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ECPR Rising Star Award

Quantification as Ritual. Representing Progress in Numbers

Comparative Politics
Katja Freistein
University of Duisburg-Essen
Katja Freistein
University of Duisburg-Essen

Much has been written lately about the impact of indicators, rankings and other forms of quantified knowledge on their recipients. Seen as powerful tools of a neoliberal governmentality, quantified representations of success or failure have been criticized mainly with regard to their external dimension. At the same time, quantified knowledge has become deeply embedded and internalized in bureaucratic routines and organisational logics. The multitude of indices, rankings, or indicators is evidence of this trend.
Taking quantification as a practice of bureaucratic representation rather than (mere) political tool, this paper will investigate the autonomisation of quantified knowledge in international development organisations and related bureaucracies. Drawing on sociological organisation studies and sociology of knowledge approaches, this contribution aims at understanding the ritualistic aspects as well as social function of quantified bureaucratic knowledge.

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