Historical Social Research

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Rainer Diaz-Bone: Statistical Panopticism and Its Critique. [Abstract]

The article develops the concept of statistical panopticism, thereby combining the French approach of economics of convention (EC) and Michel Foucault’s concept of panopticism. The differences between Foucault’s original notion of panopticism and statistical panopticism are emphasized. It is argued that statistical panopticism has been made possible by the enormous growth of quantification, datafication, linking, and centralization of numerical data production, data collection, and data analysis. This has been (mainly) realized by private enterprises and implemented in different social spheres but also in private situations. From the perspective of EC, quantification, big data, and statistical panopticism have to be related to the foundational conventions of data production (measurement) and data interpretation. Foucault has analyzed the neoliberal and indirect form of contemporary governance. Statistical panopticism works as a dispositive for this neoliberal form of governance. Its asymmetric and mainly invisible character is sketched. Also the critique and the deficiencies of critique of political and economic usages of numerical data and indicators are discussed.

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