Economies and Societies in Uncertain Times

cps2Our first “Economies and Societies in Uncertain Times” wiorkshop will be held at the University of Cergy on Friday 16 November (Les Chênes, salle 422). It is organized by Loïc Charles (INED, University of Paris St-Denis), Jean-Baptiste Fleury (University of Cergy, THEMA and IUT) and myself.

Here is our declaration of intent :

Historians of economics have long emphasized the crucial role that uncertainty has
played in the shaping of economic theory, from Bernoulli’s expected utility
hypothesis (1738) to its reformulation by von Neumann and Morgenstern (1944),
from Frank Knight’s Risk, Uncertainty and Profit (1921) to modern portfolio theory
in finance. Economics, however, is not the only discipline that has addressed
uncertainty: other social scientists have used the concept with a different, though not
unrelated, meaning, for instance psychologists studying ambiguity tolerance. In the
humanities, art theorists, designers and architects alike, have also evoked the idea that
we live in a world of growing social and economic instability and argued that their
disciplines should adapt accordingly. Likewise, although the world has never been
richer (and keep on getting richer every year), the threats of poverty, unemployment
and social inequalities have never been so vivid to contemporaries.
Those issues crystallize a number of controversies in the social sciences.
Because economics seems to be a discipline that has depicted uncertainty as an
unavoidable feature of social life – claiming for instance that it is at the core of
creative destruction –, it is often criticized by other social scientists for being a
cynical discipline, which does not pay much attention to the human consequences that
uncertainty brings (see for instance Naomi Klein’s 2007 Shock Doctrine).
The aim of this workshop is to document the history of these transformations
and the challenges they have created for those engaged in representing and
conceptualizing modern society both inside and outside the academia. Hence, the
workshop will consider not only the history of how the social sciences have reacted to
the growing feeling of instability in the public, but also the history of how artists – be
it photographers, writers, performers – echoed the social and political changes.
Consequently, we are looking forward to present a line-up of multi-disciplinary
papers and scholars who will contribute to a better historical understanding of how
intellectuals as well as educated laymen have adapted to, and reflected on, the
growing anxieties that life in advanced societies creates.
This workshop is part of the research program “Globalisation, deregulation
and vulnerabilities in Atlantic Societies (XVIIIth-XXIth century)” sponsored by the
Universities of Cergy-Pontoise (Thema, UMR 8184), Paris 8 (IDHES, UMR
8533/Led, EA 3391/ Scènes du monde, création, savoirs Critiques, EA 1573), Paris
Ouest (CHISCO, EA 1587/ IDHES, UMR 8533), Lund University, Université Paris
Lumières and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

Four our first edition, we will welcome Keith Tribe (UK independant scholar), Marie-Laure Djelic (ESSEC), Laura Kalba (Smith College), Antoinette Baujard (University of St-Etienne) and Alain Marciano (University of Montpellier).

Download the full program here.

If you have further questions or want to attend, please contact me at yann.giraud [at]

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