Failure: Limits to success and inequality of falling in contemporary society
Organizacja: Adriana Mica (UW), Paweł Kubicki (SGH), Lorenzo Sabetta (Sapienza University of Rome / LUISS Guido Carli)
V 17.09, 11:00-12:30
Miejsce: WYDZIAŁ LINGWISTYKI UW, Sala 1.019
Słowa kluczowe: experts, fail faires, failure, imaginary, inequality
The global challenge of today is not so much the emerging of crises and failures. Or the issue of uncontrolability. But that the experiences of failure, strategies of managing, and access to safety nets are unequally distributed in the society. Some actors and groups redefine failure, celebrating its confession through so called fail faires, festivals and fuck-up nights. While others are less resourceful in benefiting of structures of support, or do not have access to recoveries that receive social acknowledgement.
The thematic group proposes to explore the relation between failure, inequality and success limitations from an interdisciplinary perspective. It argues that failure is a universal experience. At the end of the day, however, there is inequality in the stories of failure that are being told. Contemporary crises raise awareness about these inequalities. Crises open possibilities for social change with concrete support from international actors, social movements, policy agendas and new failure experts. The role of social sciences and public policy studies in all this being to identify the dynamic of rhetoric of inequality of failure. To inquire what are the variations at global and country levels in making sense and coming to terms with it.
It is not only the experiences of failure that are unequal, but also those of success. Dealing with asymmetries and reproduction of power relations in contemporary experiences of failure and success is a fundamental factor of growing economic and social inequalities globally. The thematic group argues that it is time to move from seeing failure as a step towards success! To address: – Who does and does not have access to failure as a tool for success?
– How is change possible?
– What are the implications in terms of redefinition of failure in a post-pandemic context?
– How do experiences, regimes and imaginaries of failure manifest and interact globally?
During the talk I will reflect on how highly-skilled people with a migration background present their experiences of occupational mobility and on knowledge production, in particular how pre-conceptions of integration or exclusion underlie research methods. My inquiries are based on the analysis of methods and research data from in-depth interviews with Ukrainian migrant workers carried out in 2017 in Poland. In literature occupational mobility is depicted as either downward (leading to exclusion) or upward (leading to “successful integration”) (Adamson & Roper, 2019; Czaika & Vothknecht, 2014; Simón et al., 2014). Meanwhile, the analysed qualitative data points to shades of grey of occupational mobility. Apart from rare cases of classical up-ward occupational mobility – from unskilled to highly-skilled jobs, the occupational mobility of the research participants was characterised by not clear cut transitions, with less or unskilled and informal jobs combined (treated as economic safety nets) with jobs in the formal labour market (treated as social status).
Julita Pieńkosz, Marta Patelewicz
International quantitative research on adult education usually focuses on the level of participation in various forms of education and its determinants (socio-economic status, age or attitudes etc.) The qualitative approach is dominated by the analysis of individual adult educational paths as an example of mapping educational or professional careers. In the presentation we investigate how orientations towards education among adults, the meanings they have personally given to their educational activity (in terms of the process of learning, motivations to learn, sense of agency), depends on early educational experiences.
Our analyses were conducted on the data from the qualitative research among adult learners who participated in informal education. It was carried out by The Educational Research Institute in 2021 using the in-depth interview method.
We do not treat the stories as objectified knowledge about the world and educational paths. More important are the ways and mechanisms people use to reconstruct the past. This is why we used the map as a tool to analyze the trajectories of the respondents and to organize the research material. We assume that one’s biography is essential for the process and quality of adult learning. We focus on the previous educational experiences of the respondents in terms of educational successes and failures. We want to find out to what extent they are significant for the educational trajectory of the respondents and are reflected in the current educational processes. We treat educational successes and failures not only as the achievement of the level of institutionalized cultural capital (the level of education) but also as difficulties in learning and relations with teachers and peers, frequent absences from school, lack of promotion, education interruptions and breaks etc. The key factor here, however, is not only experiencing failure or success, but specific reactions, patterns of action and coping with them, as well as support received from significant others. These experiences of the respondents have become important for us because it is the school that is the place of formal learning practices. Earlier experiences shape educational motivation, orientation towards rewards, build patterns of behavior and strategies for coping with success and failures. Finding oneself in the field of education- specific reactions to educational successes and failures depend on the family cultural capital, in particular embodied cultural capital and habitus .
The meanings that adult learners give to learning are different depending on those experiences. They vary from an instrumental approach related to economic efficiency, through learning treated as a sense of continuity in building the meaning of one’s own life, to learning as a second chance. Particularly in the biographies of people who have experienced social advancement, we can notice concentration on compensating for biographically experienced cognitive deficits. We can also notice differences in the course of learning depending on previous educational experiences and coping with failures, support or lack of support from significant others.
