physicians and making it more “visible.” However, the focus of the paper is on the genesis and professional practice of the activity group of coding specialists, who in most hospitals are not de jure but de facto responsible for coding cases as part of the billing process. By contrasting the career histories of the persons in the study sample, a rather colorful picture of different previous activities, training (former nurses, medical documentalists, physician assistants, ward assistants) and motives for the change to medical controlling emerges. From the perspective of the sociology of work, the concrete work situations and working conditions, but also the conflicts in the interactions with the members of the medical service are presented on the basis of the interviews and participant observation of the work on the wards as well as the coding process with patient files and “grouper software”, before different patterns of interpretation, professional dispositions and practices of coding specialists are then worked out in the form of a case contrast. Finally, as the last phase of the DRG trajectory, the relationship of the hospital organization to the controlling body of the health insurance companies, the MDK, is illuminated. Due to real or alleged cases of abuse and billing fraud, there is a relationship of mistrust between the hospital organization and the payers, which is institutionalized in the form of the assignment of billing audits to the MDK. Here, using the example of a public hospital, its medical controlling is conceived as an organizational “borderline unit” that strives to establish a relationship of trust with the organizational environment (health insurers, MDK).

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Números Emergentes: Temporalidade, Métrica e Estética da Pandemia de Covid-19

Emerging Numbers: Temporality, Metrics and Aesthetics of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Alexandre de Paiva Rio Camargo, Eugênia de Souza Mello Guimarães Motta, Victor Luiz Alves Mourão (2021)

Mediações – Revista de Ciências Sociais, 26(2), pp. 311-332. Open access

Resumo. O artigo apresenta os resultados de uma pesquisa em curso sobre as estatísticas de Covid-19 durante o primeiro ano da pandemia (março de 2020 a fevereiro de 2021) na qual se investigou a relação recíproca entre os números sobre a doença e a própria pandemia como experiência coletiva, com ênfase no caso brasileiro. Na análise são privilegiados três aspectos: a estética, as temporalidades e as controvérsias. A periodização proposta considera a forma como os números são apresentados e participam na construção da pandemia, a existência de três momentos, com características distintivas entre si. A noção de emergência serve para salientar a articulação entre o momento de crise e o afloramento das formas de quantificar. Demonstra-se que a pandemia, longe de infligir uma ruptura inteiramente nova na experiência social, constitui uma articulação original entre elementos que já existiam antes de sua eclosão, envolvendo, entre outros aspectos, as tensões opondo vida e economia, a complexificação do circuito de produção de dados e a retroação dos números públicos sobre a agência social.

Abstract. The article presents the results of an ongoing investigation on Covid-19 statistics during the first year of the pandemic (March 2020 to February 2021) in which the reciprocal relationship between disease numbers and pandemic itself was investigated as a collective experience, with an emphasis on the Brazilian case. In the analysis, three aspects are privileged: aesthetics, temporalities and controversies. We propose a periodization that considers, based on the way the numbers are presented and participate in the construction of the pandemic dynamics, the existence of three moments, each one with distinctive characteristics in relation to the others. The notion of emergency serves to highlight the link between the moment of crisis and the emergence of ways of quantifying. It is demonstrated that the pandemic presents a new articulation between elements that already existed before its outbreak, such as the tensions opposing life and economy.

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Uma Brecha Crítica na “Cidade Garantida”? Espaços Intermediários e Arquiteturas de Uso

The Guaranteed City: The Ruin of Urban Criticism?

Marc Breviglieri (2021) – Tradução de Yolanda Gaffrée Ribeiro

Revista Antropolítica, 52, pp. 375-416, Open Access.

