Septembre-Octobre 2013 - Reflexive regulation

9 septembre 2013. Reflexive regulation

Le papier que je dois présenter vendredi prochain à la "Florence School of Regulation" sur le thème "Reflexive Regulation" est enfin prêt ! Il m'aura donné quelque fil à retordre cet été, ne serait-ce que pour découvrir ce que pouvait bien signifier l'intitulé du thème ! Je crois que j'ai fini par comprendre et j'ai donc rédigé ma contribution en pratiquant, tel Pierre Bourdieu, la réflexivité sur moi-même ! Ci dessous, introduction en clair avec un lien vers le texte complet.

Lire ici la totalité du texte

Introduction: a Magritte-like non academic paper

Were this contribution a painting and were the author named René Magritte, the title would likely be: “This is not an academic paper”. Magritte was an expert in demonstrating the shift between an object and its representation, in showing the “strange” outcomes produced by the action of the painter’s thought onto “ordinary” objects, thus making strange become ordinary and vice-versa. When I accepted to participate in this workshop, everything looked ordinary in the academic reality: a scholar was invited by his peers to deliver a paper about the economics of regulation. However, the first sign of “strangeness” appeared when I realized with panic that I could not even understand the very issue addressed in the workshop: the expression “reflexive regulation” sounded just as Chinese to my ears. So I had to learn basic Chinese in the first place, which I did. After having read some scientific literature about reflexivity, governance and regulation, I discovered with surprise that, before knowing, I already was an ardent promoter of reflexivity in regulatory practice: in the Magritte’s universe, I very well knew what a “pipe” is but I just gave it some other names, making it look as “not a pipe”!

Then, since reflexivity was at stake, I decided to build-up the present paper as a meta-exercise of reflexivity, i.e. as an essay about reflexivity the structure of which would itself be reflexive. Consequently, my contribution is made-up as a mimic of Magritte’s masterpiece “Not to be reproduced” (La reproduction interdite), in which a man, seen from the back, faces a mirror which reflects his back instead of his face.


Who is the person really concerned with the virtual image given by the mirror? Either she is the character represented in the painting and then the mirrored image should show her face; or she is an external observer seeing the back of the character from the outside and then the mirrored image – to be “true” – should itself show a back! Assuming that I am the character in the picture and that you, reader, are the observer, you will see twice my “back” in this paper!

  • My academic “back” appears in section 1, consisting in a brief review of my very recent insight into the scientific conceptualization of reflexivity, as developed by sociologists and political scientists who applied it to governance and regulation in the background of sustainable development issues.

  • My regulatory “back” is displayed in section 3, giving an echo of the time when I was still a regulator and tried to investigate, in the “naïve” terms of a practitioner, which directions should take “modern” regulation in the field of electronic communications. To that purpose, I used physical or biological metaphors that “reinvented” in a way the concept of reflexivity, while not knowing they did.

  • The "mirror" which sends "back to back" regulatory practice and reflexivity theory is erected in the intermediary section 2. This mirrror's silvering is nothing but "digital revolution", which – I claim – does constitute a vey powerful engine of societal transformation in the 21st century, as important as (and also part of) sustainable development, thus loudly calling (shouting?) for the need of reflexive governance.

Just as one’s eyes should be free to move from one part to another of a Magritte’s painting, in the same way sections 1, 2 and 3, namely the “scientific knowledge”, the “mirror of digital revolution” and the “practitioner’s intuition”, may be read in an arbitrary order. Each piece of the patchwork makes sense by itself, while a meta-message is (maybe) delivered by the whole. In other words, this text is definitely not an academic paper: it is a triptych made of three sub-papers in each of which speaks a different “expert”, or rather the same expert considered at different moments. As for the “artist”, if any, he leaves the reader discover by himself the meta-message(s) hidden behind the global work… A first clue is that, in the manner of “Not to be reproduced”, science and intuition “back” each other as much as they “face” each other. A second hint will be suggested in the conclusive remarks, when referring to Socratic irony.

Lire ici la totalité du texte

Informations supplémentaires