Can the inestimable work be assessed?

Abstract: This article presents the practical-theoretical context in which the issue’s authors asked themselves the question of the assessment of the inestimable work, a concept proposed by Jean Oury that puts in tension both the ethics of care and the economic rationality. In fact, this question is part of a collective approach which combines care and action-research devices with the desire to formalize current practices located somewhere between accompanying and care through a “collective monograph”.

From therapeutic work to inestimable work. “Don’t separate pure theory from what’s going on”


This article articulates therapeutic work as discussed in the 1960s by psychiatrists of the institutional psychotherapy movement with the inestimable work conceptualized by Jean Oury in the 2000s in response to managerial evaluation. Inestimable work is understood at the therapeutic, economic and ethical levels. This last dimension appears to be linked to the rise of a perfectionist approach to care. Its development and transmission over several decades around the notions of daily life and “caring function” are essential in front of the analysis of other aspects linked to hierarchical relationships and the division of labour between employees, an analysis which is also essential but which is left to others.

Christophe, volunteer in la Trame



This article focuses on la Trame, an association which help people with mental disorder, their relatives and the professionals in the north-west of Seine-Saint-Denis. It was conceived as a conversation between Christophe Lescot (member of the GEM (Groupe d’Entraide Mutuelle, Group of Mutual Assistance) of Saint-Denis and volunteer in la Trame) and one of the workers of la Trame after a moment of presentation of the GEMs and la Trame during the meeting of the psychiatric staff of a Parisian psychiatric hospital in March 2019. The article looks back at the birth of la Trame, its daily activities and actions through the eyes and trajectory of one of its volunteers. Moreover, it tries to describe some network practices applied at work in this area and which try to be part of a logic of mutual aid and solidarity while supporting some policy of reception.

What Users and Professionals in Groups of Mutual Assistance say about the inestimable work


GEMs (Groupes d’Entraide Mutuelle, Groups of Mutual Assistance) are associations of  people with mental disorder. They aim at fighting against their social isolation and, more broadly, to foster their autonomy. Salaried facilitators participate in the general effort to make GEMs places where their members can fully grow as humans and citizens. Their work should not be reduced to its more visible aspects (the general organization of the GEM’s environment and activities), but also includes human, social and psychological dimensions that are essential to the general well-being of the group. This article focuses on the different forms of “inestimable work” inside GEMs, relying on a literature review of texts written by researchers and actors of GEMs (members, facilitators, psychologists…). The conclusion shows the different characteristics of the inestimable work in GEMs, in order to further our understanding and observation of this phenomenon.

Work and poetry in a psychiatric writing workshop



This text presents a doctoral research about the notion of poetry with the movement of institutional therapy as its theoretical basis. We wonder what “work” is then produced in a writing workshop in psychiatry. The research was based on a qualitative approach, using two methodological tools: four interviews with professionals who lead workshops in psychiatry as well as a six-months writing workshop in an association for people with mental disorders. The text presents how a participant invests the workshop and how to theorize it as a “work”.

From money to inestimable, what do therapeutic clubs deal with ?


After detailing the emergence of the “Therapeutic Club” in Saint Alban’s Hospital, this article strives to follow the concrete economic channels in works that describe how such clubs are managed — tools that are known to generate an inestimable disalienation work. From a clinical point of view, the place of exchanges supported by the various social and ergotherapies they organize are pointed out, as well as the benefit of freedom of movement between articulated spaces, as close as possible to the daily field. The currency concept introduces a triangulation of these exchanges (constituent of what authors call institution), and money circulation and manipulation thereby provoke exchanges of speech. Close to a self-managed cooperative model, these clubs are governed by the 1901 French law that regulates associations. This access to an autonomous legal personality encourages the development of “active therapies”. Can the “money thread” — the guide of this description — be useful to the evaluation of other inestimable works?

The inestimable in the care relationship: a political economy perspective


This article offers an analysis of the political economy of the inestimable in the care relationship through the industrialization of care. Industrialization can be seen through the reforms aimed at regulating professional practices around the respect of quantified standards of quality of care. Everything happens as if care were a homogeneous product that could be easily replicated from one patient to another, regardless of their singularities. As an illustration, this article looks at the recent developments in the regulation of three sectors: private medical care, hospital and houses for dependent elderly people. If this industrialization may seem irrational (because it produces many perverse effects on the quality of care and on care professionals), we try to place it within the framework of the transformations of capitalism. Regaining control over labour (through the industrialization of care) is a way of deploying capitalist logics.