Resumo. Este texto consiste na análise de uma dinâmica subterrânea de resistência. Essa dinâmica não surge como uma máxima agressiva, mas sugere a afirmação de uma alternativa àquela que o urbanismo tenta – atualmente em uma escala internacional – controlar, regular e orientar, apoiando-se sobre o princípio de uma cidade garantida, a mesma que gostaria de assegurar a qualidade de suas características, afirmando estar preocupada em compartilhar formas de avaliação. Essa cidade daria, assim, a garantia do que se considera “geralmente” uma circulação fluida, uma qualidade patrimonial, uma boa variedade de comércios, serviços eficazes, um grau de rentabilidade satisfatório aos investimentos etc. Ao oferecer ao citadino um espaço de escolha, essas propriedades da cidade garantida contribuem para o empoderamento (empowerment) do indivíduo, destinado a encontrar os meios de reforçar suas capacidades de autodeterminação. No entanto, a formatação de um espaço referencial e informacional que sustenta a construção da cidade garantida, tende a lhe retirar algumas de suas qualidades sensíveis. A metrópole contemporânea altera, neutraliza e esteriliza os ambientes mais desqualificados, os menos traduzíveis, o gênero daqueles que poderiam dar às cidades uma profundidade perturbadora, tonalidades afetivas cambiantes e oportunidades do desvio sem referenciais.

Extract: “Contudo, uma questão se coloca: como compreender este “indiscutível” e a sentença experimentada pela crítica, de modo a enfrentar esta autoridade estabelecida de forma potente? É preciso agradecer à Laurent Thévenot por ter voltado, explicitamente, a esse ponto que, geralmente, não está presente na crítica ao neoliberalismo e à globalização. Ou seja: a revelação dos seus fundamentos normativos não é suficiente e deve ser acompanhada de “uma viagem mais longa para desvendar os mecanismos inibidores do senso crítico” (THÉVENOT, 2013). Essa viagem supõe analisar, então, um “conjunto de dispositivos normalizadores e autoridades de regulação, ditas independentes e que fogem ao olhar do político e à sua crítica” e, ainda, se veem metabolizados e instrumentalizados em uma verdadeira “governança pelo objetivo” (THÉVENOT, 2013). Nas palavras desse autor, tal governança “reivindica o incontestável”, difundindo a prática de avaliação e o recurso aos indicadores que “qualquer pessoa seria obrigada a aceitar por realismo”, especialmente no caso de um formato bastante consensual: o objetivo mensurável a ser alcançado.” (p. 400)

Abstract. This text focuses on analysing an underground resistance dynamic. This dynamic does not emerge in the form of aggressivity, but rather suggests an alternative to what urbanisation is now trying, on an international scale, to control, regulate and direct by employing the principle of the guaranteed city, that is, a city that seeks to assure us of the quality of its properties and claims to share the evaluation of them. Such a city thus supposedly guarantees what is ‘generally’ thought to be free-flowing traffic, heritage architecture, a good selection of shops, efficient public services, satisfactory profitability for investments and so on. Provided for citizens in a given space, these properties of the guaranteed city contribute to the empowerment of individuals, who are supposed to find there the means of reinforcing their ability to make choices. However, the creation of a referential and information space which underpins the building of the guaranteed city tends to remove from it some of its palpable qualities. Contemporary cities change, neutralise and render bland the most indefinable and most untranslatable of atmospheres, atmospheres that could give cities a disturbing deepness, changing emotional tones, opportunities for wandering without knowing where you are going.

Extract. “However, a question arises: how to understand this “indisputable” and the sentence experimented by the critique, so as to confront this established authority in a potentious way? Laurent Thévenot must be thanked for having returned, explicitly, to this point that is not usually present in the critique of neoliberalism and globalization. That is: the revelation of its normative foundations is not enough and must be accompanied by “a longer journey to uncover the mechanisms inhibiting critical sense” (THÉVENOT, 2013). This journey presupposes the analysis, then, of a “set of normalizing devices and regulating authorities, so-called independent and that escape the gaze of the politician and his critique” and, furthermore, see themselves metabolized and instrumentalized in a true “governance by objective” (THÉVENOT, 2013). In the words of this author, such governance “claims the uncontestable,” spreading the practice of evaluation and the use of indicators that “anyone would be obliged to accept out of realism,” especially in the case of a fairly consensual format: the measurable objective to be achieved.” (p. 400)

Link to the article

L’inventaire d’un petit monde. Étudier un groupe socio-professionnel à la fin du Moyen Âge. L’exemple des bouchers de Rome au xve siècle

Inventory of a small world. Studying a socio-professional group in the late Middle Ages. The example of the butchers of Rome in the 15th century

Cécile Troadec (2021)

Rives méditerranéennes, 62, pp. 87-101. Open Access.

