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Answers to the Crisis

1st  research workshop

12 Nov 2009 – 13 Nov 2009

Auditorium 1

Free admission


Alternatives to the employment crisis: challenges to education and training and new forms of regulation (pdf)


Ilona Kovács and Margarida Chagas Lopes (SOCIUS/ISEG)

Commentator: José Maria Carvalho Ferreira (SOCIUS/ ISEG)

The paper begins with an analysis of the crisis now being faced by what was the predominant model of employment until quite recently. The employment crisis is the great social issue of our modern times. Although there is general consensus about the employment crisis, there are serious disagreements as to its precise nature and about the solutions to be put forward for overcoming it. For the predominant discourse, the information and communication technologies and the market economy have opened a new era that offers more and better job opportunities for everyone. However, according to the critical approaches, globalisation as the universalisation of the free market gives rise to socio-economic inequalities between blocs, regions, countries, companies and individuals, casting ever larger segments of the population into situations of unemployment and precarious employment.

In view of the crisis in employment, education/training and apprenticeship are now viewed from new perspectives. The second part of the paper examines the complex relationship between education and the labour market, which has evolved from a situation of functional subordination of the former to the latter, during the processes of industrialisation and the construction of mature capitalism, and has progressively reclaimed its importance in its own right as a factor of human development and, more recently, as a promoter of active citizenship. In the course of this somewhat irregular pattern of development, education and the labour market have rejoined forces in a succession of different combinations, which are reviewed here: the emergence of lifelong education and training as an attempt to regulate the labour market in crisis; the “externalisation” of education and, in particular, of training in relation to a labour market that is incapable of autonomous regulation and therefore seeks the support of the sectors of education and training and social security, as in the case of flexicurity.

The final part of the paper is a contribution towards our reflection upon the alternatives. Given the predominant discourse, which considers that the evolution of the economy and society is determined by the laws of economics and by technological evolution, a point of view is defended whereby there are alternative futures, namely the “market society”, the “society centred on alternative activities” and the “renewed work society”. New perspectives are also being opened up in the field of education and training, challenged by the moves towards a status of greater autonomy and dignity, as we head towards the knowledge society, or learning society, in which education and training are called upon to promote active citizenship, in a path that is full of contradictions and ambiguities that, for the time being, only allow us to sketch out a general outline of the evolution that is currently in progress.

Literary Studies in the 21st century: the recent past, the crisis and the next future 

Isabel Fernandes (Centro de Estudos Anglísticos/UL)

Commentator: João Ferreira Duarte (Centro de Estudos Comparatistas/UL)

The aim of this paper is to offer a view of the possible horizons for literary studies in the light of the conflicts that took place in the discipline throughout the 20th century, and particularly in its second half. The reasons for the persistence of this crisis are to be found in the particular porosity and peculiar multifaceted complexity of literature, which, as an object, finds it difficult to coexist with disciplinary boundaries and demands and with the institutional imperatives arising from the model for the university that was inherited from the period of the Post-Enlightenment. (Abstract)

The Crisis and the adaptive discourse of economists (pdf)

José Luís Cardoso (Instituto de Ciências Sociais)

Commentator: Sandro Mendonça (Dinâmia/ISCTE)

2009 has been a troubled year. The signs of a sharp recession and the spectre of a terrible depression do not leave us with any doubts about the seriousness of the difficult times which, with varying degrees of pessimism, are anticipated and forecast. The crisis is not just the one that is revealed through the great disturbance felt in the economic and financial markets, the higher levels of unemployment, the loss of purchasing power, and the bankruptcy and closure of companies in all sectors of economic activity on a global scale.  Besides the social and political consequences that it inevitably brings about, the crisis is also one of economics as a science that would hopefully contribute towards the understanding and solution of the problems that beset the contemporary world. As far as this naïve ambition of a prescriptive science of remedies and palliatives is concerned, it seems that people have already given up hope and that all our illusions have been shattered. But what shows that the situation is genuinely serious is the belief that, after all, economic science is not even developed enough to be able to describe and diagnose the ills that currently afflict the market. It is this dimension of the crisis that affects economics as a science and that is our main focus of attention in this paper, using as a guide the testimonies and stances adopted by contemporary economists, some of whom have been feted with the Nobel Prize, which they have either already been awarded or which they hope one day to receive. (extract)

What crisis? Normality and a systemic break in contemporaneity (pdf)

João de Pina-Cabral (Instituto de Ciências Sociais)

Commentator: Vítor Moura (Centro de Estudos Humanísticos/UM)

From an anthropological point of view, it is difficult to understand the so-called “financial crisis” that we are currently witnessing as a phenomenon that is linked solely to the world of economics and finance. On the contrary, if we adopt a perspective that assumes that social phenomena can only make sense insofar as they are seen in relational terms, the current financial and economic crisis shows itself, after all, to be merely the signalling of the many processes of destabilisation and systemic change that we have been witnessing in our contemporary world. We are therefore moved to ask: “what crisis?”  (extract)

Culture and Cognition – or the Power of Tacit Knowledge (pdf)

