Cambridge University Press 2015

The Quiet Power of Indicators

Measuring Governance, Corruption, and Rule of Law

Sally Engle Merry, Kevin E. Davis & Benedict Kingsbury (eds.)


Using a power-knowledge framework, this volume critically investigates how major global indicators of legal governance are produced, disseminated, and used, and to what effect. Original case studies include Freedom House’s Freedom in the World indicator, the Global Reporting Initiative’s structure for measuring and reporting on corporate social responsibility, the World Justice Project’s measurement of the rule of law, the World Bank’s Doing Business index, the World Bank-supported Worldwide Governance Indicators, the World Bank’s Country Performance Institutional Assessment (CPIA), and the Transparency International Corruption (Perceptions) index. Also examined is the use of performance indicators by the European Union for accession countries and by the US Millennium Challenge Corporation in allocating US aid funds.

Table of Contents

Introduction: the local-global life of indicators: law, power and resistance
Kevin Davis, Benedict Kingsbury and Sally Engle Merry

Part I. Global Indicators of Governance, Corruption, and Rule of Law

1. International Organizations and the Production of Indicators: the case of Freedom House
Christopher G. Bradley
2. Indicators and the Law: a case study of the Rule of Law index René Urueña
3. Measuring Corporate Accountability through Global Indicators Galit A. Sarfaty
4. The Quest for Measuring Development: the role of the indicator bank María Angélica & Prada Uribe
5. Qualitative and Quantitative Conditionality: accountability in the EU accession and MCC processes Nikhil Dutta

Part II. Indicators in Local Contexts:

6. Rule of Law Indicators as a Political Technology of Power in Romania Mihaela Serban
7. Indicators, Global Expertise, and a Local Political Drama: producing and deploying corruption perception data in postsocialist Albania Smoki Musaraj
8. Evaluating the Impact of Corruption (Perception) Indicators on Governance Discourses in Kenya Migai Akech
9. Measuring Labour Market Efficiency: indicators that fuel an ideological war and undermine social concern and trust in the South African regulatory process Debbie Collier and Paul Benjamin
Conclusion: Contesting Global Indicators David Nelken.



  • Review by Sital Kalantry, Nordic Journal of Human Rights 2016
  • Review by John Cipperly, Oñati International Institute for the Sociology of Law 2016
  • Review by Paolo de Renzio, Governance 2016
  • Review by Sally Richards, Australian Journal of Human Rights 2016
  • Review by Brian Sang, Human Rights Law Review 2017