Quantification, Administrative Capacity and Democracy (QUAD)


The business of government is increasingly run with a calculator to hand. Both policymaking activities and administrative control are increasingly structured around calculations such as cost-benefit analyses, estimates of social and financial returns, measurements of performance and risk, benchmarking, quantified impact assessments, ratings and rankings, all of which provide information in the form of a numerical representation. Through quantification, the public services have experienced a fundamental transformation from “government by rules” to “governance by numbers”. This has fundamental implications not just for our understanding of the nature of public service itself, but also for wider debates about the nature of citizenship, democracy and the state, as well as for understandings of public administration.

This project charts and explores the relationship between quantification, administrative capacity and democracy across three welldefined policy sectors—health/hospitals, higher education/universities, criminal justice/prisons—and four countries, France, Germany, the Netherlands and UK. The comparative study of different areas and different countries aims to capture how ideas about quantification and quantification instruments are adopted and circulated.  How has quantification altered modalities of governing and control in the public services, and with what consequences for the users of these services and public administration more generally?

More specifically, it examines:

  1. How quantification travels; how different instruments of quantification have spread across these different nation states and public service sectors in Europe;
  2. Relations between quantification and administrative capacity; how different instruments of quantification have impacted on and placed specific demands on administrative capacities; and
  3. Relations between quantification and democracy; how different instruments of quantification have redefined relations between public service and public welfare, notions of citizenship, equity, accountability and legitimacy.


Contact                     Fabian Muniesa 

Funding        under the ORA « Open Reseach Area in the Social Sciences » program by:


  • Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation at the London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom)
  • Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation, i3 (UMR 9217) Mines ParisTech, PSL University (France)
  • Faculty of Sociology at Bielefeld University (Germany)
  • Department of Management Accounting and Control, Helmut-Schmidt University Hamburg (Germany)
  • Institute of Political Science, Leiden University (Netherlands)


Further information can be found on the LSE Accounting website