Résumé. Comment constituer, ou reconstituer, le corpus documentaire propre à l’étude d’un groupe socio-professionnel ? C’est tout l’enjeu de l’enquête prosopographique lorsqu’elle s’intéresse à une profession. Plutôt que de se demander selon quels critères l’historien peut définir les contours du groupe, afin d’y inclure, ou d’en exclure, les multiples individus rencontrés au cours des dépouillements, il s’agit ici de prendre en compte le groupe tel qu’il est constitué par l’archive et les pratiques de l’écrit. À travers l’exemple des bouchers de Rome, connus grâce aux archives de la douane du xve siècle, on se propose de réfléchir sur la « cohésion de cet ensemble flou » qu’est le groupe socio-professionnel, pour reprendre une analyse de Luc Boltanski dans son essai sur les cadres.

Abstract. How to constitute, or reconstitute, the documentary corpus specific to the study of a socio-professional group? This is what is at stake in a prosopographical study of a profession. Rather than asking what criteria the historian can use to define the contours of the group, in order to include or exclude the many individuals encountered in the course of the research, the aim here is to take into account the group as it is constituted by the archive and the practices of writing. Through the example of the butchers of Rome, known thanks to the archives of the customs of the fifteenth century, we propose to reflect on the “cohesion of this blurred whole” that is the socio-professional group, to take up an analysis of Luc Boltanski in his essay on executives.”

Link to the article

Worlds of Education: employing EC for studying schools, training, and higher education

Regula Julia Leemann and Christian Imdorf interviewed by Arne Böker and Kenneth Horvath

The field of education has played a crucial role for the German speaking reception of the Sociology of Conventions. Christian Imdorf and Regula Julia Leemann are key figures of this development. Christian is professor of sociology of education at the Leibniz University of Hannover (Germany), Regula holds a professorship at the University of Teacher Education FHNW and is adjunct professor at the Institute for Educational Sciences of the University of Basel (Switzerland). In the following interview – jointly conducted by Arne Böker (Institute for Higher Education Research, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany) and Ken Horvath (University of Lucerne, Switzerland) – they share their views on the past, the present, and the future of interdisciplinary educational research that builds on French pragmatic sociology.



Arne Böker: You have both been active in promoting and applying the Sociology of Conventions to the German speaking social sciences and, more specifically, to the field of educational research. Could you tell us more about how this journey began for you?

Christian Imdorf: I caught the virus in 2004. Back then, I worked as a postdoc at the University of Fribourg (CH) and was involved in a research project (funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation / SNF) on apprenticeship recruitment processes. We wanted to understand how employers perceive and evaluate young applicants. Initially, I planned to use Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital as main theoretical resource for analyzing our interviews and field work data. But that proved overwhelming: In a way, everything that had been said and observed could be read as expressing “cultural capital”, it seemed impossible to further differentiate on this conceptual basis. I then talked to a colleague about these problems while we were traveling home from a summer school. He suggested I engage myself more closely with Luc Boltanski’s moral sociology which could help understand the varying criteria that employers use for evaluating candidates. I thus devoted some time to “The New Spirit of Capitalism” by Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello. After that project had ended, I successfully applied for a mobility grant by the SNF which allowed me to re-analyze my empirical data on apprentice selection through the analytical lens of “orders of justification”. Franz Schultheis then proposed that I contact the Laboratoire d’Économie et de Sociologie du Travail (LEST), where I met Eric Verdier and also found time and space for studying Boltanski and Thévenot’s “On Justification” in detail. Following my time at LEST, I went to Glasgow where I finally had my first more extensive encounter with Regula.

Regula Julia Leemann: I was also doing research on vocational training – investigating “training networks” (called “Lehrbetriebs- oder Ausbildungsverbünde” in Switzerland and Germany), i.e. networks of companies that jointly train their apprentices. At that time, I had already read some of Christian’s work. When Christian did a sabbatical, I spent some time at the Center for Educational Sociology (CES) in Scotland in Edinburgh. After meeting in Glasgow and Edinburgh, we submitted a project proposal to the SNF that was first rejected but later accepted in revised form. This project inquired into selection and supervision processes in training networks from an EC perspective. The problem in the first application round was that there was virtually no one in the German speaking social sciences who had already worked with this theoretical framework. Neither could we cite any German sources on how to apply this framework to the field of education. When we started revising our funding application, first introductory texts and also first translations had appeared in German, on the initiative of Rainer Diaz-Bone. We ourselves had also published on the topic in the meanwhile. That was helpful for demonstrating that the theory we were talking about was actually known and helpful. During this time, we also put a focus on the sociology-of-organization aspects of our research phenomena. Our exchange with Lisa Knoll in the context of a contribution to an edited book on “organization and convention” (Knoll ) was very important in this regard. Lisa offered us a lot of feedback and helped to better link our theoretical framework with our research interests.

