Mismeasuring Humanity: Examining Indicators Through a Critical Global Studies Perspective

Eve Darian-Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Social and economic indicators measure and monitor the relative level of each country’s “progress”, be this in education, poverty, mortality, gross domestic product and so on. This essay examines indicators in the contemporary development paradigm and their use by the United Nations, World Bank, NGOs and corporations, as well as their increasing presence in global governance decisionmaking. Drawing upon a critical global studies perspective, I argue that indicators are producing and privileging certain kinds of knowledge over other kinds of knowledge that may not be so easily “captured” by nationally structured numerical reductionism. Reflecting on the limitations of the Human Development Index and the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, I suggest that the empirical data produced ultimately mismeasure the fullness of human experience and often undervalue non-western worldviews. I conclude by returning to the insights suggested by a global studies perspective and offer a number of recommendations for envisaging and shaping a more inclusive post-development paradigm.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalNew Global Studies
    VolumePublished Online 26 November 2015
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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