Cris Shore, Professor of Social Anthropology, the University of Auckland and Guest Professor, Score, Stockholm University

Audit Culture Revisited: Indicators, Performance Measurement and the Transformation of Society

The rise of ever-more pervasive systems for monitoring, measuring and ranking performance has become a defining feature of our times. Virtually every field of human activity, from childcare, education, employment and health, to policing, security, environmental management and human rights, is now subject to bureaucratic regimes of auditing and ranking (Porter 1995; Rose 1999; Kipnis 2008; Merry 2011). These audit procedures are introducing new forms of accountability that are profoundly reshaping the way workplaces, organisations and societies are governed. Yet they also produce unanticipated effects. Taking up the concept of ‘audit culture’ as an analytical framework, I examine the origins, spread and rationality driving these new systems of accountability and their impact across a number of different fields, from administration and the military to business corporations and universities. Marilyn Strathern (2000:1) argued that audit is ‘where the financial and the moral meet’. If so, what new kinds of ethics do audits produce? This paper sets out a framework for theorising audit culture and its socio-cultural effects. I also ask, what can be done to reclaim the professional values and democratic spaces that these regimes of audit are eroding?

Cris Shore is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Auckland and Guest Professor of Public Management at the Stockholm Centre for Organisational Research (2018). His main research interests are the anthropology of policy and the study of organisations, governance and power. He has conducted fieldwork in Italy (on Italian Communism), Belgium (on EU bureaucracy), Britain and New Zealand (on politics, ‘audit culture’, and higher education reform) and writes on various themes including the anthropology of Europe, the state, corruption, and universities. He is currently completing two books: one entitled The Shapeshifting Crown: Locating the State in Post-Colonial New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK (Cambridge University Press), the other called Audit Culture: How Rankings, Indicators and Numbers Re-order the World (Pluto Press). His research at Score includes a new project on metricized performance management and its effects in academia.

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