Trust in Numbers The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life
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Description: This investigation of the overwhelming appeal of quantification in the modern world discusses the development of cultural meanings of objectivity over two centuries. How are we to account for the current prestige and power of quantitative methods? The usual answer is that quantification is seen as desirable in social and economic investigation as a result of its successes in the study of nature. Theodore Porter is not content with this. Why should the kind of success achieved in the study of stars, molecules, or cells be an attractive model for research on human societies? he asks. And, indeed, how should we understand the pervasiveness of quantification in the sciences of nature? In his view, we should look in the reverse direction: comprehending the attractions of quantification in business, government, and social research will teach us something new about its role in psychology, physics, and medicine. Drawing on a wide range of examples from the laboratory and from the worlds of accounting, insurance, cost-benefit analysis, and civil engineering, Porter shows that it is "exactly wrong" to interpret the drive for quantitative rigor as inherent somehow in the activity of science except where political and social pressures force compromise. Instead, quantification grows from attempts to develop a strategy of impersonality in response to pressures from outside. Objectivity derives its impetus from cultural contexts, quantification becoming most important where elites are weak, where private negotiation is suspect, and where trust is in short supply.
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All the information you need in one place! Each Study Brief is a summary of one specific subject; facts, figures, and explanations to help you learn faster.
List price: $57.50
Copyright year: 1995
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 10/6/1996
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.50" long x 1.00" tall
|Introduction: Cultures of Objectivity|
|Power in Numbers|
|A World of Artifice|
|How Social Numbers Are Made Valid|
|Economic Measurement and the Values of Science|
|The Political Philosophy of Quantification|
|Technologies of Trust|
|Experts against Objectivity: Accountants and Actuaries|
|French State Engineers and the Ambiguities of Technocracy|
|U.S. Army Engineers and the Rise of Cost-Benefit Analysis|
|Political and Scientific Communities|
|Objectivity and the Politics of Disciplines|
|Is Science Made by Communities?|