Global Rankings in International Politics: A Sociology of Measurement Approach

Başkavak Y.

4th Annual International Conference On Socıal Sciences (AICSS 2020), İstanbul, Turkey, 10 - 11 September 2020

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Unpublished
  • City: İstanbul
  • Country: Turkey
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The burgeoning literature on global rankings as part of the global governance architecture highlights the discursive power and the disciplinary functions of such quantitative assessments. The discursive power relates to their role in defining the ideal and providing benchmarks, while disciplinary function relates to their functioning as technologies of governance, making their objects calculable, visible and governable. The recent proliferation of international indexes ranking and comparing economic and political systems along various dimensions invites a sociology of measurement approach, that previously focused more on the production of statistics and data at the national level. This paper aims to review the literature on global rankings, in order to determine the typology of these rankings in terms of their conception, methodology, producers and objectives. Critical approaches that rely on Foucauldian conception of governmentality and Gramscian conception of hegemony will also be considered in order to assess the strength of these approaches in explaining the proliferation of international indices and their function in global governance. This paper argues, however, that the research on global rankings should be expanded to cover the level of interaction between rankings as a technology of global governance and the national social and political contexts of the units they assess and compare. A focus on this level of interaction, it will be argued, provides a basis for the assessment of the effectiveness of the rankings, since the objective in the production of indicators in most cases is to affect the behavior or functioning of those subjected to measurement. Such an assessment could also highlight the inconsistencies in the theoretical explanations proposed for understanding the function of global rankings. For these purposes, the paper will focus on some of the prominent indicators related to various aspects of governance, such as corruption, rule of law, political freedom and economic freedom.