CI: I guess that was the moment when our in-depth involvement with the Sociology of Conventions really started. Before that, we had strongly focused our attention on the idea of orders of justification, leaving the rest of EC’s conceptual repertoire aside. In 2013 we also established links to Julia Brandl in Innsbruck with whom we shared an interest in the methodological implementation of EC concepts and ideas. Our regular EC workshop series evolved out of this context.

AB: What EC concepts were (and are) central for your research?

CI: At the beginning, I worked a lot with the concept of orders of justification. That theoretical framework proved practical for my secondary analysis, even if my empirical data had originally not been generated on the basis of EC notions. Orders of justification allowed to identify the actual and plural criteria mobilized to evaluate young human beings during application processes, and hence to fill a gap in the sociological study of discrimination in recruitment processes. Previously, discrimination had mainly been conceived of in economic terms, but the categories themselves on which these mechanisms relied, were never put into focus. It was all about the performance of students and the productivity of companies. Back then, I realized that this understanding was too narrow to accurately interpret the narratives in the interviews we had conducted with those responsible for recruitment in companies. The idea of orders of justification helped broaden and enhance our understanding of these actors’ accounts. Soon after, I discovered the concept of worlds for my research. I started to differentiate organizational contexts according to their anchoring in different worlds in which economic actors develop their understanding of situations and their strategies of handling them. On this basis I could ask how well potential new employees fit into the worlds that were of relevance in different company settings. All in all, that allowed to conceptualize recruitment processes in completely new terms. I also quickly realized that this novel understanding could not only be conveyed to other social scientists but could also be used in conversation with teacher trainees, students, professionals, and experts. I found it fascinating that a sociological theory can work productively for knowledge transfer. Of course, there were also people who found this perspective irritating. For example, I argued that what “merit” [“Leistung” in German] means differs between different worlds of education – among others I showed that this variety helps understand the justification of the negative selection of migrant pupils in educational transition processes. This thinking in worlds was, of course, strongly informed by the earlier work of Jean-Louis Derouet (1992).

RJL: In our project on training networks we mainly worked with the idea of varying logics of practice. Christian and I tried to understand how such complex organizations function and how and why ruptures and problems emerge in these collaborations. These networks are so complex that they could hardly be established as durable new model for vocational training. The concept of plural logics of practice helped understand how the management of such networks – which we interpreted in terms of intermediaries – needs to navigate between different logics, implying the constant task of finding compromises. The on-going emergence of problems and the subsequent search for solutions that are so typical for these network organizations could be described and understood very effectively with EC concepts. The next step for me together with Christian was a research project financed by the SNF on the institutionalization of the Swiss school form of “Fachmittelschule” which we investigated in a historical perspective, comparing and relating it to already established traditional institutions of upper secondary education. We focused on quality concepts to understand how the third educational pathway of “Fachmittelschulen” could be established in addition to the “Gymnasium” and classical vocational training, and looking at the disputes, conflicts, and compromises that this process entailed. At the moment, I am engaged in a new SNF research project together with two postdocs on educational governance, especially regarding the governing of transition processes in the federally organized Swiss school system. So far, these transitions have been mostly analyzed as individual educational trajectories. We know little about how these transitions in the different cantons are politically regulated and managed by actors on different levels of the education system. In this context, I realized that I had to put more emphasis on processes of quantification, as outlined in Desrosières` “Governing by Numbers”, since indicators and numbers are crucial instruments for the governance of education.

AB: You are also co-editors of a collected volume on EC in the field of education, published in 2019 (Imdorf et al., 2019). How did the idea for this publication project come up? What was your motivation, and what were your objectives with this ambitious publication project?

