Skip to main content

The logic of quantification: institutionalizing numerical thinking

Abstract

Quantification, in the form of accountability measures, organizational rankings, and personal metrics, plays an increasingly prominent role in modern society. While past research tends to depict quantification primarily as either an external intervention or a tool that can be employed by organizations, we propose that conceptualizing quantification as a logic provides a more complete understanding of its influence and the profound transformations it can generate. Drawing on a 14-month ethnographic study of Korean higher education and 100 in-depth interviews with key actors in this field, this study demonstrates four pathways through which the logic of quantification is embedded into organizations. Specifically, we show how this new logic reshaped organizational structure, practices, power, and culture—changes that in turn buttress and reproduce the logic. Theoretically, this study provides a new perspective on the deep institutionalization of quantification: why quantification is often intractable and “de-quantification” so rare. In addition, this work contributes to the organizational literature on institutional logics by demonstrating how prevailing logics build defenses to resist challengers and thus maintain their influence. Most generally, we consider how the self-reinforcing nature of this logic contributes to the intensification of rationalization in contemporary society.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. Similarly, studies of technology (e.g. Bijker, 1995; David, 1985; Granovetter & McGuire, 1998) observed path dependence and lock-in as the institutionalization of a novel technology gradually excludes alternatives.

  2. Following Haveman and Gualtieri (2017:1), we understand institutional logics as “systems of cultural elements (values, beliefs, and normative expectations) by which people, groups, and organizations make sense and evaluate their everyday activities, and organize those activities in time and space” (see also Thornton et al., 2012; Yan et al., 2019). While the concept of institutional logics, as Haveman and Gualtieri effectively document, has become slippery in its application to a wide variety of phenomena and processes, the core focus here is on how a system of cultural commitments promotes and reinforces specific types of organizational structures, procedures, and power dynamics.

  3. Much of this research has focused on the difficulty that actors face in resisting quantification measures once these measures have been introduced in a particular realm (e.g., Amsler & Bolsmann, 2012; Espeland & Vannebo, 2007; Corley & Gioia, 2000; Sauder & Espeland, 2009; Rindova et al., 2018; Kiviat, 2019; see Hischman, Berrey, Rose-Greenland 2016; Kiviat, 2019 for examples where quantification was conditionally resisted).

  4. In total, 28 universities were represented in our sample—more than 1/8 of the 4-year universities in South Korea. We purposefully sampled schools to vary by size, location, and status. In terms of status, for example, we spoke with administrators from 7 prestigious schools, 6 middle-status private schools, and 15 small and/or regional schools. All of the schools represented were private schools, but public schools only constitute 19% of the universities in South Korea. Private schools historically led the evolution of the field of Korean higher education. For instance, Kim and Woo (2009) point out that “over- privatization” was the most significant factor that led Korean higher education to “education-for-all.” Shin (2011) supports this perspective, stating “in contrast to many European countries and the USA, the growth of Korean higher education has been led by private universities.” (322).

  5. At the broadest level, this change mirrors transformations from professional to market logics documented elsewhere (see, for example, Thornton & Ocasio, 1999; Scott et al., 2000). However, much like there are many different forms of markets (Callon, 1998; Fligstein, 1990), market logics can allude to a wide variety of beliefs and practices that manifest differently depending on the context. For this reason, we identify more specific logics—the logic of growth and the logic of quantification, respectively—that more accurately characterize the “systems of cultural elements” that define two different periods within the more general market logic.

  6. See Korean Education Statistics Service (http://cesi.kedi.re.kr/) and e-National Indicators (http://www.index.go.kr/).

  7. For instance, the government assessed all universities and colleges using quantitative measures in 2015 and 2018. The results of those assessments were used to restrict student scholarships and loans as well as eligibility for government grant programs if schools were located in the lowest or second-lowest tiers. In addition, the government reassessed “low grade” schools between 2015 and 2018 to selectively lift the restrictions if these schools had demonstrated significant effort in meeting the government’s standard. This assessment process provides a clear example of how quantitative pressures affect less prestigious and unstable schools as well as top schools fighting for status position.

  8. This is a state agency that collects statistical data and major quantitative indicators from all post-secondary educational institutions. The Center reports indicators every year, and these reports are used by rankers and other third parties to evaluate universities. Because numbers are reported to and audited by the state, there is far less gaming of the numbers than has been documented in other contexts (see, for example, Espeland & Sauder, 2016) – the risks are perceived to be too high. Korean universities do try to find ways to optimize their numbers, but egregious misrepresentation or lying is rare.

