Supping with the Devil? Indicators and the rise of managerial rationality in law


International Journal of Law in Context

December 2017, vol. 13, n°4, pp.465-484

Departments: Tax & Law

Managerial devices are rapidly developing as a means for driving the legal performance of organisations, including those of states and corporations. This paper explores the managerial rationality underpinning global legal indicators, and the constraints they convey on institutional behaviour. In particular, it argues that indicators are better understood as part of a system of management control and distributed governance, which is steadily eroding state-centred forms of authority, including state law. In this context, legitimacy and reactivity are contingent to their cycle of production and implementation, which is fourfold: data-collecting, benchmarking, auditing and allocating incentives. Each process is meant to generate respectively subjectification, self-knowledge by comparison, accountability and stimulus for action. Indicators with higher degrees of legitimacy become entrenched in institutional practices and legal decision-making processes. The paper concludes that regulatory spaces where indicators unfold need critical and political scrutiny to expose their pernicious effects, undesirable uses and inevitable misuses