Alain Desrosières

It's good or bad? The role of the number in the government of the neo-liberal cité

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: statistics, accountability, cognitive conventions, quantification, feedback.

Economic and social statistics have historically been considered a fundamental tool for democratic debate, on the basis of the neutrality, objectivity and autonomy vis-à-vis governments, that are implied in the statisticians' professional ethics. Today, in the framework of the neo-liberal governmentality, new forms and uses of quantification are emerged. New normative tools such as assessment procedures, performance indicators and the benchmarking, appear to have a direct feedback on social actors. These effects are well known and analysed in the matters of both corporate and public accountability. This article develops a comparative sociology of statistical and accounting practices, and discusses the problems these feedback phenomena raise for the statisticians' ethos.

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