Transforming by Metrics that Matter – Progress, Participation, and the National Initiatives of Fixing Well-Being Indicators

Resource Type
Text : Journal article
  • Lepenies, Philipp
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; Indicators; Alternative Measures of Well-Being; Progress; Participation; Beyond GDP
  • Abstract

    The goal of governments is to enhance the well-being of their citizens. In the aftermath of World War II, national product (be it gross national or gross domestic) and its rate of growth were seen as a proxy indicator to measure well-being – making economic growth doubtless the most powerful political indicator in history. Yet, in light of the negative effects of growth such as climate change and due to methodological progress in measuring well-being or happiness, governments have begun to reconsider the belief that growth automatically leads to improved well-being. The Sustainable Development Goals of 2015 underline a universal desire to “transform our world” and the fact that this trans-formation is to be done with the help of alternative statistical indicators. In the last decade, a number of national governments have embarked on a largely unnoticed, but revolutionary OECD-driven endeavor: to fix national alternative measures of well-being “beyond GDP”, to decide in a participatory manner which indicators matter to people and to discuss which new or adapted notion of progress is valid in the 21st century. This paper will highlight a number of these national cases and analyze the context in which these initiatives evolved. It will be shown that although revolutionary in their aspirations, many initiatives do not live up to their expectations. This has to do with the manner in which they were executed, with the political unwillingness to really consider alternatives to GDP and to allow broad participation. But it might also show that the expectations regarding the power of indicators to guide policies might be exaggerated.
  • 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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    ISSN: 0172-6404
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Update Metadata: 2020-02-12 | Issue Number: 4 | Registration Date: 2019-03-14