Numbers increasingly govern public services. Both policymaking activities and administrative control are increasingly structured around calculations such as cost-benefit analyses, estimates of social and financial returns, measurements of performance and risk, benchmarking, quantified impact assessments, ratings and rankings, all of which provide information in the form of a numerical representation. Through quantification, public services have experienced a fundamental transformation from “government by rules” to “governance by numbers”, with fundamental implications not just for our understanding of the nature of public service itself, but also for wider debates about the nature of citizenship and democracy. This project scrutinizes the relationships between quantification, administrative capacity and democracy across three policy sectors (health/hospitals, higher education/universities, criminal justice/prisons) and four countries (France, Germany, Netherlands, UK). It offers a cross-national and cross-sectoral study of how managerialist ideas and instruments of quantification have been adopted and how they mattered. More specifically, it examines (i) how quantification has travelled across sectors and states; (ii) relations between quantification and administrative capacity; and (iii) how quantification has redefined relations between public service and liberal democratic understandings of public welfare, notions of citizenship, equity, accountability and legitimacy.
The research is being conducted by a multidisciplinary team of social scientists based in the Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation at Mines ParisTech (France), the Faculty of Sociology at Bielefeld University (Germany), the Department of Management Accounting and Control at Helmut-Schmidt University Hamburg (Germany) and the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University (Netherlands).
The three year research project is supported by more than €1.9million in research grant funding awarded through the “Open Research Area (ORA) for the Social Sciences” programme by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR, France), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, Germany), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, UK) and the Nederlands Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO, Netherlands).