Keynote speakers and Round Table Discussion

08/07/15 : 10:30-12:00

Vincent Dubois : What do public policies do to their publics ?

Chairs :
Isabelle Bruno and Anne-Cécile Douillet

Room :
Faculty – Amphi F

Summary :

The impact policies have on people cannot be reduced neither to changes in their environment, nor to the provision of a service. As Everett Hughes famously put it, doing something for someone is always also doing something to someone. The question is therefore what public policies do to the individuals who form their publics. Drawing on Bourdieu’s notion of habitus, I will explore how and with which limits the enforcement of social norms through public policies can affect the representations, the dispositions and the attitudes of the persons subjected to it, in addition to possible changes in their status. Examples will be taken mainly from my research on cultural policy and social welfare.

Vincent Dubois is sociologist and political scientist at the University of Strasbourg (Institute for Political Studies), attached to SAGE (UMR CNRS 7363), research associate at the European Center for Sociology and Political Science (Paris), honorary member of the University Institute of France (2007- 2012), a member of the Florence Gould Insitute for advanced study in Princeton (United States) for the 2012-2013 academic year, Usías for the academic years 2014-2016.

His research focuses on the sociology and political culture, language policies, the public treatment of poverty and more generally on the public action sociology. He is currently working on welfare recipients control policies.

09/07/15 : 11:00-12:30

Round Table Discussion : Magic and magicians in policy-making

With Frank FISCHER (Rutgers University), Daniel GAXIE (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Theodore M. PORTER (UCLA) and Emery ROE (UC Berkeley)

Chair :

Thomas Alam

Room :
Faculty – Amphi F

Summary :

Such a provocative roundtable, entitled “magic and magicians of public policy”, is evidently rooted in the Weberian concept of enchantment and disenchantment of the world. The bottom line is to discuss whether all kind of magics have disappeared from legal-rational societies and/or from policy-making. Anthropologists studying African, South-East Asian and Latin-American Indian politics have regularly stated to what extent “traditional” discourses and practices on witchcraft (white magic) and sorcery (black magic) have shown surprisingly resilient in the face of “modernity”. The relationships between “magic” and “modernity” are extremely complex, refer to hybridation and are clear manifestations of the re-enchantment of “modernity” (Geschiere 1997). As such, in Post-colonial Africa, it is common to analyse the explosion of new forms of wealth amidst utter poverty through the lenses of sorcery and witchraft. Magic is often a proxy for capitalist exploitation, since the rapidity in which certain businessmen accumulate enormous amounts of economic capital is often explained by their abilities to resort to occult forces and to the traffic of zombies (Fisiy and Geschiere 1991). In Post-Apartheid rural South Africa, the living dead remains a popular figure to refer to the immigrant, the “non standard” worker, which is held responsible for the unemployment and economic crisis. Zombies are not held as fantastic fables but are generally taken for granted in respectable local newspapers, in labour disputes, in popular culture (documentaries, theatrical productions, songs) and even in provincial commissions of inquiry into Witchcraft Violence and Ritual Murder. The repetition of discourses vis-à-vis the rise of the living deads and the Zombie makers which exploit them, make the threat of the spectral workforce all too concrete (Comaroff and Comaroff 1999).

Are western capitalist democracies immune to such practices and discourses? Various pieces of evidence show that it is obviously not the case. A significant amount of so-called rational concepts and ideas are deeply rooted in invisible forces. Think about Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that is meant to drive market forces; about the (non-popperian) concept of charisma that is frequently used in politics but very rarely demonstrated ; or the relevance of opinion polls for decision-makers where opinion analysts are turned into modern haruspices who drive “opinion-responsive government”. Political science itself is often embedded in what Bernard Lacroix calls the “animist tradition” (Lacroix 1984) where scholars grant existence to legal or scientific fictions: the State does this; the market is receptive to such and such incentives ; there is a social demand for such projects, and so on.

A set of questions can help structuring the roundtable:

1. Who can be held as magicians, sorcerers and witches in allegedly rational society? Are we not facing magic when policy designers and reformers claim they can solve problems rationally, when they offer new problematisations to old problems, new “paradigms” (Hall 1993), “causal stories” (Stone 2001) or “narratives” (Roe 1994). They may bring new reasons to believe in the way the State and administrations can make a difference, they may boost the illusio and libido of disenchanted civil servants and citizens (Gaxie 1999: 9). To what extent can experts be held as magicians for policy-makers who are in need for “miracle solutions”, notably in critical junctures (Fischer 1990)?

2. In a similar vein, to what extent are politicians and their partners sincere/cynical when they claim “yes we can”, “le changement, c’est maintenant” or “Podemos”, although policy analysis has now shown for decades that the policy process was not only a “policy mess” but also locked in path dependent processes? Are we meant to be left disenchanted or do we have to redefine or better conceptualise the nature of truth? What is the status of truth for decision-makers: a fake illusion? A dirty manipulative trick designed to convince gullible masses? Or a myth in the Antique sense of the term (Veyne 1988)?

