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Audit Culture

Audit Culture

How Indicators and Rankings are Reshaping the World

by Cris Shore and Susan Wright

Series: Anthropology, Culture and Society

An anthropological account of how rankings, statistics and numbers are reshaping the world we live in

All aspects of our work and private lives are increasingly measured and managed. But how has this 'audit culture' arisen and what kind of a world is it producing?

Cris Shore and Susan Wright provide a timely account of the rise of the new industries of accounting, enumeration and ranking from an anthropological perspective, drawing on political economy, ethnographic observation and genealogical excavation. Audit Culture is the first book to systematically document and analyse these phenomena and their implications for democracy.

The book explores how audit culture operates across a wide range of fields, including health, higher education, NGOs, finance, the automobile industry and the military. The authors build a powerful critique of contemporary public sector management in an age of neoliberal market-making, privatisation and outsourcing. They conclude by offering a raft of suggested actions to reverse its damaging effects on communities, reclaim professional autonomy, and restore the democratic accountability that audit culture is systematically undermining.

Cris Shore is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Central European University. One of his recent publications is The Shapeshifting Crown and he and Susan Wright are co-editors of the Anthropology of Policy book series for Stanford University Press.

Susan Wright is Professor of Educational Anthropology at Aarhus University, Denmark. Her latest publication is Enacting the University. With Cris Shore, she is the co-editor of the Anthropology of Policy book series for Stanford University Press and Death of the Public University?.

'A new and compelling argument for why so many institutions continue to be spellbound by rankings and metrics - despite the cultural carnage they cause in schools, hospitals, universities, corporations and governmental agencies. How can we halt this 'death by audit' craze that has swept through modern society like a deadly virus? In this thought provoking book, the authors develop a radical agenda that will strike fear into number-loving technocrats around the world.'

- Peter Fleming, author of 'Dark Academia: How Universities Die'

'If you want to go and see a film, choose a university or find the best restaurant, you are likely to consult some sort of ranking ... In this timely work, Shore and Wright ask us to question this contemporary common sense and the market managerialism that lies behind it. Can we imagine a world without audit, one in which our choices are not counted, and trust does not rely on numbers?'

- Professor Martin Parker, University of Bristol Business School

'The expansion of audits, indicators and rankings has become a pressing issue for governance and democracy. Cris Shore and Susan Wright build on decades of work to provide a powerful and definitive critical diagnosis of the effects of this audit culture on individuals, public organisations and society. Their book should be essential reading for scholars and policy makers.'

- Michael Power, Professor of Accounting, London School of Economics and Political Science

'A visionary book. Two anthropologists piece together a global jigsaw: how for 25 years practices of accountability have been transforming almost every aspect of organisational and personal life. A brilliantly lucid, vigorously argued critique, clear-eyed about the structures that undermine us.'

- Marilyn Strathern, Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

List of Figures
Series Preface
1. Introduction: Audit Culture and the New World (Dis)Order
2. Rankings as Populist Project: Governing by Numbers and Hollowing out Democracy
3. The Big Four Accountancy Firms and the Evolution of Contemporary Capitalism
4. Global Governance through Standards, Seduction and Soft Power
5. Metrics, Managerialism and Market Making: Unlocking Value in Healthcare
6. Reforming Higher Education: The Kafkaesque Pursuit of ‘World Class’ Status
7. The New Subjects of Audit: Performance Management and Quantified Selves
8. Conclusion: Repurposing Audit – Restoring Trust, Accountability and Democracy

Published by Pluto Press in Feb 2024
Paperback ISBN: 9780745336459
eBook ISBN: 9780745349305

140mm x 216mm