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Between Enlightenment and Disaster

Dimensions of the political Use of Knowledge


Edited By Linda Sangolt

Modern politics is highly science-dependent and knowledge-driven. What is the rightful role of expert knowledge in political life? How can the truth claims of science be reconciled with principles of democratic control and lay participatory rights in decision-making?
This collection of essays by political scientists, sociologists and economists from Germany, France and Norway provides different empirical and theoretical analyses of the complex organising and legitimising power of knowledge in political governance. The authors shed light on key dimensions and dilemmas that have shaped the world-changing interrelations between politics, social institutions and scientific knowledge in the past century.
The contributions cover issue-areas and policy-fields such as population control, health economics, ICTs and higher education reform, and the politics of productivity and economic pre-eminence.


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A Century of Quantificationand "Gold Calculation." Trends in the Pursuitof Efficiency, Growth and Pre-eminence 75


A Century of Quantification and "Cold Calculation" Trends in the Pursuit of Efficiency, Growth and Pre-eminence Linda S ANGOLT Introduction During the past hundred years or so, political governance underwent a massive "quantitative turn." This quantitative turn is here understood as systematic effort to delineate and measure the objects and results of governance quantitatively for the purpose of demonstrating competitive edle and superiority at the individual and/or collective level. The 20 century ushered in the era of the organisation man and organisation science. Organisations became addicted to measurement (Bouckaert and Balk, 1991). Expansive use of quantitative knowledge aimed at promot- ing grand schemes of human improvability and progress. Calculative technologies loom large in the narratives of modernity. Breakthroughs in statistical inference, for instance, bolstered an actuarial logic that aided the introduction of social insurance and identification schemes, and with far-reaching implications in fields like reproductive engineer- ing and biometrics. Quantitative modes of governance — accounting, statistics, auditing, polling, prognostics, performance targeting, and risk- and cost-benefit analysis, to name but a few — engulfed private enter- prise and politics. Ideas of progress and endless prosperity were inex- tricably wedded to rhetorics of boosting productivity, efficiency, and growth according to the criterion of measurability, and gauged by arsen- als of statistical indicators. Organising for economic growth became a mainstay of political legitimacy and the fortunes of political regimes. This chapter traces some major trends in this quantitative turn in go- vernance in terms of origins, political-ideological justification and patterns of dissemination that defy standard...

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