CfP: Vulnerabilities in the workplace. Crossed Perspectives of Social Sciences in Europe

Call for papers, deadline 9 September 2020

International Symposium

France - Bordeaux

2021 March 18 & 19


Organized by the Centre Emile Durkheim (UMR 5116) and the CEREP (EA 4692)

The international conference "Vulnerabilities at work" is a scientific event open to a large audience which aims to present the work of researchers representing all disciplines in the social sciences: sociology, history, educational sciences, political sciences , economics, law, anthropology, etc. In order to favor the richness of the crossing of glances, the expected works can be located on different scales of analysis (historical, territorial, sectoral, interprofessional, etc.) and mobilize several types of data (quantitative, interviews, archives, etc.)

For more details on the themes tackled during the conference, the call for papers is presented on this page.

Communication proposals (in French or English), must be submitted before September 9, 2020 on this page.


Since the turn of the 2000s, European labour and employment policies, which have been progressively monitored at the national level, have advocated a twofold movement towards making career paths more flexible and secure (Supiot, 1999; Caillaud & Zimmermann, 2011). Faced with technological changes, transformations in the organization of productive systems and some of their effects (mass unemployment, relocation, automation, uberization, etc.), we would all have become "vulnerable" at work (Veil, 2012; Lhuilier et al., 2013; Greenan & Seghir, 2017).

In the first sense, this notion refers to the potentiality of someone or something to be degraded (Soulet, 2005). This notion has been critically discussed (Thomas, 2010; Soulet, 2014; Ravon, 2014). It has been widely invested in the medico-social sector before being generalised today. Indeed, the notion of "vulnerability" has been described as a "new category of public action" (Brodiez-Dolino, 2015). In this context, it is possible to question its application to the worlds of work and employment, and its heuristic significance for social science research. Three scales of analysis seem to be discernible in the literature:

  • First, we have the vulnerability at work with approaches that deal with the variety of forms and unequal distribution of the deleterious effects of work on the health of individuals (quality of life and safety at work, states of exhaustion, suicides, etc.). We talk about "wear and tear at work" (Cottereau, 1983; Hatzfeld, 2006), "suffering at work" (Loriol, 2012), or "psychosocial risks" (Gollac & Bodier, 2011). Moreover, it is the physical and psychological "sustainability" of work on the scale of a working life that appears central (Thery, 2006; Ardenti et al., 2010). This also leads us to question the modes of organization and management of working groups and their own interactions. Nevertheless, in this framework, the term vulnerability seems to have been reappropriated within a productivist rhetoric that aims to make individuals "responsible" for their own situation. This has also been observed regarding other notions such as "competence" (Séhili, 2003) or "outsourcing" (Dufournet et al., 2019).
  • Secondly, we can mention the vulnerability of employment: traditionally considered around the risk of losing one's job, as opposed to employability, which refers to the chances of finding a new job (Ledrut, 1966). This vision/approach considers the unequal distribution of access to employment and to resources or social protections that it would allow to collect. However, these protective factors associated with employment, even in its canonical form (i.e., full-time permanent employment contracts), would gradually be eroded in contemporary wage societies (Castel, 2009). In addition to this, we can nowadays add to this: wage crumbling requiring recourse to specific "portage" institutions (Darbus, 2013, Moriceau et al., 2015); constrained entrepreneurship or entrepreneurship out of necessity (Couteret, 2010; Tessier Dargent, 2015) in which access to independence is achieved because the individual cannot remain in the sphere of salaried employment; or the development of "micro-work" linked to the digital economy (e.g. tagging images or recognizing faces or objects on photos, writing short comments, creating musical playlists, or any piecework operation) (Casilli et al., 2019; Le Ludec et al., 2019; Naulin & Jourdain, 2019). Thus, the vulnerability of employment would grow as "nomadic careers" develop between different forms of employment (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996). Thus, the vulnerability of employment would increase as "nomadic careers" develop between different forms of employment (Arthur & Rousseau, 1996).
  • Thirdly, it is important to discuss the professional vulnerability, which is understood as all the threats influencing the organization and functioning of an occupational group as a whole (Champy, 2011, pp. 210-217). This refers to the processes of recognition of qualifications (Naville, 1956) and more broadly to the process of professionalisation (Demazière et al., 2012). However, this dynamic may be subject to tension that challenges it, both within the professional group and at the level of society as a whole. Indeed, one can think in particular of the decline of the public confidence in a category of professionals and their actions (Freidson, 2001). One can think of external pressures aiming to increase the "economic efficiency" of their actions, for example in the case of public servants (Bezes & Demazière, 2011; Alber, 2013). There is also competition between professional segments or between professional groups found in the health sector (Bénamouzig, 2010), the legal sector (Moysan-Louazel, 2011) or the cultural sector (Hénaut, 2011). Finally, there are the transformations of the tertiary sector professions within the framework of digital societies (Metling, 2015); etc.  In these configurations, the professional hierarchies, the boundaries, the mandate but also the very meaning of the activity may all be at stake.

