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A Dance, Reunited Atlanta Contemporary
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Joy Sorman & Catherine Lacey in Conversation ONLINE EVENT Albertine Bookstore/French Embassy
Oct 17
Joy Sorman & Catherine Lacey in Conversation ONLINE EVENT Albertine Bookstore/French Embassy

Alain Supiot

Alain Supiot, is a legal Scholar and co-founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Nantes, where he his currently an emeritus fellow. In 2012, he was elected Chair of the «État social et mondialisation: analyse juridique des solidarités» at the Collège de France. He has presided at the National Council for the Development of Human and Social Sciences. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy and Doctor honoris causa of the University of Louvain La Neuve and of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In August 2017, he has been appointed by the International Labour Organization as a member of the Global Commission on the Future of Work.

Throughout his career he has published 24 books, contributing as well to over 45 other collective works. He has authored numerous books focusing on labor law and social security law (among which: Critique du droit du travail, PUF) and participated in various collective works (Le travail en perspective, LGDJ, 1998; Servir l’intérêt général, PUF). Many of his essays have been published in English including The Spirit of Philadelphia: Social Justice vs. the Total Market (Verso), Homo Juridicus: On the Anthropological Function of the Law (Verso), and Beyond Employment: Changes in Work and the Future of Labour Law in Europe (Oxford University Press). His latest book Governance by Numbers: The Making of the Legal Modern Allegiance was recenty published by by Hart Publishing.

About the book: Governance by Numbers: The Making of the Legal Modern Allegiance

Published by Hart Publishing, Translation by Saskia Brown

The West's cherished dream of social harmony by numbers is today disrupting all our familiar legal frameworks - the state, democracy and law itself. Its scientistic vision shaped both Taylorism and Soviet Planning, and today, with 'globalisation', it is flourishing in the form of governance by numbers. Shunning the goal of governing by just laws, and empowered by the information and communication technologies, governance champions a new normative ideal of attaining measurable objectives. Programmes supplant legislation, and governance displaces government.

However, management by objectives revives forms of law typical of economic vassalage. When a person is no longer protected by a law applying equally to all, the only solution is to pledge allegiance to someone stronger than oneself. Rule by law had already secured the principle of impersonal power, but in taking this principle to extremes, governance by numbers has paradoxically spawned a world ruled by ties of allegiance. More info

For an interview of the author on the text click here.


  • On the Anthropological Function of the Law: The law is how justice is implemented in secular society, but it is not simply a technique to be manipulated at will. It is also the expression of the core beliefs of the West. We must recognize its universalizing, dogmatic nature and become receptive to other interpretations from non-Western cultures to help us avoid the clash of civilizations.

  • The Spirit of Philadelphia : Social Justice versus Total Market: The definition of social justice adopted at Philadelphia in 1944 has not aged in the slightest. It helps us realise that the paths we forge for the future must measure up to the demands of the present. We must therefore leave the flat and horizon-less world of neo-liberal dogma, and regain the use of our ‘five senses’, which have been seriously blunted by thirty years of structural adjustment of human needs to the prescriptions of the financial sector. These ‘five senses’ are the sense of limits, of measure, of action, of responsibility and of solidarity.

  • From the Gosplan to the Governance by Numbers: From a legal perspective, classical economic liberalism and communism had one essential difference: liberalism recognised that the rule of law was necessary for economic harmony, whereas communism used the law as a tool for implementing a harmony based on quantitative computations. The unholy union of capitalism and communism, which Europe and China celebrated towards the end of the 20th century,  accelerated this process of subordinating the Law to Numbers.

  • The Making of a Legal Model of Allegiance: The overturning of the reign of the law in favour of governance by numbers corresponds to the dream of an arithmetically attainable social harmony.  The latest incarnation of this dream in its long history is the digital revolution, to which we all seem enthralled. This cybernetic imaginary leads to an idea of normativity not as legislation but as programming. But with the withering away of the State and the new forms of alienation this Governance by numbers brings with it, a typically feudal legal structure is re-emerging, consisting of networks of allegiance within which each person seeks the protection of someone stronger than him or her, or the support of someone weaker.

  • Subordination and Freedom at Work: "What does ILO constitution mean by 'humane conditions of labor'?" : The First World War contributed two at first sight contradictory things to the history of labor, but which are actually interdependent: the industrial management of "human material"; and the appeal in the Treaty of Versailles for "un régime du travail réellement humain" ("genuinely human work in humane conditions"). How were these two legacies of the Great War articulated together? Is the pursuit of "humane conditions of labor" compatible with "the scientific organisation of work" and the total mobilisation of human capital for a global competitive market? The answer will depend on the interpretation one gives of the notion of "genuinely human work".



Note that we have limited funding available for our tours. Please let us know if you would be able to arrange for domestic travel to/from the event. If you would like to invite this author to speak at your university or bookstore, please fill out the application form and email it to Anne-Sophie Hermil.