The social life of measures

Burroughs-noMetrics

Now published in Theory, Culture & Society

Abstract

Issues of measure and measurement, and their relation to value and values, are of concern in several major threads in contemporary social theory and social research. In this paper, the notion of ‘measure-value environments’ is introduced as a theoretical lens through which the life of measures can be better understood. A number of points are made which represent both a continuation and a slight change in emphasis vis-à-vis the existing scholarship. First, it is argued that the relation between measure and value is necessarily circular – better, entangled. Second, a conceptualisation of measures as territorialising devices is advanced. Third, importance is given to the fact that measures are not simply tools in our hands, they are also environments in which we live. Fourth, attention is drawn to the fact that the unit (n=1) is not just a quantitative happening among others, but is qualitatively distinct.

The Social Life of Measures (pre-print version)

 

 

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