Performance measurement in global governance: Ranking and the politics of variability
The past thirty years have witnessed the spread of rankings, ratings and league tables as governance technologies which aim to regulate the provision of public goods by means of market pressures. This paper examines the process of company analysis underlying the production of a ranking known as the Access to Medicine Index. We conceptualize the Index as a “regulatory ranking” with the explicit mission of addressing a perceived regulatory gap and market failure: the lack of access to medicine in the Global South. The Index, which ranks the world's largest pharmaceutical companies with regards to their access to medicine policies and practices, aspires to help address the problem of access to medicine through stakeholder consultation, transparency and competition. This study unbundles the epistemic work underlying the performance measurement process leading to the creation of the Index. We trace how the goal of stakeholder consensus, the need to project objectivity and the aspiration to govern through competition shape analysts' epistemic work. We discuss how through notions such as “the good distribution” and “aspirational indicators”, performance measurement and ranking become entangled in a “politics of variability” whereby company data need to be variably interpreted in order to optimise the possibilities of intervening in companies through competitive pressures, while at the same time complying with the imperatives to remain in the space of perceived stakeholder consensus and to provide a faithful representation of companies performance to inform public debates. We reflect on the challenges posed by these analysis processes for the regulatory aspirations of the ranking.
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