A sociologist and a philosopher by training, Dominique Méda is currently a professor of sociology at the University of Paris-Dauphine, after having served as research director at the Center for the Study of Employment (Centre d’Etude et de l’Emploi). A former student of the École Normale Supérieure and the École Nationale d’Administration, an agrégée of philosophy, and accredited to direct research in sociology, she has also been a professor at the Institut d’Études Politiques (“Sciences Po”) in Paris. She is, furthermore, an Inspector General of Labor Affairs.
After beginning her career as a civil servant in the General Inspectorate of Labor Affairs, Méda was simultaneously responsible for research at the Labor and Employment Ministry directorate specialized in statistics, analysis, and research, while also being involved in publishing and editing a book series. It was in the series that she co-edited with Monique Labrune (Alto) for the publisher Aubier-Flammarion that the first French translation of Ulrich Beck’s Risk Society appeared.
Her work has had an important impact on industrial sociology in France and Europe, provoking major public debates. She has conducted numerous studies of how people relate to work and the meaning of work. In 1995, she wrote Le Travail: Une Valeur en Voie de Disparition ? (“Work: A Disappearing Value?,” published with Aubier and later Champs-Flammarion), which received considerable attention. Her recent work looks at women’s employment, particularly in Northern Europe. It makes the case for improving the way men and women share domestic and parental responsibilities and for finding better ways for both men and women to reconcile professional and family life. She calls more generally for an improvement of women’s condition in the workplace.
At a broader level, Méda investigates the relationship between politics and economics and the instruments we use to measure a society’s wealth. In 1999, she published Qu’est-ce que la richesse? (“What is Wealth?,” published with Aubier, then Champs-Flammarion), in which she demonstrates the limits of Gross National Product as an indicator of social wealth, while also proposing a “civilization policy” based on a new conception of wealth and progress and new indicators. She has built on these ideas as a founding member of the Forum for Alternative Indicators of Wealth (Forum pour d’Autres Indicateurs de Richesse, or FAIR), which was created at the same time as the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi committee on economic performance and social progress. She has conducted studies comparing different European social models, putting the French model into perspective. In Faut-il brûler le modèle social français? (“Must One Burn the French Social Model?,” Seuil, 2006), Méda and Alain Lefebvre provide an in-depth analysis of the dysfunctions of the French social model and explain the advantages of the Nordic model, while calling for a rapid transition to a French version of social democracy.
Since then, Méda has undertaken a new project on the transition from a quantitative to a qualitative economy. How can we conceive of prosperity without growth? What are new ways to define and distribute wealth? How can we turn ecological constraints into an extraordinary opportunity to transform our economic system and our relationship to work, while ensuring access to decent jobs? She grapples with these questions in two edited volumes published in 2011: Redéfinir la prospérité (“Redefining Prosperity,” published by Aube) and Les chemins de la transition (“Paths to the Transition,” published by Utopia). She has published in 2013 : La Mystique de la croissance. Comment s'en libérer, Flammarion, 2013 et avec Patricia Vendramin, Réinventer le travail, PUF, 2013.