These three levels are not watertight, they may intersect or cumulate one another.  To this, we must add the effect of individual characteristics and the weight of conjunctures. Being in some social categories rather than in others seems to make people more "vulnerable", such as women, migrants, the elderly, the low-skilled, etc., who are more "vulnerable" than others. Similarly, these vulnerabilities are largely dependent on the history and normative apparatus structuring national employment and work organisation systems (Bazillier et al., 2014; Greenan & Seghir, 2017). These contribute to redefining relationships in and at work. Finally, it is necessary to get rid of the substantive illusion that the use of the concept of "vulnerability" can give.  Following the example of authors who have preferred the notions of disaffiliation (Castel, 1994) or disqualification (Paugam, 1994) to those of poverty, precariousness, etc., it is possible, and no doubt preferable, to focus more on "vulnerabilization" than on "vulnerability». Indeed, it seems more instructive not only to note the presence of people who are "vulnerable" or affected by a particular "vulnerability"   but also to look at the way this is constructed, structured, arranged, and possibly to observe possible reversibility (Soulet, 2014).  Also, if we decide to integrate a temporal perspective, we can think of possible propagation effects between forms of vulnerability, since occupational vulnerability can lead to vulnerability in employment and/or in the workplace, etc. (Soulet, 2014).

Faced with such complexity, the aim of this international conference will be to question once more/reconsider these major lines of thought on a European scale and to develop new issues. This can be done through the prism of a crossroads of social sciences views in their diversity (law, economics, history, political science, sociology, etc.). In addition, beyond an analysis of the determinants of vulnerability and the diversity of its forms, the expected contributions could deal with actions and mechanisms to remedy or prevent this spectrum of vulnerabilities at work, and question the way in which "vulnerability" is a category produced by work.



In order to favour the richness of the crossing of glances, the expected works can be located on different scales of analysis (historical, territorial, sectoral, interprofessional, etc.), mobilize several types of data (quantitative, interviews, archives, etc.) and come from researchers representing all disciplines in the social sciences: sociology, history, education sciences, political sciences, economics, law, anthropology, etc. Proposals can also be at the crossroads of several themes.

The communication times will be 20 minutes.

* * *

Communication proposals can be written in French or English.

Accompanied by the name and contact of the author(s) (institution, email address), keywords (maximum 5), the proposals will specify the the main questions and problematic addressed, the research methodology, the data mobilized, as well as the main results. The proposals must also include a short bibliography presented in Chicago style. 

Communication proposals, up to 3,000 characters all inclusive, must be submitted before September 9, 2020 on the following form. A response from the scientific committee will then be sent before November 15, 2020.



Alber A., 2013, « Management et nouvelle gestion publique : limites et paradoxes de l’imitation du privé », La nouvelle revue du travail [En ligne], n°2, mis en ligne le 30 mars 2013, URL :

Ardenti R., Mathieu R., Gorgeu A., 2010, « Caractère soutenable du travail et trajectoire ouvrières : études de cas dans la filière automobile et les industries agroalimentaires », Sociétés contemporaines, n°78, p. 87-113.

Bazillier R., Boboc Ch., Calavrezo O., 2014, « Employment vulnerability in Europe: Is there a migration effect? », Document de recherche du Laboratoire d’Economie d’Orléans, n°2014-07. 

Bénamouzig D., 2010, « L’évaluation des aspects sociaux en santé. La formation d’une expertise sociologique à la Haute Autorité de Santé », Revue française des affaires sociales, 1-2, p. 187-211.

Bezes Ph., Demazière D., 2011 » « New Public Management et professionsdans l’État : au-delà des oppositions, quelles recompositions ? », Sociologie du travail, 53-3, p. 293-348.

Brodiez-Dolino A., 2015, « La vulnérabilité, nouvelle catégorie de l’action publique », Informations sociales, n°188, p. 10-18.

Caillaud P., Zimmermann B., 2011, « Sécurisation des parcours et liberté professionnelle : de la “flexicurité” aux capacités », Formation emploi, n°113, p. 33-48.

Casilli, A. A., Tubaro, P., Le Ludec, C., Coville, M., Besenval, M., Mouhtare, T., Wahal, E., 2019. Le Micro-travail en France. Derrière l’automatisation de nouvelles précarités au travail ?. Rapport Final Projet DiPLab « Digital Platform Labor ».

Castel, R., 2009, La montée des incertitudes. Travail, protections, statut de l’individu, Paris, Seuil.

Castel, R. (1994). « La dynamique des processus de marginalisation : de la vulnérabilité à la désaffiliation », Cahiers de recherche sociologique, n°22, p. 11-27.

Champy F., 2011, Nouvelle théorie sociologique des professions, Paris, PUF.