  9. For instance, at a Taskforce meeting in 2013, the departmental representative from the International Office reported current values on three indicators associated with internationalization: the ratio of international students, the number of students in exchange programs, and the number of visiting international students. Then, the representative reported the progress they had made since the previous meeting (two weeks previous) and their improvement on each indicator. The International Office had already reached the goal of the first indicator, but the other two indicators still fell short. The representative also included concrete plans to improve each indicator (e.g., offer more English-mediated programs to international students; develop new student exchange programs; create collaborative programs with universities abroad; secure more dormitories and lecture rooms for international students and courses). The representative also stated how they implemented the plan in the last meeting and what kinds of administrative support was needed to move forward. All those plans and requests aimed to reach or go beyond the target value of each quantitative indicator.

  10. The EMD also offered additional points in the internal assessment if administrative units reported their numbers accurately. As we discuss in a later section, this joining together of assessment and reporting again illustrates how quantification is insinuated into new bureaucratic procedures and practices, which in turn strengthens the logic of quantification.

  11. The existence of both national and international rankings, each with their own criteria, sometimes complicates decisions about how to best structure incentives. A chair in the natural sciences, for example, complained that the university is now pressuring their departments to publish more articles in Korean journals since their departments were publishing almost exclusively in international journals. The lack of these lower status national publications was actually hurting the departments’ national ranking.

  12. These types of incentives for publication are not unique to South Korea. They are now common in Asian and European research universities (see Andersen & Pallesen, 2008; Kim & Bak, 2016; Sandy & Shen, 2019; Spence, 2019)

  13. A few units, like the School of Music, were granted exceptions to this rule. These units, however, were still required to quantify activities (so that, to take a real example, a solo performance was equal to 300 points) to evaluate their faculty members.

  14. In examining school closure in Philadelphia, Caven (2019) also found that some public schools successfully reversed initial closure recommendation using data and commensuration about academic performance while other schools, which relied on qualitative arguments, failed to do so. Both Caven and our case demonstrate how non-quantitative arguments become less persuasive when quantification (and commensuration) is the dominant mode of reasoning.

  15. The EMD, for example, gathered peer reviews in their annual evaluations of individual academic and administrative departments, but these qualitative assessments were used only to corroborate or complement quantitative results (they were also transformed into numbers and incorporated into the quantitative comparisons). The primary criteria for the assessment consisted of the quantitative comparisons with other units.

  16. This sentiment is explicit in inter-university meetings. During the Korean Association of University Dean of Planning’s 2011 Winter Seminar, for example, the Committee Chair of the University Structure Reform claimed “No management without measurement” (Choi, 2011).

  17. While some respondents expressed concern about these new demands, there was little effective or organized resistance to them. In part, this was due to how new standards were integrated into faculty assessment. When the new standards were introduced, they only applied to recently-hired and future faculty (and these faculty were hired because of their fit with these standards). The extreme anxiety produced by the constant demand for data and continual comparisons with departments at other schools also inhibited resistance. One humanities department, for example, was at first passively involved in the production of data, but then asked the EMD to contact the Joongang Daily University Ranking to be included in a department ranking. This suggestion reflected their expectation that they “can diagnose their competencies and get cared for by the university.” Interviews with personnel at several schools (although not T University) noted that their universities had restructured academic departments based on their numbers. This served as a powerful threat to departments that were not fully compliant.

  18. An important feature of this coordination is that individuals and units become dependent on the quantitative practices of others to produce their own reports. It becomes difficult to resist or ignore demands to produce numbers when your numbers are integrated into a system of number production where others rely on you. As an anonymous reviewer points out, there are also interdependencies among numbers in this quantified system as they come to be functionally interlinked and to rely on each other for their meaning. This interdependence, the difficulty in separating measures from each other, is another reason why it is difficult to roll back quantification once it has been established. We thank the reviewer for underlining the importance of this point.

  19. This inhabiting process is made manifest as those with commitments that support the quantitative logic are recruited (often in place of those with different commitments), specialists are hired to facilitate the logic (and are given the authority to implement changes), and existing members are coopted.

  20. This process is expedited as professional roles and professions themselves develop around the quantification work performed within the organization.

