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From Risk to Quality: International Standards and the Service Economy

Prof Jean-Christophe Graz
Université de Lausanne

Date: 11 March 2008
Time: 1-2:30pm
Venue: CARR Seminar Room, H615

This paper explores the political implications of the growing influence of international standards on society, taking the case of the service sector as a distinct field of study. The analysis relies on global political economy approaches, which try to identify constitutive patterns of authority mediating between the political and the economic spheres on a transnational space. It extends to the area of service standards the assumption that the process of globalisation is not opposing states and markets, but a joint expression of both of them including new patterns and agents of structural change through formal and informal power and regulatory practices. It presents preliminary results of a major research project, which combines cross-institutional and sectoral analyses. It examines the most important international institutions involved in the power of service standards and provides an account of common patterns in initial developments affecting contrasting cases. The paper argues that service standards depend on conflicting definitions of quality requirements to promote a form of transnational hybrid authority, that blurs the distinction between private and public actors, whose scope spread all along from physical measures to societal values, and which reinforces the deterritorialisation of regulatory practices in contemporary capitalism.

About the speaker
Jean-Christophe Graz is Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) Professor at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques et Internationales (IEPI) of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, where he is at the head of the research team international relations and standardisation. Prior to taking up this position, he held teaching and research positions in Canada, the UK, France and other Universities in Switzerland. His latest books are: Transnational Private Governance and its Limits (Routledge, 2008 - with A. Nölke, eds) and La gouvernance de la mondialisation ("Repères", La Découverte, 2008, 2nd ed.).