Economy and meaning

Today, the economy is at the heart of social and political life and we have come to consider that only companies produce the wealth whereas others (such as the state, associations and cultural bodies) consume it. And yet there is a feeling that the description of social life in economic terms is increasingly unsatisfactory. Even the French President protested against the tyranny of the GDP, but it is a number which is easily used as a measure, even though one may be reluctant to do so. This is why it is important to study the relationship between economic production and the production of meaning. Is it really idealistic to want to re-establish the ‘soft’ part in social relations with regard to the ‘hard’ part of economic reality? Maybe not. Companies are being faced with a paradox: their competitiveness and creativity suggest that their employees are strongly committed to the company and so they have to satisfy their employees’ expectations with regard to meaning and recognition. Furthermore, companies are overwhelmed by issues which go beyond the balance sheet, such as a preoccupation with sustainable development. Social associations and bodies must make the best of economic imperatives. Since they provide an increasing part of activities which are essential to life in inner cities (such as leisure, education, the struggle against exclusion, and so on), associations are often subject to calls for tender and competition. They must cope with these demands without losing sight of their original purpose which is the creation of meaning and social ties. The École de Paris du management and the Collège des Bernardins have created this seminar to study the ways in which efficiency and social life are addressed in companies, associations, and co-operative bodies, and to diffuse the reactions prompted by these debates.


Michel BERRY

École de Paris du management