Evaluation and the tension between generalization and particularity: The negotiation of supplementary child allowance in a collective firm

Nina Pohler (2020)

Ephemera, 20(3), pp. 123-152. Open access.

Abstract. This paper follows the negotiations for a model to calculate supplementary child allowance inside a radical democratic organization based in Germany. This model is conceptualized as an evaluation device: a device that standardizes how people and things are evaluated. To understand the process in which the collective tries to come to a shared understanding of fair supplementary child allowance, the paper utilizes Boltanski and Thévenot’s notion of the test. The solution the collective eventually settles on is a compromise between the need for a general solution and the hesitation to use a standardized format to evaluate the financial needs of different parents and their children. By highlighting the tension between the general and the particular in evaluation practices, the paper contributes to studies of evaluation in contexts of moral complexity.

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