Governance by Numbers: A Panopticon Reversed?

Julian Hamann (2020)

Politics and Governance, 8(2), pp. 68-71. Open access

Abstract. This commentary is concerned with a specific form of power and discipline that is exerted through governance by numbers. Because of its many parallels to classical Foucauldian panopticism, governance based on numbers can be coined ‘numerocratic panopticism.’ Yet, going beyond similarities between classical and numerocratic panopticism, the commentary suggests three features specific to numerocratic panopticism that actually reverse characteristic traits of classical panopticism: In contrast to classical panopticism, numerocratic panopticism is multi-centered, non-spatial and open-purpose. Research on governance by numbers can benefit from a heuristic of panopticism if it considers both similarities and differences between classical and numerocratic panopticism.

Extract. “Discussing governance by numbers as a form of panopticism, I join other scholars who have identified different forms of number-based panopticism. The increase of quantification and the centralization of the production, collection and analysis of numerical data have led to what has been described as statistical panopticism (Diaz-Bone, 2019)” (p. 71)

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