From Populist Project to Authoritarian Management: How indicators and rankings travel, settle and colonise new domains
Susan Wright (Århus University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper tracks the expansion of indicators and the spread of enumeration and ranking as populist projects and as instrument for new forms of authoritarian management. We focus on PFI schemes and UK Academy Schools to show how indicators colonise new domains and promote new regimes of control.
Paper long abstract:
A key feature of our times is the extraordinary degree to which performance indicators and ranking systems are being used as instruments in the management and governance of the workplace and a vast array of other areas of life. The proliferation of benchmarking systems, scorecards and league tables that purport to measure and rate the qualities and merits of particular phenomena (from hotels, restaurants, automobiles and consumer products to trust, happiness, physical attractiveness and spirituality) has become a populist project of global proportions. However, this index mania also creates the conditions for a new form of governance to flourish, one that uses numbers, ratings and data as calculative technologies for extending managerial control and reshaping human subjectivity to suit neoliberal policy agendas. Taking as our case study policies for promoting Public Private Partnerships and the spread of Academy Schools in the UK, this paper examines these processes and their wider societal and ethical implications. We ask, how do these seemingly technical and mundane instruments of audit travel and resettle in new environments, and how are these measurements instrumental in the colonization of new domains?
Policy mobility in a globalised world: how ideas and practices of governance and management travel, settle and colonise new domains