Let’s Count and Manage – and Forget the Rest. Understanding Numeric Rationalization in Human Service Provision

Resource Type
Text : Journal article
  • Bode, Ingo
Collective Title
  • Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung
    Vol. 44, No. 2 (2019)
Publication Date
Embargo End Date
Publication Place
  • GESIS - Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften (Editor)
  • GESIS - Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften
Free Keywords
Quantification; key indicators; Social theory; welfare state; instrumental rationality; human development; New Public Management; social and healthcare services
  • Abstract

    In recent times, the development of Western welfare states has been strongly influenced by regulatory and managerial approaches that embody what this special issue refers to as ‘governing by numbers’. This article delineates this development by using the example of the human service industry in Germany. The analysis is embedded in a macro-sociological perspective on blurring boundaries between the capitalistic (market) economy and the welfare state, arguing that a certain kind of (instrumentalist) numeric rationalization has spilled over from the former to the latter and sets limits to what is named ‘human development rationality’ within the operational core of involved organizations. Drawing on case study evidence from four different areas, it is shown in which dimensions this movement takes shape and how it fosters the crowding-out of elements inherent to this rationality. However, due to the proliferation of ever more ‘perfectionist’ expectations concerning quality issues, this crowding out provokes various provisional organizational and institutional responses. While the latter make production processes more volatile overall, there is no end of history regarding the struggle between instrumental rationality and countervailing forces within contemporary welfare states.
  • Series Information

    Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung Vol. 44, No. 2 (2019): Special Issue: Governing by Numbers - Key Indicators and the Politics of Expectations.

    Starting Point and Frequency: Year: 1979, Issues per volume: 4, Volumes per year: 1

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  • Is part of
    URL: https://www.gesis.org/en/hsr/full-text-archive/2019/442-governing-by-numbers
  • Is part of
    ISSN: 0172-6404
  • Is identical to
    URL: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=10&sid=7010ea0d-cdd7-427f-bf94-fffeb8e807ba%40sessionmgr101&bdata=Jmxhbmc9ZGUmc2l0ZT1lZHMtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=edsgso.61925&db=edsgso

Update Metadata: 2020-02-12 | Issue Number: 4 | Registration Date: 2019-03-14