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.

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.