  21. This sentiment was very common in our interviews. The chair of a humanities department, for example, explained that quantification was already fully systematized within the university, adding “What we (faculty members) are doing is updating our publication information with accurate numbers . . . For instance, we simply count the number of international exchange. . . . We just adjust [the numbers] if a standard changes. That is how things work.” Similarly, a Leader of the Evaluation Team described the indispensability of quantification: “How would we measure improvement without evaluation? We cannot use our intuition to systematically estimate if we improve or get better, no matter what we are interested in . . . I will need measurement if I want to know if I gained or lost weight. It is not sufficient to say, ‘I feel like I lost weight and look great.’ So, quantitative evaluation is indispensable for measuring what we are interested in.”

References

  • Amsler, S. S., & Bolsmann, C. (2012). University ranking as social exclusion. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 33(2), 283–301.

    Google Scholar 

  • Andersen, L. B., & Pallesen, T. (2008). “Not just for the money?” how financial incentives affect the number of publications at Danish research institutions. International Public Management Journal, 11(1), 28–47.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anteby, M., & Chan, C. K. (2018). A self-fulfilling cycle of coercive surveillance: Workers’ invisibility practices and managerial justification. Organization Science, 29(2), 247–263.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barker, J. R. (2005). Tightening the Iron cage: Concertive control in self-managing teams. In C. Grey & H. Willmott (Eds.), Critical Management Studies: A Reader (pp. 209–243). Oxford University Press.

  • Barney, J., & Felin, T. (2013). What are microfoundations? Academy of Management Perspectives, 27(2), 138–155.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berman, E. P. (2012). Explaining the move toward the market in US academic science: How institutional logics can change without institutional entrepreneurs. Theory and Society, 41(3), 261–299.

  • Berman, E. P., & Hirschman, D. (2018). The sociology of quantification: Where are we now? Contemporary Sociology. A Journal of Reviews, 47(3), 257–266.

  • Bijker, W. E. (1995). Of bicycles, bakelites, and bulbs: Toward a theory of sociotechnical change. MIT press.

  • Brayne, S. (2017). Big data surveillance: The case of policing. American Sociological Review, 82(5), 977–1008.

    Google Scholar 

  • Callon, M. (1998). Laws of the markets. Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Caven, M. (2019). Quantification, inequality, and the contestation of school closures in Philadelphia. Sociology of Education, 92(1), 21–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Choi, S. (2011). Managing evaluation indicators for an entire year. Does it help to improve education?. Kyosoo Shinmoon. (in Korean).

  • Christin, A. (2018). Counting clicks: Quantification and variation in web journalism in the United States and France. American Journal of Sociology, 123(5), 1382–1415.

    Google Scholar 

  • Corley, K., & Gioia, D. (2000). The rankings game: Managing business school reputation. Corporate Reputation Review, 3(4), 319–333.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dacin, M. T., Goodstein, J., & Richard, S. W. (2002). Institutional theory and institutional change: Introduction to the special research forum. Academy of Management Journal, 45(1), 45–56.

    Google Scholar 

  • David, P. A. (1985). Clio and the economics of QWERTY. The American Economic Review, 75(2), 332–337.

    Google Scholar 

  • Davies, W. (2015). The return of social government: From “socialist calculation” to “social Analytics.”. European Journal of Social Theory, 18, 431–450.

    Google Scholar 

  • Davis, K., Fisher, A., Kingsbury, B., & Merry, SE (Eds.). (2012). Governance by indicators: Global Power through classification and rankings. Oxford University Press.

  • Deem, R., Mok, K. H., & Lucas, L. (2008). Transforming higher education in whose image? Exploring the concept of the ‘world-class’ university in Europe and Asia. Higher Education Policy, 21(1), 83–97.

    Google Scholar 

  • Desrosières, A. (1998). The politics of large numbers: A history of statistical reasoning. Harvard University Press.

  • Diaz-Bone, R. (2019). Statistical Panopticism and its critique. Historical Social Research, 44, 77–102.

    Google Scholar 

  • Diaz-Bone, R., & Didier, E. (2016). Introduction: The sociology of quantification-perspectives on an emerging field in the social sciences. Historical Social Research, 41(2), 7–26.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dunn, M. B., & Jones, C. (2010). Institutional logics and institutional pluralism: The contestation of care and science logics in medical education, 1967–2005. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55(1), 114–149.

    Google Scholar 

  • Edelman, L. B. (1992). Legal ambiguity and symbolic structures: Organizational mediation of civil rights law. American Journal of Sociology, 97(6), 1531–1576.

    Google Scholar 

  • Espeland, W. N. (1998). The struggle for water: Politics, rationality, and identity in the American southwest. University of Chicago Press.

