Governing By Numbers: Anthropological Perspectives on Metrics, Management and the Politics of Accountability

Prof. Dr. Cris Shore (Goldsmiths University of London): public lecture

Datum: 17. Juni 2021
Zeit: 11.30 Uhr bis 13.00 Uhr
Ort: Zoom

Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 644 2602 1604
Passcode: 793084

Ever since the Scientific Management movement in the 1920s quantitative measures have been harnessed to steer behavioural change, enhance workplace productivity and shape social futures. As Tichenor (2020) observes, ‘metrics, or numerical representation, is the “translation of (assumed) realities into numbers” (Rottenburg and Merry (2015), and their production, synthesis, analysis and use are tightly tied to the rise of practices of audit and accountability in late capitalism.’ The growth of ever-more intrusive systems for monitoring and measuring performance to drive efficiency, enforce transparency and increase managerial control has become a defining feature of our times, but at what cost? 

In this talk I explore how indicators are increasingly being used to set targets and enhance performance and the implications of this reliance on metrics for organisations and individuals. I ask, what sorts of worlds, or social realities, do metrics create? What happens when performance indicators and standardised templates replace professional judgment? What is at stake in this relentless emphasis on efficiency measures? Posing these questions is a useful step towards understanding how the logics of managerialism have come to dominate people’s lives and subjectivities and for thinking about how we might reclaim ‘livable spaces’ from those institutions that have been colonised by the neoliberal rationalities and practices of metricised management.

Prof. Dr. Cris Shore, Professor of Social Anthropology