3. In this respect, the contributions of policy analysts and scholars should be taken into account since they are very close to – and sometimes embedded in – the field they are meant to study. Through their articles, books, reports, do academics contribute to re-arrange, to put in words and scientific order what is usually a policy mess?

4. To open up the debate even further, one can wonder about language as a political resource, since it is a mean to construct beliefs about the significance of events, of problems, of crises, of policy changes, and of leaders, in order to legitimise certain courses of action, threaten or reassure people so as to encourage them to be supportive or to remain quiescent. As we know, the symbolic dimension is a crucial component of public policy, but who are the sorcerers of language and numbers (Porter 1995)?


Frank Fischer is Distinguished Professor of Politics and Global Affairs at Rutgers University (the State University of New Jersey in the United States). He teaches environmental politics and policy, public policy analysis, U.S. politics and foreign policy, economic policymaking. He is also a senior faculty fellow at the University of Kassel in Germany. He is currently KIVA Gastprofessor at the Technical University of Darmstadt in the Department of Political Science.
He has received a number of awards, including an Aaron Wildavsky book award and the Policy Studies Organization's Harold Lasswell award for scholarship in the field of public policy, a Charles Taylor book award at APSA, and one for excellence in teaching.

Daniel Gaxie is professor of Political Science at the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). His many works and publications dealing with various aspects of political systems (political participation, political indifference, voting, elections, politicization, surveys, methodology and epistemology of the social sciences, opinions and political attitudes the political and administrative institutions ...). Founder of the Standing Group on Political Sociology of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), he is particularly committed in recent years to study the attitudes towards Europe by publishing L'Europe des Européens. Enquête comparative sur les perceptions de l'Europe, Paris, Economica, 2010, co-directed with Nicolas Hubé, Marines Lassalle, Jay Rowell, translated into German (Das Europa der Europäer. Über die Wahrnehmungen eines politischen Raums, Bielefeld, 2011) and English (Perceptions of Europe. A comparative sociology of European attitudes, Essex, ECPR Press, 2011).

Theodore M. Porter is a professor who specializes in the history of science in the Department of History at University of California, Los Angeles. He taught at the Wissenschaftskolleg (Berlin) in 2013-2014. Specialist in the history of science, he has published The Modern Social Sciences in 2003 (with Dorothy Ross) that provides a history of social sciences, with respect to each other but also with respect to the natural sciences, since the eighteenth century.

Emery Roe is a researcher at Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure Networks (University of California, Berkeley). Specialist on issues related to science, technology and environmental controversies, it seeks to develop sound management strategies essential consumer services, such as water or electricity. He is author or co-author of numerous articles and books : Narrative Policy Analysis (1994), Taking Complexity Seriously (1998), Ecology, Engineering and Environment (2002) and High Reliability Management (2008).

10/07/15 : 14:30-16:00

Nina Eliasoph : What is Empowerment ?

Chairs :

Jean-Gabriel Contamin and Julien Talpin

Room :
Sciences Po Lille – Amphi A and B

There is a newly prevalent kind of organization that does not yet have a name. Tentatively, we can call it “the empowerment project.” Empowerment projects, unlike old-fashioned activist groups or volunteer groups, are not funded by the participants, but by external funders; and they try to solve social problems without engaging in political conflict. Beyond these structural conditions, they have missions that conflict with one another, in predictable ways. Empowerment projects aim to:

-Promote civic engagement: equality, openness, reasonableness
-Promote appreciation of local, unique people, places and customs (not necessarily "openness")
-Provide inspiration, challenge (not necessarily "appreciation" of all unique people, places and customs)
-Raise up the needy (not necessarily civic "equality")
-Provide frequent and transparent documentation of rapid success, in terms that socially or geographically distant donors with short time-lines will understand.

The point is both to show how these missions typically conflict (by drawing on my own and others’ work), and to figure out what the universe of organizations that share these characteristics is. This second endeavor is not simple, since some, but not all, of the following types of organizations can be empowerment projects: non-governmental organizations, municipal participatory budget projects, economic development projects, social service agencies, social enterprises, or humanitarian aid projects.

What good does it do to give this organizational form its own name? It is useful for the same reasons people in the 19th and 20th century needed the name “bureaucracy”: naming it allows us to see family resemblances, to predict conflicts, and perhaps to share solutions to the predictable problems in them.
Nina Eliasoph is professor of sociology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Her research interests include the enunciation of policy and political culture of individuals, studied in various civic organizations and / or political (ranging from grassroots civic associations and activist groups, to nonprofits and NGOs); thus, she has published Avoiding Politics: How Americans Produce Apathy in Everyday Life (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1998), in which she studied how members various small civic groups talk - or not – about "politics", both within their groups and in their encounters with government, media and corporate authorities ; Making Volunteers: Civic Life After Welfare's End, in which she shows the gap between regular reports on the political and autonomous participation and citizenship models promoted by non-profit organizations and NGOs; The Politics of Volunteering (Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, 2012) offers a historical comparison between volunteerism and political involvement.


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