A Discussion of Alexander Cooley and Jack Snyder’s Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool for Global Governance
by Alexander Cooley, Barnard College and Jack Snyder, Columbia University
Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance, edited by Alexander Cooley and Jack Snyder, assembles an impressive group of political scientists to critically discuss “the important analytical, normative, and policy issues associated with the contemporary practice of ‘grading states.’” The volume addresses a topic of importance to a wide range of political scientists in comparative politics, international relations, and political theory, and raises some fundamental questions about the role of political science at the nexus of theory and practice. We have thus invited a number of colleagues to discuss the volume and its broader implications for political science inquiry.
- Milja Kurki, Aberystwyth University
Critical theory—Frankfurtian, Gramscian, Foucauldian—has for decades, for more than half a century in fact, highlighted the tendency of modern societies, states, economic systems and cultural practices to rely on increasing quantification of social life: description of complex unobservable social processes through seemingly neutral observable and quantifiable measures and indeces. These measures may usefully allow us to simplify description and causal analysis in the complex open system we call the social world, but for critical theorists the aspiration to quantify is not only driven by a problematic ‘positivist’ understanding of knowledge but also ‘does’ something significant in societies we live in. Read the full article.
- Pippa Norris, Harvard University
One of the trends sweeping the world of global governance since 1990 has been the proliferation of rating and ranking indices gauging state performance on diverse topics, from corruption and democracy to happiness, gender equality, budget transparency, “good” governance, press freedom, conflict, environmental sustainability, and human rights. Although this phenomenon has been a welcome boon for scholars, particularly enriching data in the fields of international relations and comparative politics, the reasons for its rise, and systematic studies of its consequences, remain undertheorized. Read the article.
- Bo Rothstein, University of Gothenburg
This volume is about the increasing number of non-academic institutions that are producing rankings for assessing how well countries perform. These measures are produced for assessing important things such a degree of democracy, media freedom, environmental performance, credit, business friendliness, market liberalism, fragility of the state, creditworthiness, the rule of law, corruption and many more. The book identifies no less than 95 such rankings and in the introductory chapter, the editors show that there has been a proliferation of this type of assessments of states during the last fifteen years, what they call a “ranking frenzy.”
Read the full article.
- Philippe C. Schmitter, European University Institute
Indexene has already been field-tested. The panelists assembled in Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool for Global Governance have collectively declared it safe for social and political consumption, although with reservations. (The chapter by Nehal Bhuta on “Measuring Stateness, Ranking Political Orders: Indices of State Fragility and State Failure,” pp. 85–111, comes close to advocating prohibition.) They have expressed some doubts about its ingredients, its sideeffects, and its efficacy. The cure is supposed to be consistent, transparent, impartial, scientific, efficient, and, I would add, appealing to the policymaking consumer (p. 178). Read the full article.