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Convention Theory, Surveys and Moral Collectives

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Zusammenfassung

The contribution approaches methodological problems and issues of philosophy of science from the perspective of economics of convention (EC, also named convention theory). EC is part of the new French pragmatic social sciences, which recombine the two megaparadigms structuralism and pragmatism in a new way, making pragmatism again a much stronger influence. Convention theory emphasizes the pragmatic and pluralist normativity of social coordination. For this conventions as logics of interpretation, evaluation and valuation are necessary foundational structures for actors and processes. The contribution introduces the concept of quality conventions and the model of worlds of production. Scientific collectivities, paradigms and scientific movement can be seen as moral collectivities, grounding research and scientific practices on conventions as normative orders. This way, convention theory links data to values and measurement to normativities, instead of separating them. EC is then applied to problems of measurement, quantification, categorization and the coordination of survey, arguing that these are based on conventions. Also big data as phenomena is discussed from EC’s perspective.

Schlüsselwörter

  • Economics of convention
  • Quality convention
  • Worlds of production
  • Methodology
  • Measurement
  • National statistical institutes
  • Survey research
  • Big data

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Here, a classical position is Max Weber’s postulate of “freedom from value judgements”, which is a first value judgement and a basic norm for many modern scientists (Weber 1985).

  2. 2.

    See for an early sketch Lazarsfeld (1962), Bourdieu (2004) and for a review Leahey (2008).

  3. 3.

    This movement was founded in France in the 1980ies by Robert Salais, Laurent Thévenot, François Eymard-Duvernay, Olivier Favereau and André Orléan. In the last years the second generation started to establish itself in the French academic system with representatives as Christian Bessy, Emmanuelle Marchal, Guillemette de Larquier, Philippe Batifoulier, Claude Didry, Emmanuel Didier and others achieving positions as professors, directors etc. (see Favereau 2012 for a sketch of this movement in France). Nowadays, the third generation in France is finishing PhDs and habilitations. But also, in the last decade this scientific movement has become an internal approach and is fast growing especially in the German-speaking social sciences.

  4. 4.

    INSEE stands for „Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques“ (www.insee.fr). INSEE was one of the foundational institutions of EC (Diaz-Bone 2015).

  5. 5.

    See also Centemeri (2012) and the contributions in Bruno et al. (2016) and in Diaz-Bone/Didier (2016).

  6. 6.

    This construction is transparent and known by the statisticians who have to invent a convention for measurement.

  7. 7.

    In French the word “qualifier” means to identify, to train, to classify and to ascribe value.

  8. 8.

    Here, the difference between conventions without semantic content and internal semantic organization on one side and conventions with semantic content and internal semantic organization on the other side is implicitly addressed (see for a discussion Diaz-Bone 2016).

  9. 9.

    The conceptual network and methodological strategies of convention theory were developed in the main works of convention theory (Salais/Thévenot 1986; Storper/Salais 1997; Boltanski/Thévenot 2006; Eymard-Duvernay 2006a, 2006b; Boltanski/Chiapello 2007; Diaz-Bone/Salais 2011, 2012; Diaz-Bone et al. 2015; Orléan 2014) and are systematically presented in Diaz-Bone (2015) and Batifoulier et al. (2016).

  10. 10.

    Later, two other conventions were identified: the green convention (see contribution in Lamont/Thévenot eds. 2000) and the network convention (Boltanski/Chiapello 2007). Also, the regional convention was discussed as a new form of convention (Diaz-Bone 2015).

  11. 11.

    “Value” is not seen as a given property but as the result of processes of valuation. Here, convention theory follows the theory of valuation developed by John Dewey (1939).

  12. 12.

    Durkheim has related morality and rule to the existence of organized social groups such as professional groups (Durkheim 1950) and Bourdieu has related morality (ethics) to the concept of habitus (Bourdieu 1984).

  13. 13.

