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Vitale, T. (2003). Conflicts and normative production: a pragmatic approach. University of Milan, PhD Thesis

Tommaso Vitale

PhD Programme in Sociology - Università degli Studi di Milano

Supervisors: Professor Ota de Leonardis (Università di Milano Bicocca), Professor Costanzo Ranci (Politecnico di Milano)

December 2002


How to study local development when it seems that local societies are torn in a lot of “fragments”, in different groups that do not communicate between them, do not understand them, do not accept them? What could be the contribution of political sociology to the study of development in polarised local societies? Considering different bodies of literature, the thesis examines the reasons why it is necessary to examine conflicts and local development in relation to the forms of institutional mediation. For instance, ethnic conflicts are usually explained in two very different ways. The first approach stresses identity variables and ethnic membership, so the characteristics of an ethnic affiliation are conceptualised only as premises and not as the result of an ethnic conflict. In the second approach the outcomes of an ethnic conflict depend on the conflict dynamic and not on the so-called structural causes. In the same way, non-negotiable identities depend on institutions' difficulties to manage compromises and adjustments among the parties. Irreconcilable positions do not depend on cultural affiliations; they are the outcomes of an institutional environment with a lack of mediation. Sociology has come to embrace very different theoretical formulations according to whether the polarisation has been considered as an explanans or an explanandum of the conflicts. Therefore, in this thesis I tried to conceptualize the links between normativity and conflict within an institutonalist perspective. To study the normative dimension involved in a conflict I studied some cases of allocative conflict at the urban level. Particularly, I tried to understand if, and how, in these cases the contentious process enacts a common normative tissue and social ties based on publics goods, recognized like commons. I consider normativity like a result, enacted in the dynamics of a conflict, and I develop my analysis within a public action theory that I elaborate from the pragmatic research program of the “political and moral sociology” (Boltanski, Thévenot 1991): I consider conflicts like “sequences of tests, submitted to a categorization more or less binding, that enact an arena of actors, which is composed of different stages, each one with its own temporality”. So, I elaborate questions about the quality of mediations, about the public character of the conflict arena and about the normative competences of actors in conflict.
I also stress the relevance of incentives in the mediation of conflicts in local development programs. Then, I introduce and discuss a theoretical and conceptual framework to analyse the role of monetary and non-monetary incentive schemes in the field of local development policies in polarised areas. Specifically, I stress the relevance of configurations that articulate different kinds of incentive conjointly from a bottom up and from a top down perspective. I focus on the relevance of a very local approach to configure incentives schemes and I introduce the Institutional Analysis and Development framework (Ostrom 2005) to analyse the impact of a configuration of incentives on the functioning of this kind of policies and programs.

Information on the author

Tommaso Vitale (Ph. D. in Sociology) is Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, where he teaches Social Service Planning, Local Development, and on Public Opinion Research Methods. He is also Maître de conférences invité at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales – Paris. His fields of interest regards Political Sociology (Ethnic Conflicts; Moral Cleavages and Public Discourse; Peace Mobilizations; Sociability and Contentious Politics; Urban Movements) and Public Policy (Dispute Resolution Mechanisms; Ethnic Minorities Policies (mainly gypsy); Learning and Innovation in Social Policy; Local Development and Multilevel Governance).

Contact details

Dr. Tommaso Vitale,
Office Address c/o Dipartimento di Sociologia e della Ricerca Sociale Via Bicocca degli Arcimboldi, 8 – 20126 Milan (Italy).
Phone (office): + 39.02.6448.7477. Fax (office): + 39.02.6448.7561.
E-mail: tommaso.vitale@unimib.it .
Mailing Address: Tommaso Vitale, via Fornara 1, 20147 Milano – Italy.
Personal webpage http://homepage.mac.com/tommaso.vitale

Download the thesis

For any inquiry on this thesis, please contact the author at the address tommaso.vitale@unimib.it

Related works

• Emmenegger T., Vitale T., 2005, Effective Incentives in Critical Situations. Analysis and description of the functioning of the health care system, with a specific focus on how monetary and non-monetary incentives affect performance in two Eastern European countries (Serbia and Albania). Report wrote for The Department of Health Service Provision – OSD, World Health Organization, Geneva, 72 p.

• Emmenegger T., Vitale T., 2004, Regulation by Incentives. Analytical Tools for a Very Local Approach. An Institutional Framework. Report written for the Department of Health Service Provision – OSD, World Health , Organization, Geneva, 25 p.

• Vitale T., Contradiction and Reflexivity in Social Innovation. A Case Study from the De-Institutionalization Movement, it will be published in European Urban and Regional Studies, 32 p.

• Bifulco L., Vitale T., Contracting for Welfare Services in Italy, it will be published in Journal of Social Policy, vol. 35, n. 3, June 2006), 29 p.

• Bifulco L., Vitale T., Space and Process in Organization. Some Theoretical Reflections and Case Studies, it will be published in European Journal of Social Work, 21 p.

• Vitale T., “Introduzione” e “Piani di zona, luoghi dell’intelligenza?”, in Auser (a cura di), Negoziare l’integrazione. Accordi e conflitti nei piani di zona, Franco Angeli, Milano.
Boltanski L., Vitale T., Una sociologia politica e morale delle contraddizioni, it will be published in Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, n. 2-2006, 24 p.

• Dell’Agnese E., Vitale T., Rom e sinti: una galassia di minoranze, in G. Amiotti, A. Rosina (eds), Le minoranze etniche sul territorio italiano (titolo provvisorio), Franco Angeli, Milan, 25 p.

• Vitale T., I dilemmi dell’azione rivendicativa dei movimenti urbani, it will be published in Vitale (ed.) “Partecipazione e rappresentanza nelle mobilitazioni locali”, Franco Angeli, 26 p.

• Borghi V., Vitale T., L’economia delle convenzioni: un programma di ricerca istituzionalista, sarà pubblicato in V. Borghi, T. Vitale “Le convenzioni del lavoro, il lavoro delle convenzioni”, Franco Angeli, Milan, 30 p.

• Vitale T., Coinvolgimenti. Dilemmi della regolazione locale delle politiche sociali, Carocci, Roma (September 2006, 220 p.).

• Vitale T., Ethnic Conflict and Institutional Mediation, submitted to Theory and Society, 37 p.

• Vitale T., Conflictus interruptus, o della difficile innovazione istituzionale, submitted to Rassegna italiana di sociologia, 41 p.

• Vitale T. “Contrattualizzazione sociale”, in La Rivista delle Politiche Sociali, n. 1/05, pp. 291-323.

• Bifulco L., Vitale T. “La contrattualizzazione delle politiche sociali e il welfare locale”, in L. Bifulco (a cura di), Le politiche sociali. Temi e prospettive emergenti, Carocci Editore, pp. 81-100.

• Cousin B., Vitale T., “La gauche de la « Mer ouverte » : l’immigration clandestine dans le débat italien”, in La Vie des Idées, 8, pp. 47-53.



Vitale, Tommaso


University of Milan Bicocca, Department of Sociology and Social Research

Il Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale (DSRS) strives for excellence in the empirical inquiry on contemporary society and in the study of social theory. The DSRS was founded in January 1999 with the creation of the Faculty of Sociology at the University of Milano Bicocca. The Department...

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