CI: Our focus on vocational training allowed us to promote EC ideas in Swiss educational research. When we met Philipp Gonon during a conference in Lille, we jointly decided to start the project of editing this volume for which Rainer Diaz-Bone and Lisa Knoll had invited us. We then organized a workshop for our prospective authors in Cologne and invited colleagues who already worked with conventionalist concepts and ideas. We also published an open Call for Papers and received promising proposals from various scholars in response. That was very interesting for us, because we saw that there were several colleagues in German educational research that worked on this theoretical basis than we had been aware of. Rainer Diaz-Bone proposed to also include French speaking authors. Of course, we were familiar with this idea of international exchange through the EC-Workshops, even if the French participants in these workshops had not come from the field of education. But we did already have first contacts to Eric Verdier, Jean-Louis Derouet and Elisabeth Chatel, who all later contributed to our collected volume.

RJL: As editors, we found it essential to support and guide our authors intensively throughout the process of writing and publication. We made many suggestions regarding concepts etc. Our authors were very open and thus the collaboration with them worked very well. A big piece of work for us as editors was subsequently the supervision and support of the externally organized translation from French to German.

CI: We demanded high standards of our own work as editors. Among others, we ourselves were eager to move beyond purely descriptive uses of concepts such as orders of justification. Hence, we also wished that our authors do more than just identify different worlds or orders. Rainer Diaz-Bone motivated and supported us in our attempt to move towards more explanatory modes of working with the Sociology of Conventions. The challenge when moving from descriptive to explanatory research is that one must take the underlying EC methodology seriously. Among others, that implies inquiring into everyday methods of knowledge production, of generating and employing data that themselves structure situational practices. To give an example, in research on recruitment processes a possible focus would be on formats of examination and testing. Who developed these tests? Who is in charge of them? Who implements them? I believe that this is one way of moving beyond a purely descriptive approach.

Ken Horvath: How did you experience the conditions of reception for EC-inspired research in the German speaking social sciences? And how, in turn, do you assess the role of educational research for the Sociology of Conventions in France?

CI: Research on school and education is a very wide and varied field. Regarding the sub-field of vocational training, my impression is that there is an increasing number of scholars and especially PhD students working with EC frameworks. During my stay at LEST I realized that it is a difficult endeavor to refer the works of Boltanski and Thévenot because their ideas were highly contested in the French sociology of education. In France, the dominant Bourdieusian school of thought is very skeptical of pragmatic sociology. That was an important experience – implying that it was actually easier in the German speaking social sciences to refer to these theories and to work creatively with them. In sum, I would therefore see the reception context in German countries as favorable, especially in younger fields such as vocational training in Switzerland. Vocational training is also an interesting case because it itself is a compromise between educational systems and the labor market. The Sociology of Conventions helps grasp this complexity and to differentiate this whole educational apparatus, e.g. regarding how different qualities of education are implemented and lived.

RJL: I served as a board member of the sociology-of-education research network of the German Sociological Association for quite a long time. This network was also very strongly dominated by orthodox Bourdieusian perspectives. One of my key objectives was to launch new themes and novel approaches into a field – for example the Sociology of Conventions, but also neo-institutionalism, systems theory etc. Today there is far more conceptual variety. However, there is still a very strong methodological divide. In particular scholars working quantitatively and with rational-choice frameworks are organized in their own circles. Sometimes they applied for events organized by the sociology-of-education network but were not invited. There just was and still is this very clear separation.

CI: In the meantime, I have become involved in the board of this network. My impression is that the board today is very open for quantitative research. We really do not want to reproduce this methodological cleavage that does not only pervade educational research but the whole German sociological landscape. But of course, these are the conditions in which we need to push through our own “conventionalist” projects. In this context, one promising field of application for the Sociology of Conventions is the study of social research itself. So what is actually going on in sociology or in educational research. There is an increasing amount of research being done in this context, for example on the rise of empirical education research, an interdisciplinary research field that is primarily concerned with the standardized measurement of educational quality and outcomes. It would be more than worthwhile to contribute an EC angle to this debate. But in essence there would have to be a professorship or some institutionalized position dedicated to promoting this kind of research and reflexive perspective. I believe that a lot is going on among younger scholars, and we might have to wait until they end up in these more powerful positions.