[Concept] The processes of blurring the boundaries of truth, modern identity challenges, including crises of attitudes and values, liquefying everyday social life can be perceived as sources of a number of negative consequences for the lives of individuals and societies (e.g. disinformation, risks, populisms, identity disorders) (Z. Bauman; U. Beck; A. Giddens ; and others). Clearly, in a consequence it also leads to blurring the meaning of failure and success. Even though, arguably failure is a universal experience, clearly its (re)definitions and perceptions are structurally embedded in the field of power. We identify the dynamics of this sphere. Our research distinguishes an array of social behaviors that contribute to destabilization of the rules of social games and, by abusing the existing norms, benefit from it. We describe these behaviors in terms of broadly understood “disguise” (regarding: facts, attitudes, values, actions, capitals). The contemporary shift towards cyber-environments and the digitization of interpersonal relations amplify these processes and attitudes even further, translating into a growing significance of “disguise” strategies.
[Approach] Classical game theories (E. Berne; P. Bourdieu; V. Turner) provide us with well-known tools and models, which allow us to describe the universe of strategies adopted by individuals within the social games they play. We also observe multiple contemporary applications of models arising from formal game theories (e. g. A. Gholamrez, ME Gordji & P. Choonkil). Unfortunately, to a large extent models applied in these various studies take the rationality of actors for granted. On the other hand, typically, deliberate application of disguise strategies is not taken into account. This topic is unpopular due to the difficulties arising from the necessity to include speculative factors related to the intentionality of actors. However, just because it is difficult does not mean that we should not try to explore the area. We argue that the process of social recognition is profoundly anchored in activities aimed at creating appearances and, on the other hand, correlated and interdependent with activities aimed at revealing such appearances. Presenting failures as successes and successes as failures being a critical part of this story. Furthermore, within a broader horizon, even more difficult questions emerge, in particular, who is empowered enough to judge what is true and what is fake in this picture.
[Modeling] We describe and examine a specific game, which we call “the green game”, where individuals gain social recognition for their attitude towards ecology, and, in particular, their successes and failures as well as the very perception of these successes and failures in this area. We use classic analytical categories (field, habitus, capitals) to create, describe and operationalize the model for the green game. The conditions of a success (or failure) in the game are identified in terms of social (dis)acceptance of the opinions, attitudes and actions manifested in the game. In particular we analyze: (a) awareness and motivation to disguise (parameters that characterize the individual); (b) circumstances encouraging the individual to adopt disguise strategies (parameters characterizing the context); (c) reaction patterns of other players, types and effectiveness of sanctions (parameters that characterize the reactions); (d) the effectiveness of disguise (parameters describing the cultural and social conditions).
Perceptions of meritocracy are based on the idea that one’s efforts lead to success through hard work and talent regardless of one’s socioeconomic background. Simply put, such perceptions reveal that higher education, hard work, and merits (should) generate return in rewards, such as higher income and better position, leading to upward mobility, and consequently higher social class. However, perceptions of meritocracy tend to legitimize inequalities by internalizing one’s success, assuming that everyone can “go up the ladder”, and that everyone deserves the position they hold in society. The idea of “deservingness” validates social inequalities and ascribes inequalities to one’s failure to achieve.
Interestingly, perceptions of meritocracy differ between those who are highly skilled and those who are low-skilled. Some evidence in the field demonstrates that highly skilled become more aware of realities about social inequalities, therefore they tend to hold weaker perceptions of the role of merits in one’s success. However, there is also another side to the story with literature claiming the highly skilled being prone to endorse meritocracy.
Migrants usually carry certain aspirations and beliefs that they will succeed if they follow the rules of host society and work hard. When in host countries, they use various strategies, including ways to navigate the labor market to prove themselves. The meanings they ascribe to their success or “deserving position” usually reflect institutional, structural, and individual mechanisms. Moreover, they also reflect their perceptions of the role of merit (education, hard work, skills as such) and non-merit determinants (family background, social connections as such) that play a role in their stories of success in host countries. Success achieved in host countries for migrants is usually relative to either their previous position in the country of origin or the situation of their close circle, including their relatives, peers, or colleagues in the country of origin.
This paper explores the determinants highly skilled migrants from Azerbaijan attribute to their success while living and working in Poland, as well as the strategies they apply not to fail. Drawing from the biographical narrative interviews conducted with migrants from Azerbaijan in Poland, it further examines what factors, either merit or non-merit as well as institutional, structural or individual Azerbaijani migrants ascribe to their success stories, how they justify their “deserving” position in Poland, and what solutions they take to manage to maintain success. Preliminary findings reveal that highly skilled Azerbaijani migrants attribute their success to merits such as hard work, and as a result tend to internalize their success by individual merits. Additionally, they apply different maneuvers not to fail and continue succeeding including, changing jobs frequently to get pay rise, and acquiring local education, even from some small and private institution to have easier access to labor market in Poland.