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Research Seminar

Steffen Mau: The Metric We - On the Quantification of the Social

Steffen Mau is Professor of Macrosociology at Humboldt University of Berlin.

The quantification of the social is a mega-trend transforming social relationships and reformatting social life. Be it the ranking of universities, performance measurement in the public sector, credit and health scoring, online rating platforms or the quantification of the self – in nearly every area of social life quantitative data are gaining power. The lecture sees quantification not primarily as process of mirroring or measuring the society, but as a process of assigning value and classifying individuals and objects. Against this background, the talk will investigate what types of classification processes are put into practice, who defines value and how the structure of inequality is being reshaped. It will be argued that the quantification is facilitating social comparisons and by doing so establishing a universal mode of competition, which is in line with the neo-liberal emphasis on market principles. The overarching question is: How does the new status system of the quantified society may look like and what does it mean for the social fabric of society?

Recent publications include: Steffen Mau (2015) Inequality, Marketization and the Majority Class. Why did the European Middle Classes accept Neoliberalism? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; Steffen Mau/Heike Brabandt/ Lena Laube/Christof Roos (2012): Liberal States and the Freedom of Movement. Selective Borders, Unequal Mobility. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. In June 2017 he will publish the book Das metrische Wir. Über die Quanfifizierung des Sozialen (Berlin: edition suhrkamp) on the topic of the talk.

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