KH: French pragmatic sociology is renowned for its conception of the capable social actor. What does that imply for how we think about and also how we organize the relation between scientific research and everyday pedagogical practice?

CI: I already mentioned my experience that EC notions and ideas are easy to convey. Surely this is a matter of finding the right words, but all in all the main ideas are easy to grasp. An important question will be in what direction research funding will develop, and how much weight is given to the transfer of knowledge. My feeling is that this development is only beginning in Germany. On a European scale this question of broader impact seems to be more established for successful grant applications. These are favorable conditions for the Sociology of Conventions. At the same time, there is this state of perpetual disappointment by politicians who are guided by this idea of evidence that immediately translates into decision making. That was one big hope linked to the promotion of empirical education research – a hope that has already at least in parts given way to a certain disenchantment. Empirical research can demonstrate correlations between factors, but for pedagogical practice what counts is to understand how these correlations come about. My impression is that against this background the demand for qualitative research is rising, because of its more immediate relevance for practitioners.

RJL: Our ongoing project on the governance of transitions in the Swiss education system shows, again, that there is this imagination – in social sciences and politics alike – that there is one final solution, one answer to how these transitions should be designed in a fair manner. The promise of the Sociology of Conventions is that it demonstrates that there never is only one answer because there are different forms and notions of educational justice that are relevant for everyday practices. Every form of governing transitions will lead to each own set of positive and negative selection effects. It is all about making this complexity visible and to show how actors necessarily need to deal with a variety of rationalities and conditions. As a project team we are currently working on an article in which we compare two Swiss cantons that differ in many regards. On the one hand a very small canton that is strongly marked by the domestic world, on the other hand a large canton that is characterized by industrial logics. The Sociology of Conventions allows to illustrate how institutional configurations lead actors to choose some particular transition procedures and some specific ways of governing them – and to understand the conflicts that arise as a consequence. That is the key strength of a pragmatic approach. Of course, we cannot tell or influence whether and in what ways political actors will make use of these insights.

KH: In your view, what are the main fields of development, the main challenges but also the most important opportunities for the future development of the Sociology of Conventions in the field of education?

RJL: I see a huge potential especially in primary education, regarding the study of lessons, of teaching and learning, and of the pedagogical profession. This is a huge field that leaves plenty of scope for defining relevant research questions. Something similar can be said about the topic of digitization; likewise, the field of educational governance still offers many opportunities for EC-inspired research. Over the coming years, it will be interesting to see whether the conventions identified by Boltanski, Thévenot, Chiapello & co. will remain to guide research – or whether perhaps new conventions emerge. I believe that this is a field of development for the near future. Further, I hope that in the coming years scholars will pay more in-depth attention to methodological questions, from the production of empirical data to their analysis. In this context, it would of course be helpful to have academic positions dedicated to research methodologies in education.

CI: In my own research, I wish to investigate educational biographies and trajectories from an EC perspective. I would like to develop a better understanding of the educational organizations that co-produce these trajectories. The concept of “tests” could prove valuable for move towards a sociological explanation of these processes. I also see a need to study non-formal educational settings. In addition, I believe it would be valuable to conceptualize notions of general and academic education in terms of the Sociology of Conventions. I notice that there is more and more interesting research being done in the Scandinavian social sciences too. French pragmatic sociology is increasingly read and employed internationally, mirroring developments we have already seen in German educational research. One important question will be, whether these strands of research can be institutionalized. I am optimistic that a few young researchers will manage to obtain professorships. One idea would be to establish a format such as summer schools for younger scholars, in addition to the already existing EC workshop series, in order to build and strengthen academic networks.


Derouet, Jean-Louis. 1992. École et justice. De l’égalité des chances aux compromis locaux? [School Education and Justice. From equality of opportunities to local compromises?]. Paris: Métailié.

Imdorf, Christian, Regula Julia Leemann & Philipp Gonon (eds.). 2019. Bildung und Konventionen. Die „Economie des conventions“ in der Bildungsforschung [Education and Conventions. The ‘Economie des conventions’ in Educational Research]. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Knoll, Lisa (ed.). 2015. Organisationen und Konventionen. Die Soziologie der Konventionen in der Organisationsforschung [Organisations and Conventions. The Sociology of Conventions in Organisation Research]. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Data-driven remote governance of sparsely populated areas: measurement and commensuration of wildcat gold mining in French Guiana

Matthieu Noucher, François-Michel Le Tourneau & Pierre Gautreau (2021)

GeoJournal, Open Access.