  • Espeland, W. N., & Sauder, M. (2007). Rankings and reactivity: How public measures recreate social worlds. American Journal of Sociology, 113(1), 1–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Espeland, W. N., & Sauder, M. (2016). Engines of Anxiety: Academic rankings, reputation, and accountability. Russell Sage Foundation.

  • Espeland, W. N., & Stevens, M. L. (1998). Commensuration as a social process. Annual Review of Sociology, 24(1), 313–343.

    Google Scholar 

  • Espeland, W. N., & Stevens, M. L. (2008). A sociology of quantification. European Journal of Sociology/Archives Européennes de Sociologie, 49(3), 401–436.

    Google Scholar 

  • Espeland, W. N., & Vannebo, B. I. (2007). Accountability, quantification, and law. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 3, 21–43.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fligstein, N. (1990). The transformation of corporate control. Harvard University Press.

  • Fourcade, M. (2016). Ordinalization: Lewis a. Coser memorial award for theoretical agenda setting 2014. Sociological Theory, 34(3), 175–195.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fourcade, M., & Healy, K. (2013). Classification situations: Life-chances in the neoliberal era. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 38(8), 559–572.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garrison, Y. L., Liu, W. M., Yeung, C. W., Park, S., Sahker, E., & Conrad, M. (2017). The meaning of Hakbeol within the context of educational meritocracy and prestige among south Korean college students. Journal of Asia Pacific Counseling, 7(2), 105–121.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gawer, A., & Phillips, N. (2013). Institutional work as logics shift: The case of Intel’s transformation to platform leader. Organization Studies, 34(8), 1035–1071.

    Google Scholar 

  • Glynn, M. A., & Lounsbury, M. (2005). From the critics’ corner: Logic blending, discursive change and authenticity in a cultural production system. Journal of Management Studies, 42(5), 1031–1055.

    Google Scholar 

  • Granovetter, M., & McGuire, P. (1998). The making of an industry: Electricity in the United States. The Sociological Review, 46(1), 147–173.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gray, B., Purdy, J. M., & Ansari, S. (2015). From interactions to institutions: Microprocesses of framing and mechanisms for the structuring of institutional fields. Academy of Management Review, 40(1), 115–143.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenwood, R., Suddaby, R., & Hinings, C. R. (2002). Theorizing change: The role of professional associations in the transformation of institutionalized fields. Academy of Management Journal, 45(1), 58–80.

    Google Scholar 

  • Griffith, A. I., & Smith, D. E. (2014). Under new public management: Institutional ethnographies of changing front-line work. University of Toronto Press.

  • Hacking, I. (1982). Biopower and the avalanche of printed numbers. Humanities in Society, 5(3–4), 279–295.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hacking, I. (1990). The taming of chance. Cambridge University Press.

  • Hallett, T. (2010). The myth incarnate: Recoupling processes, turmoil, and inhabited institutions in an urban elementary school. American Sociological Review, 75(1), 52–74.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hallett, T., & Meanwell, E. (2016). Accountability as an inhabited institution: Contested meanings and the symbolic politics of reform. Symbolic Interaction, 39(3), 374–396.

    Google Scholar 

  • Haveman, H., & Gualtieri, G. (2017). Institutional logics. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Business and Management.

  • Hallett, T., & Hawbaker, A. (2021). The case for an inhabited institutionalism in organizational research: interaction, coupling, and change reconsidered. Theory and Society, 50(1), 1–32.

  • Hazelkorn, E. (2015). Rankings and the reshaping of higher education: The Battle for world-class excellence. Springer.

  • Hirschman, D., Berrey, E., & Rose-Greenland, F. (2016). Dequantifying diversity: Affirmative action and admissions at the University of Michigan. Theory and Society, 45(3), 265–301.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hwang, H., & Powell, W. W. (2009). The rationalization of charity: The influences of professionalism in the nonprofit sector. Administrative Science Quarterly, 54(2), 268–298.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ishikawa, M. (2009). University rankings, global models, and emerging hegemony: Critical analysis from Japan. Journal of Studies in International Education, 13(2), 159–173.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jepperson, R. L. (1991). Institutions, institutional effects, and institutionalism. In W. W. Powell & P. J. DiMaggio (Eds.), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (pp. 143–163). University of Chicago Press.

  • Joas, H. (1996). The creativity of action. University of Chicago Press.