    Convention theory has introduced the notion of “investment in forms”, which grasps the necessity of a collective implementation of forms which frame the relevant information for coordination (Thévenot 1984). Cognitive forms and objects are dispositives to enhance the spatial and temporal stability and scope of coordination.

  14. 14.

    This pluralism is coined by the awareness of actors that there are possible other conventions as possible logics of coordination virtually present, even if they are not actualized (Boltanski/Thévenot 2006; Diaz-Bone 2015).

  15. 15.

    Here, convention theory shows its similarity to actor-network-theory (which shares the methodological situationalism with convention theory).

  16. 16.

    There are some approaches which conceptualize or analyze measurement error in the context of survey research. The total survey error approach (Weisberg 2005; Biemer et al. 2017) systematizes sources of errors in the course of survey processes. The cognitive approach in survey methodology (Tourangeau et al. 2000) focuses on cognitive processes in the course of interviewing respectively completing the questionnaire.

  17. 17.

    This is the starting point of a research project „Die Entstehung methodischer Probleme aus Koordinationssituationen in Surveys“ (The emergence of methodological problems out of coordination situations in surveys) affiliated at University of Lucerne and funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

  18. 18.

    See for a modern position of philosophy of science including measurement the introduction of Hacking (1983); see for a recent introduction into measurement theory for the social sciences Boumans (2015).

  19. 19.

    This view on measurement is close to the one developed by Gaston Bachelard. Bachelard called this co-construction “phenomeno-technique”, i.e. the generation of empirical phenomena in the process of measurement (Bachelard 1934; Tiles 1984: 37 f.).

  20. 20.

    From a pragmatist point of view, the acceptance of measurement can be conceived as the “fixation of beliefs” i.e. to convene, which is the semantical root of the word “convention” (Salais 1989).

  21. 21.

    See for international applications of this methodological approach Penissat et al. (2016).

  22. 22.

    It was Bourdieu (1984) who developed a general sociological theory which was able to analyze the close relation between one’s position in the social space, habitus, practices of categorization (which he called “distinction”), ethics and esthetics.

  23. 23.

    See also the classical study of Geoffrey Bowker and Susan L. Star (1999) on the social consequences of categorization.

  24. 24.

    For a discussion of the notion of quality chain see Diaz-Bone (2015). Convention theorists also apply the similar notion of (global) value chain to analyze the production of goods as coffee (see Daviron/Ponte 2005).

  25. 25.

    The European Social Survey (ESS) and the General Social Survey (GSS) are the most important international trend designs.

  26. 26.

    This has been the case for the US elections in 2016 or the outcome of the so-called „Brexit“-decision also in 2016. In both cases, the majority on forecasts, based on opinion polls, were wrong (The Economist 2016, 2017).

  27. 27.

    Erwin K. Scheuch (2003) has criticized this abuse of “surveys” for marketing goals.

  28. 28.

    The concept of self-intoxication as a social mechanism was introduced by André Orléan (2014) to describe mechanisms of financial markets, which released internal systemic crises.

  29. 29.

    Big data can be defined using one of the Vs-definition: big data is characterized by “volume” (amount of data”), “variety” (complexity of data format) and “velocity” (speed in which data is generated, 3 Vs-definition). Sometimes other defining aspects are added as variability (inconsistency of data) or veracity (trustworthiness of data, 5 Vs-definition). See for an overview Japec et al. (2015).

  30. 30.

    But in fact, the analysis of huge amounts and complex sets of data is done since decades (and is named “data mining”). For some years the public awareness of “big data” arises (as documented in newspaper articles and series on digitalization.

  31. 31.

    See also the contributions in Diaz-Bone and Didier (eds.) (2016). For an analysis of neoliberalism see Davies (2014).

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Diaz-Bone, R. (2019). Convention Theory, Surveys and Moral Collectives. In: Joller, S., Stanisavljevic, M. (eds) Moralische Kollektive. Wissen, Kommunikation und Gesellschaft. Springer VS, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-22978-8_7

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