Abstract. The increase in the price of gold, due to a shift to safe investments during the global economic crisis, has led to a rapid expansion of gold production. Alongside legal gold mines, wildcat gold mining has developed in French Guiana since the early 2000s. This phenomenon, with its social, environmental and economic consequences, is at the heart of the environmental governance of this territory. However, its difficult quantification is the subject of multiple controversies. Environmental governance is increasingly dependent on metrological regimes aimed at quantifying political action in order to objectify it. This article examines the role of metrology in implementing environmental policies in sparsely populated regions via the example of wildcat gold mining in French Guiana. Based on the study of two observatories, one managed by public authorities, the other by an NGO, we deconstruct their maps and counter-maps of wildcat gold mining. To do so, we make a distinction between measurement, commensuration and its diffusion. This focus on “measurement-commensuration-diffusion” allows us to identify three key phases in the production of nature statistics. We argue that the critical analysis of metrological processes through this three-step framework reveals methodological controversies that reflect different and even divergent political visions. The article also shows that metrological systems for environmental protection are the focus of targeted political disputes. It reports on the current disagreements—not only between the State and NGOs but also within the State itself—on the proposed solutions for fighting the impacts of wildcat gold mining in French Guiana and the broader issues of data production in Amazonia.

Link to the article

Quantified Desistance: A Scoping Review of Conventions in the Scientific Literature

Marichelle Leclair, Ann-Pierre Raiche, Marjolie Latulippe, Théo Lepage-Richer, Yanick Charette, Laurence Roy & Anne Crocker  (2021)

Crime & Delinquency. Online first.

Abstract. This paper adopts a conventionalist approach to shed light on the measurement and reification problems that underlie the quantification of desistance from crime in the scientific literature. Analysis of 100 papers spanning three decades indicates that approaches based on theoretical classification have recently lost ground in favor of more sophisticated techniques aimed at empirically identifying subgroups. These techniques convey the impression of objectiveness among statistics users and consumers and, as a result, the classification “desisters” and “persisters” are increasingly reified. Findings suggest that the quantification of desistance is intimately linked to the maintenance of a classification system that constitutes delinquency as a stable category and contributes to “making” up new kinds of people over which institutions can legitimately intervene.

Link to the article

La dynamique démocratique de l’économie sociale : une approche institutionnaliste de l’émergence et de l’évolution historique des organisations de l’économie sociale dans le capitalisme en France (1790-2020)

The democratic dynamics of the social economy : an institutionalist approach to the emergence and historical evolution of the social economy organisations in the French capitalism (1790-2020) – PhD thesis

Sylvain Celle (2020)

Thèse soutenue le 02-12-2020 à l’université de Lille , École doctorale SESAM, Clersé, sous la direction de Florence Jany-Catrice et de Agnès Labrousse.

