2. Work, Capability, and Biographical Pathways

This axe is coordinated by


The interdisciplinary setting of the second axis integrates history, sociology, anthropology and musicology. It develops researches around three principal lines: the boundaries of work; experiences, professional career paths, and forms of engagement; and the critiques of work. Their common feature is to take three levels of analysis together – that of institutions, organizations and biographical pathways – from a decidedly transnational perspective integrating Germany and other countries as well. The monthly research workshop “Individuals and Collectives at Work” brings together the researches involved in this axis.

The boundaries of Work

This first line gathers together studies which explore the way that work – from artistic work to agricultural labor and including the service industries – is distinct from other activities in terms of both its definition (e.g. amateurism versus professionalism) and the lived experience of those who practice these activities. In rejecting all a priori distinctions between artistic and other forms of work, the idea is to examine diverse empirical cases in studying the boundaries of work and their lability.

Experiences, Professional Career Paths, and Forms of Engagement

In combining work and the capability to act, this second line of investigation leads to a consideration of work both from an individual and collective angle. The emphasis here is on different factors – both personal and institutional, organizational and social – which determine people’s capability in a given situation. More largely it is about analyzing in this way the role that work plays in the development of personal biographies while also investigating the individual and collective forms of engagement and participation in work.

 Critiques of Work

The studies on axis 2 give special attention to the critical voice of actors and the points of view which they express while also fostering reflection on the researcher’s words and the tools at his disposal for developing critical social studies.

The critique of work by the actors themselves reveals diverse ways of making sense of and positioning oneself in relation to work – whether it be at the level of specific individuals or within the framework of collective mobilization and initiatives.

The researcher’s critical stance broaches the issue of the relationship between research questions, the concepts utilized, the methodology and the critical approach which is likely to result. In making the question of valuation, as formulated by J. Dewey, a fulcrum of our thinking, our objective is to more accurately reflect our own stance as researchers and to refine the tools permitting us to understand the process of the production of what which is of value for people, a decisive question for an approach which attempts to submit people’s capability to act to the test of its empirical reality.