Cottereau A., 1983, « L’usure au travail : interrogations et refoulements », Le Mouvement social, n°124, p. 3-9.

Couteret P., 2010, « Peut-on aider les entrepreneurs contraints ? Une étude exploratoire. », Revue de l’Entrepreneuriat, vol. 9-2, p. 6-33.

Darbus, F., 2013, « Troubles dans les relations d’emploi. Dénonciations face à l’ambiguïté du portage salarial », Terrainx & Travaux, n°22, p. 95-113.

Demazière, D., Roquet, P., Wittorski R., 2012, La professionnalisation mise en objet, Paris, L’Harmattant.

Dufournet T., Séhili D., Rozenblatt P., 2019, “The Creeping Advance of Working from Home”, Green European Journal.

Freidson E., 2001, Professionalism, The third logic: On the Practice of Knowledge, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Gollac M., Bodier M. (dir.), 2011, Mesurer les facteurs psychosociaux de risque au travail pour les maîtriser, Paris, La Documentation française.

Greenan N., Seghir M., 2017, « Measuring Vulnerability to Adverse Working Conditions: Evidence from European Contries », Document du travail du CEET, n°193.

Hatzfeld N., 2006, « Ergonomie, productivité et usure au travail. Une décennie de débats d’atelier à Peugeot-Sochaux (1995-2005) », Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, n°165, p. 92-105.

Hénaut L., 2011, « Capacités d’observation et dynamique des groupes professionnels. La conservation des œuvres de musées », Revue française de sociologie, vol. 52-1, p. 71-101.

Ledrut R., 1966, Sociologie du chômage, Paris, PUF.

Le Ludec C., Tubaro T., Casilli A., 2019, Combien de personnes micro- travaillent en France ? Estimer l’ampleur d’une nouvelle forme de travail. i3 Working Papers Series, 19-SES-02.

Lhuilier D., Sarfati F., Waser, A.-M., 2013, « La fabrication des “vulnérables” au travail », Sociologies pratiques, n°26, p. 11-18.

Loriol M., 2012, La construction du social. Souffrance, travail et catégorisation des usagers dans l’action publique, Rennes, PUR.

Metling B., 2015, Transformation numérique et vie au travail, Paris, Rapport au Ministre du Travail, de l’Emploi, de la Formation Professionnelle et du Dialogue Social.

Moriceau, J.-L., Paes, I., Guérillot, G., 2015, « La construction de soi dans le portage salariale », La Revue de Sciences de Gestion, n°273-274, p. 117-124.

Moysan-Louazel A., 2011, « Les professions libérales réglementées, le marché et la concurrence – Le cas des experts-comptables et des avocats », Comptabilité – Contrôle – Audit, vol. 17-2, p. 89-111.

Naulin S., Joudain A. (dir.), 2020, The Social Meaning of Extra Money. Captalism and the Commodification of Domestic and Leisure Activities¸ Gewerbestrasse, Palgrave Macmillan « Dynamics of Virtual Work ».

Naville P., 1956, Essai sur la qualification du travail, Paris, Marcel Rivière et Cie.

Paugam, S., 1994, La disqualification sociale, Paris, PUF.

Soulet M.-H, 2005, « La vulnérabilité comme catégorie de l’action publique », Pensée plurielle, n°10, p. 49-59.

Soulet M.-H., 2014, « Les raisons d’un succès. La vulnérabilité comme analyseur des problèmes sociaux contemporains », in Brodiez-Dolino A., Bueltzingsloewen I. (von), Eyraud B., Laval C. et Ravon B. (dir.), Vulnérabilités sanitaires et sociales. De l’histoire à la sociologie, Rennes, PUR, p. 59-64.

Ravon B., 2014, « De l’exposition à la blessure du temps. Vulnérabilité et présentisme », in Brodiez-Dolino A., Bueltzingsloewen I. (von), Eyraud B., Laval C. et Ravon B. (dir.), Vulnérabilités sanitaires et sociales. De l’histoire à la sociologie, Rennes, PUR, p. 261-270.

Séhili, D., 2003, La castration sociale, Paris, Ed. Syllepse.

Supiot A. (dir.), 1999, Au-delà de l'emploi : transformations du travail et devenir du droit du travail en Europe : rapport pour la Commission européenne, Paris, Flammarion.

Tessier Dargent Ch., 2015, Les entrepreneurs par nécessité : d’une dichotomie simplificatrice à un continuum complexe. Thèse de doctorat, Université Grenoble Alpes.

Thery L., 2006, Le travail intenable, Résister collectivement à l’intensification du travail, Paris, La Découverte.

Thomas H., 2010, Les vulnérables. La démocratie contre les pauvres, Vulaines-sur-Seine, Ed, du Croquant.

Veil C., 2012, Vulnérabilités au travail. Naissance et actualité de la psychopathologie du travail, Paris, Erès.