Accueil > Measuring the world: numbers in global governance


Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

Modern governance relies to an ever growing extent on measures and numbers, ranging from GDP and its growth rates, which was introduced during the 1930s and then quickly became the “magic number” of modern policy, to rankings, quantitative indicators and measures of performance which today are virtually omnipresent and seem to be an essential element of neoliberal governance (university rankings, PISA tests, credit ratings of states…). In this seminar we will study and critically examine these measures and indicators and will contextualize them in the rise of modern societies and, in particular, in the neoliberal turn of the last decades (the “managerial revolution”). In a first step we will have a critical look on the theoretical foundations of the quantitative style in governance (neoclassical welfare economics, cost benefit analysis, the extension of the notion of capital to human, social, natural, and cultural capital), and in a second step we will study concrete examples from contemporary policy making. We will of course shed light on national policies (in particular the “New Public Management”), but will also pay special attention to the role of international actors, comprising both international institutions (UN, OECD, The World Bank) and non-governmental and private organizations (Transparency International, Freedom House, New Economics Foundation, credit rating agencies).


SCHLAUDT, Oliver (associate professor at the philosophy department, university of Heidelberg)

Pedagogical format

Seminar with active participation.

Course validation

Presentation, participation in class, essay.


Some preliminary reading for each session (3 to 5 pp).

Required reading

  • Crouch, Colin (2015), The Knowledge Corrupters. Hidden Consequences of the Financial Takeover of Public Life, Polity Press, Cambridge: University Press
  • Davis, Kevin E., et al., eds. (2012), Governance by Indicators. Global Power through Quantification and Rankings. Oxford: University Press
  • Desrosières, Alain (2014), Prouver et gouverner : Une analyse politique des statistiques publiques, Paris: La Découverte
  • Richard Rottenburg et al., eds (2015), The world of indicators. The Making of Governmental Knowledge through Quantification. Cambridge: University Press
  • Ward, Michael (2004), Quantifying the World: UN Ideas and Statistics. Indiana University Press