  • Jung, J. H. (2014). Hakbeolism: A historical and curricular consideration of Korean test-focused education. TCI (Transnational Curriculum Inquiry), 11(2), 48–66.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kalev, A., Dobbin, F., & Kelly, E. (2006). Best practices or best guesses? Assessing the efficacy of corporate affirmative action and diversity policies. American Sociological Review, 71(4), 589–617.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kang, J. M. (2009). The brutal history of college admission war. InMul. [Korean].

  • Kelley, J. G. (2017). Scorecard diplomacy: Grading states to influence their reputation and behavior. Cambridge University Press.

  • Kim, S. B. (2004). Hakbeol society: A philosophical investigation of social subjectivity. Hankilsa. [Korean].

  • Kim, D. I. (2009) University professor, Illusion and Reality. Nanam. (in Korean).

  • Kim, S. H. (2014). Effects of academic cliques on the first job offers of college graduates. Journal of Educational Studies, 45(4), 1–20 [Korean].

    Google Scholar 

  • Kim, D. H., & Bak, H. J. (2016). How do scientists respond to performance-based incentives? Evidence from South Korea. International Public Management Journal, 19(1), 31–52.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kim, D. H., & Choi, Y. (2015). The irony of the unchecked growth of higher education in South Korea: Crystallization of class cleavages and intensifying status competition. Development and Society, 44(3), 435–463.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kim, K. S., & Woo, Y. J. (2009). Isn’t it a pyrrhic victory? Over-privatization and universal access in tertiary education of Korea. Asia Pacific Education Review, 10(1), 125–137.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kiviat, B. (2017). The art of deciding with data: Evidence from how employers translate credit reports into hiring decisions. Socio-Economic Review, 17(2), 283–309.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kiviat, B. (2019). The moral limits of predictive practice: The case of credit-based insurance scores. American Sociological Review, 84, 1134–1158.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lamont, M., Beljean, S., & Clair, M. (2014). What is missing? Cultural processes and causal pathways to inequality. Socio-Economic Review, 12(3), 573–608.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lawrence, T. B., & Suddaby, R. (2006). Institutions and institutional work. In S. R. Clegg, C. Hardy, W. R. Nord, & T. B. Lawrence (Eds.), Sage Handbook of Organization Studies, pp. 215–254. Sage.

  • Lawrence, T. B., Suddaby, R., & Leca, B (eds.). (2009). Institutional work: Actors and agency in institutional studies of organizations. Cambridge university press.

  • Lawrence, T. B., Suddaby, R., & Leca, B. (2011). Institutional work: Refocusing institutional studies of organization. Journal of Management Inquiry, 20(1), 52–58.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lee, M. D. P., & Lounsbury, M. (2015). Filtering institutional logics: Community logic variation and differential responses to the institutional complexity of toxic waste. Organization Science, 26(3), 847–866.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lo, W. Y. W. (2013). University rankings as a zoning technology: A Taiwanese perspective on an imaginary greater China higher education region. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 11(4), 459–478.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lo, W. Y. W. (2014). University rankings: Implications for higher education in Taiwan. Springer Science & Business Media.

  • Lounsbury, M. (2007). A tale of two cities: Competing logics and practice variation in the professionalizing of mutual funds. Academy of Management Journal, 50(2), 289–307.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lounsbury, M. (2008). Institutional rationality and practice variation: New directions in the institutional analysis of practice. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 33(4–5), 349–361.

    Google Scholar 

  • MacKenzie, D. (2006). Is economics performative? Option theory and the construction of derivatives markets. Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 28(1), 29–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marginson, S., & Van der Wende, M. (2007). To rank or to be ranked: The impact of global rankings in higher education. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11(3–4), 306–329.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mau, S. (2019). The metric society. Polity Press.

  • Mennicken, A., & Espeland, W. N. (2019). What ' s new with numbers? Sociological approaches to the study of quantification. Annual Review of Sociology, 45, 223–245.

    Google Scholar 

  • Micelotta, E., Lounsbury, M., & Greenwood, R. (2017). Pathways of institutional change: An integrative review and research agenda. Journal of Management, 43(6), 1885–1910.

    Google Scholar 

  • Murray, F. (2010). The Oncomouse that roared: Hybrid exchange strategies as a source of distinction at the boundary of overlapping institutions. American Journal of Sociology, 116(2), 341–388.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nigam, A., & Ocasio, W. (2010). Event attention, environmental Sensemaking, and change in institutional logics: An inductive analysis of the effects of public attention to Clinton’s health care reform initiative. Organization Science, 21(4), 823–841.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nowotny, H. (2016). The cunning of uncertainty. Polity.

