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Governing by numbers: audit culture, rankings and the New World (Re)order 
Cris Shore (Goldsmiths)
Susan Wright (Århus University)
Start time:
31 July, 2014 at
Time zone: Europe/Tallinn
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

With the extraordinary rise of indicators and rankings an entire new industry has arisen geared to producing calculating, responsibilized, self-managed organisations and subjects. We examine and theorize the spread of measurements and their social, ethical, and governmental effects.

Long Abstract:

Statistics and performance indicators have long served as instruments of state power. However, a key development over the past three decades has been the extraordinary rise of indicators and rankings and their involvement in new forms of governance. These issues relate to the conference theme for whereas many contemporary developments enhance collaboration and intimacy, audit culture emphasises competition, individualisation, governing-at-a-distance and de-professionalisation that undermines collaboration.

Audit regimes increasingly operate beyond the nation-state. Reducing and governing complex processes to numbers and rankings is a defining feature of our times. Everything from schools, corruption, Quality of Life Years, Gross National Happiness, and the performance of doctors is now measured and ranked in competitive league tables. An entire industry of measuring and ranking organisations has arisen geared to producing calculating, responsibilized, self-managed subjects. Audit and ranking as instruments for promoting quality and efficiency are also linked to a new ethics of accountability 'where the financial and the moral meet' (Strathern 2000:1). This panel invites anthropologists to examine enumeration and ranking technologies and their societal effects. We ask:

1. How should we theorize the effects of measuring, ranking and auditing?

2. Who are the 'rankers'? How have they spread their practices? How do they operate?

3. When measurements and rankings are introduced into ever-more areas of professional and everyday life, what impacts does this have?

4. What rationales drive governments and managers to employ audit technologies?

5. Where are these developments leading and how might they be contested?

Accepted papers:

Session 1