The Modernization of Man By Numbers: Measures and Excess of the “Knowledge Society” (1945-2012). a Sociological Critique of Quantification

Friday, July 18, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: F206
Oral Presentation
Remi TREHIN-LALANNE , Centre Maurice Halbwachs - UMR 8097, CNRS, Paris, France

The starting point of this study is the adoption by the European Union in 2000 of numerical indicators and benchmarks to compare and stimulate the performance of the education systems of Member States. It looks closely at the processing of this statistical information during both fabrication and diffusion. These tools for government have been developed within the international institutions created after the Second World War (UNESCO, OECD) in an attempt to combine material well being and social harmony by shaping education to meet the challenges of the industrial world. This policy of reliance on numbers has created an increasingly voluminous structure, in permanent expansion as it generates new data. Its growth has been fuelled by new technologies that facilitate the direct collection of data in schools and classrooms. Because they increase the traceability of school careers and allow for more regular evaluation of schools and students, these tools are used by both management and social science researchers to improve education and administration. Presented as teaching aids, they are designed to improve teachers' performance by allowing them to evaluate, classify and grade both their students and their difficulties. The phenomenon of quantification, by which we mean the activity of giving numerical expression to realities not previously expressed in this way, is considered here from three points of view - administrative, scientific and industrial - in order to provide an understanding of the origins and the effects of the avalanche of numbers on the vitality of our democracies and their inhabitants.