Introduction: Of Numbers and Narratives—Indicators in Global Governance and the Rise of a Reflexive Indicator Culture

Nehal Bhuta, Debora Valentina Malito, Gaby Umbach (2018)

In: Malito, Debora Valentina/Umbach, Gaby/Bhuta, Nehal (eds.)(2018): The Palgrave Handbook of Indicators in Global Governance. Cham: Palgrave Macmilla/Springer, pp. 1-29.

Abstract. There is a pervasive sense in which we seem to be living under a new avalanche of numbers, and in particular an avalanche of indicators beyond the state and purporting to create knowledge on a global scale. As much as our indicator culture engenders a “faith in numbers”, the very expansion of the power of numbers and their role in (global) governance over the last 20 years has brought with it a heightened sense that quantification, indicators, and rankings are a way of doing politics that must be engaged with from within and without the specific disciplinary knowledge (such as statistics and econometrics) that underwrite their claims to objectivity. The chapters collected in this Handbook aim to capture the contemporary indicator culture, with all its discordant and contrasting orientations. The present introductory chapter considers three main dimensions. First, no chapter in the Handbook adopts a naively metrological understanding of indicators as simply “measuring” reality. Second, the normativity of measurement is a consistent theme of the contributions by both scholars and practitioners. Third, despite their popularity and seeming capacity to shape debates, the power of indicators remains highly contextual and dependent on how they are enrolled in particular, situated, networks of actors and influence.

Keywords : Global governance Quantification Indicators

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