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Quantifying, economising, and marketising: democratising the social sphere?

Kurunmaki, Liisa, Mennicken, Andrea ORCID: 0000-0002-5658-7678 and Miller, Peter (2016) Quantifying, economising, and marketising: democratising the social sphere? Sociologie du Travail, 58 (4). pp. 390-402. ISSN 0038-0296

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.soctra.2016.09.018


In recent decades, there has been an avalanche of numbers in public life, one that matches that which occurred in the first half of the nineteenth century. The difference today is that many of the numbers that are now so central to political rule pertain to performance, and depend on a felicitous interlocking of quantifying, economising, and marketising. The calculated management of life is at a critical juncture, and it is essential that we consider carefully how this is affecting who we are, what we have become, and who we wish to be. Only a few decades ago, this bandwagon seemed limited or at least focused in its reach, yet it now appears as if no domain of human endeavour can escape. We argue that it is important to differentiate quantifying, economising, and marketising, so as to counter the often phobic response to the unrelenting march of numbers in modern political rule. We call for greater attention to the role of accounting numbers, for accounting numbers go beyond the abstract models of economics and allow a form of action on the actions of others that economics does not. We argue also for greater attention to the conditionality of the performativity of quantification, so that we can identify the conditions under which numbers produce effects, and the varying nature and extent of those effects. Finally, we consider the thorny issue of “democratising” the social sphere, and note that it is only recently that quantification has been largely annexed by the phenomenon dubbed neoliberalism.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Elsevier Masson SAS
Divisions: Accounting
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2016 10:32
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:32
Projects: ES/N018869/1
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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