Résumé. Notre thèse porte sur la dynamique de l’économie sociale dans le capitalisme français, du XIXe siècle à aujourd’hui. Les organisations de l’économie sociale (coopératives, mutuelles, associations, etc.) constituent des systèmes de règles originaux au sein des économies capitalistes. Une des originalités de ces organisations est d’articuler les activités d’une entreprise au service d’un projet associatif. On peut retenir trois principales règles constitutives des organisations de l’économie sociale qui les différencient des autres entreprises : la non-lucrativité, la solidarité et la démocratie. Afin de préserver la spécificité de leurs règles organisationnelles dans un environnement institutionnel capitaliste, les organisations de l’économie sociale ont formé leur propre espace qui apparait comme un système de règles méso relativement autonome. Mais les organisations et l’espace de l’économie sociale restent soumis à une pluralité de sources de régulations, endogènes et exogènes, qui peuvent fragiliser leurs spécificités. Une des hypothèses de cette thèse est que la démocratie, en tant que règle constitutive, favorise le pouvoir d’agir des acteurs de l’économie sociale sur les règles organisationnelles et institutionnelles. Cette démocratie joue ainsi un rôle déterminant dans les processus d’innovation, de différenciation et d’autonomisation de l’économie sociale par rapport aux régulations du capitalisme. A contrario, l’affaiblissement démocratique serait une cause déterminante de banalisation de l’économie sociale dans le capitalisme. Pour questionner cette hypothèse, nous nous appuyons sur le cadre théorique de l’économie politique institutionnaliste, à la confluence de la théorie de la régulation et de l’économie des conventions, afin de contribuer à la construction collective d’une approche institutionnaliste de l’économie sociale. Cette approche s’est appuyée sur une importante enquête historique, principalement à partir de méthodes qualitatives, sur l’économie sociale. Nous avons à la fois mobilisé des sources primaires (archives, entretiens, observations, etc.) et secondaires (littérature pluridisciplinaire). Trois études de cas approfondies sur des organisations de l’économie sociale en Picardie ont été réalisées : le Familistère de Guise (1840-1968), l’Union coopérative d’Amiens (1892-aujourd’hui) et les Ateliers de la Bergerette (1969-aujourd’hui). Une analyse des grandes évolutions de l’espace de l’économie sociale en France a également été menée en distinguant trois principaux compromis institutionnels d’économie sociale : un compromis libéral (1790-1880), un compromis républicain (1880-1970) et un compromis néolibéral (1970-aujourd’hui). Enfin, un dernier terrain a porté sur le développement de l’impact social qui témoigne de mutations profondes dans le compromis néolibéral d’économie sociale. En croisant les échelles d’analyse (micro, méso et macro) et les temporalités (court, moyen et long terme), ce travail de recherche permet d’approfondir notre connaissance historique et analytique de l’économie sociale. Il met notamment en lumière le rôle de la démocratie dans l’autonomisation et la différenciation de certaines organisations et certains espaces plongés dans des systèmes capitalistes.

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Abstract. This thesis focuses on the dynamics of the social economy in the French capitalism from the 19th century until today. Social economy organisations (cooperatives, mutual societies, associations, etc.) develop original rule systems within capitalist economies. One of the originalities of these organisations is to articulate the activities of a firm in the service of an associative project. Three main constitutive rules of social economy organisations differentiate them from other firms: non-profit, solidarity-based and democratic rules. In order to preserve the specificity of their organisational rules in a capitalist institutional environment, the social economy organisations have formed their own social economy space, which appears as a relatively autonomous system of rules at the meso-level. But despite their relative autonomy, the organisations and the space of the social economy are subject to a plurality of sources of rules, both endogenous and exogenous, which can undermine their specificities. One of the hypotheses of this thesis is that democracy, as a constitutive rule, facilitate the power of social economy actors to change organisational and institutional rules. Democratic rules thus play a determining role in innovation, differentiation and empowerment of the social economy processes in relation to the rules of capitalism. On the other hand, a democratic weakening would be a determining cause of the normalisation of the social economy in capitalism system.To question this hypothesis, we rely on the theoretical framework of the institutionalist political economy, focusing on the convergences between the Regulation Theory and the Economics of convention, in order to contribute to the collective construction of an institutionalist approach to social economy. The research is based on an important historical survey, using mainly qualitative methods. We have mobilised both primary sources (archives, interviews, observations, etc.) and secondary sources (multidisciplinary literature).Three in-depth case studies on social economy organisations in Picardy have been carried out: “Le Familistère de Guise” (1840-1968), “L’Union coopérative d’Amiens” (1892-present) and “Les Ateliers de la Bergerette” (1969-present). A survey on the major evolutions of the space of the social economy in France has also been carried out: three main historical institutional compromises of the social economy are highlighted: a liberal compromise (1790-1880), a republican compromise (1880-1970) and a neoliberal compromise (1970-today). A final field work focuses on the development of social impact on the social economy over the last decade: it epitomises profound changes in the neoliberal compromise of the social economy. By intersecting different levels of observations (micro, meso and macro) and temporalities (short, medium and long term), this research work contributes to deepening our historical and analytical knowledge of the social economy. It also helps to demonstrate the role of democracy in the empowerment and differentiation of certain organisations and spaces such as the social economy in relation to capitalist rules.

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