Social mediator – an emerging profession ?
This article, which fits with continuing current studies of how state intervention to regulate labor markets is changing, focuses on the activities known as « social mediation ». It shows that after organizing the field of social work in France into institutionalized professions, the public authorities are now implicitly wagering on workers’ ability to create and consolidate their activities on their own, as is clear from the new system of limited-time work contracts. This move to stabilize the situation is different from the way in which classic social worker jobs were « professionalized ». Far from any quest for professional autonomy, mediators are now engaged in relations of dependence where they have to assume different forms, reorganize themselves and make themselves malleable in accordance with their interlocutors’ demands. The article offers a conceptual framework to account for these dynamics not of closure but of malleability. Concepts from Simmel’s sociology of reciprocal action, economic sociology and sociology of organization are imported for this purpose. The article thereby contributes to current thinking on what kinds of sociological theory will enable us to account for the paradox of state-framed yet malleable work activities.