Peter Hanenberg (Centro de Estudos de Comunicação e Cultura/UCP)

Commentator: Miriam Tavares (CIAC/ UAlg, ESTC)

The most famous definition of tacit knowledge is a paradoxical phrase coined by Michael Polanyi: "We know more than we can tell". Tacit knowledge is therefore something that is neither told nor spoken, something that is not “at hand”. It refers to something that we know, without our being aware of that knowledge. However, we depend upon it in order to be able to act. In order to develop a clearer description of the importance of tacit knowledge (in the context of the current crisis), we examine some examples of "gut feelings" that lead us to solve problems without the explicit intervention of knowledge. Next we present the idea of a "geography of thought" in order to describe tacit knowledge in cultural diversity. Finally, we relate Polanyi’s concept to the ‘Cognitive System of Culture’ developed by Leonard Talmy, in order to pave the way for three conclusions: (1) tacit knowledge is based on experience, (2) it is shared (and not simply individual), and (3) it therefore represents a challenge for education. Knowing more about tacit knowledge means recognising its fundamental power for determining culture and its projection into the near future.

Lessons from the Economic Crises of 2008: how to manage a political solution? (pdf)

Miguel Rocha de Sousa (NICPRI/EU, UM)

Commentator: Emanuel Leão (Dinâmia/ISCTE)

The main idea is that this crisis may have a fundamental impact, a vision of the Kuhnian paradigmatic revolution, a Nozickian libertarian versus a Rawlsian vision, or an application of the Senian utilitarian principles in government programmes. The economy will be simultaneously the space of ethics and not just a form of social engineering. In fact, a genuine political science – this is the new escape clause – a redefinition of the capitalist system through a deeper spread of the founding trinomial (P, L, A) of International Organisations (IO), with a view to their greater coordination, and the EU acting with one single, but stronger, voice, as we witness a decline in the USA and simultaneously the affirmation of the BRIC countries at the heart of the G20.

In Section 1, we illustrate what is understood by a crisis; in Section 2, we contextualise this economic crisis by comparing it to previous ones; in Section 3, we seek to define the social impact of this crisis; in Section 4, an analysis is made of the political process underlying this crisis; finally, in Section 5, we propose alternative views of a solution that would prevent the recurrence of similar crises. To achieve this, we suggest the use of greater preventive supervision and the more efficient use of the following policy trinomial: proximity, legitimacy and accountability (P, L, A) in keeping with the logic of International Organisations (IO).

On the impossibility of overcoming the current crisis of capitalism (pdf)

José Maria Carvalho Ferreira (SOCIUS/ISEG)

Commentator: António Pinto Ribeiro

It is a historical fact that we are faced with a crisis that unavoidably crosses our own path of biological and social development. It is visible not only in relation to the paradigms and authors who dispute the legitimation and institutionalisation of the sciences that come together and compete within the framework of the instrumental rationality of capitalism, but also in the manifest incapacity of these sciences to control and prevent the occurrence of a multiplicity of phenomena that are empirically expressed in economic, social, political, cultural and civilisational dysfunctions and perversions.

The crisis of capitalism results, first of all, from the biological and social trajectory of the human species and the actor represented by the labour factor of production. Both of these factors have evolved in the direction of unprecedented competition in the transformation of organic matter into inorganic matter, threatening the plant and vegetable species that form part of the equilibrium of the ecosystem of planet Earth.

From the contingencies that structure the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and from globalisation itself, we can understand that we are far from the apogee of the “thirty glorious years of capitalism” (1945-1975) based on the transformation of organic matter into inorganic matter. This fact gave rise to a gigantic process involving the production, distribution, trade and consumption of analytical and symbolic goods and services

Finally, by generating unemployment, the precariousness of employment tenure, poverty, misery, social exclusion, deviation and crime, both processes threaten the historical survival of capitalism. These factors have culminated in the emergence of an inter-individual civil war at the local, regional, national, continental and world levels, based on socialisation and sociability processes modelled on death wishes in detriment to the life wishes identified with the historical coming into being of capitalism.

The Crisis is normal life. How Anthropology faces the crisis (pdf)

Various authors (CRIA)

Commentator: Ana Célia Gomes (SOCIUS/ISEG)

In the debates taking place about the Crisis, the political and economic argument frequently dissolves into the moral argument. Simultaneously, anthropology has been confronted with what seems to be a new terrain, ‘globalisation’, sometimes afforded a more celebratory approach, sometimes a more critical one. In this text, we defend the idea that it is necessary to think ethnographically: looking at the subjects where they in fact are and not where they are supposed to be. Furthermore, in relation to the Crisis, we must look at the subjects as they in fact are and not as they should be. We distinguish between crisis-process and crisis-event, examining cases of what we have called ‘critical people’ (the migrant, the refugee, the asylee, those who stay, the gypsies, the poor, the workers/consumers, amongst others). At the moment when the Crisis is declared, only ethnographies make it possible to shed light on the way in which it does or does not affect people in substantially new and different ways. The declaration of the Crisis obscures other smaller crises, their causes and their everyday personalised expressions. For the 'critical people’ crisis is normal life.