  • Oliver, C. (1991). Strategic responses to institutional processes. Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 145–179.

  • Petre, C. (2018). Engineering Consent: How the Design and Marketing of Newsroom Analytics Tools Rationalize Journalists’ Labor. Digital Journalism, 6(4), 509–527.

    Google Scholar 

  • Poon, M. (2009). From new deal institutions to capital markets: Commercial consumer risk scores and the making of subprime mortgage finance. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 34(5), 654–674.

    Google Scholar 

  • Porter, T. M. (1996). Trust in Numbers: The pursuit of objectivity in science and public life. Princeton University Press.

  • Power, M. (1994). The audit explosion. Demos.

  • Power, M. (1997). The audit society: Rituals of verification. Oxford University Press.

  • Power, M. (2021). Modelling the micro-foundations of the audit society: Organizations and the logic of the Audit Trail. Academy of Management Review, 46(1), 6–32.

    Google Scholar 

  • Purdy, J. M., & Gray, B. (2009). Conflicting logics, mechanisms of diffusion, and multilevel dynamics in emerging institutional fields. Academy of Management Journal, 52(2), 355–380.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reay, T., & Hinings, C. R. (2009). Managing the rivalry of competing institutional logics. Organization Studies, 30(6), 629–652.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reich, A. (2012). Disciplined doctors: The electronic medical record and physicians ' changing relationship to medical knowledge. Social Science & Medicine, 74(7), 1021–1028.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rindova, V. P., Martins, L. L., Srinivas, S. B., & Chandler, D. (2018). The good, the bad, and the ugly of organizational rankings: A multidisciplinary review of the literature and directions for future research. Journal of Management, 44(6), 2175–2208.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rottenburg, R., Merry, S. E., Park, S. J., & Mugler, J. (Eds.). (2015). The world of indicators: The making of governmental knowledge through quantification. Cambridge University Press.

  • Sandy, W., & Shen, H. (2019). Publish to earn incentives: How do Indonesian professors respond to the new policy? Higher Education, 77(2), 247–263.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sauder, M. (2006). Third parties and status position: How the characteristics of status systems matter. Theory and Society, 35(3), 299–321.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sauder, M. (2008). Interlopers and field change: The entry of US news into the field of legal education. Administrative Science Quarterly, 53(2), 209–234.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sauder, M., & Espeland, W. N. (2009). The discipline of rankings: Tight coupling and organizational change. American Sociological Review, 74(1), 63–82.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, W. R., Ruef, M., Mendel, P. J., & Caronna, C. A. (2000). Institutional change and healthcare organizations: From professional dominance to managed care. University of Chicago Press.

  • Shin, J. C. (2011). South Korea: Decentralized centralization - fading shared governance and rising Managerialism. In W. Locke, W. K. Cummings, & D. Fisher (Eds.), Changing Governance and Management in Higher Education: The Perspectives of the Academy (pp. 330–351). Springer.

  • Shin, J. C. (2012). Higher education development in Korea: Western University ideas, Confucian tradition, and economic development. Higher Education, 64(1), 59–72.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shin, J. C., & Jang, Y. S. (2013). World-Class University in Korea: Proactive government, Responsive University, and procrastinating academics. In J. C. Shin & M. K. Shin (Eds.), Institutionalization of world-Class University in global competition (pp. 147–163). Springer.

  • Simmel, G. ([1900] 1990). The philosophy of money. 2nd Edition. Translated by Tom Bottomore and David Frisby. Routledge: New York.

  • Spence, C. (2019). ‘Judgement’ versus ‘metrics’ in higher education management. Higher Education, 77(5), 761–775.

  • Springer, E. (2020). Bureaucratic tools in (gendered) organizations: Performance metrics and gender advisors in international development. Gender and Society, 34, 56–80.

    Google Scholar 

  • Strathern, M. (2000). Audit cultures: Anthropological studies in accountability, ethics, and the academy. Psychology Press.

  • Thornton, P. H. (2002). The rise of the corporation in a craft industry: Conflict and conformity in institutional logics. Academy of Management Journal, 45(1), 81–101.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thornton, P. H., & Ocasio, W. (1999). Institutional logics and the historical contingency of Power in organizations: Executive succession in the higher education publishing industry, 1958–1990. American Journal of Sociology, 105(3), 801–843.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thornton, P. H., Jones, C., Kury, K. (2005). Institutional logics and institutional change in organizations: Transformation in accounting, architecture, and publishing. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, (Special Issue: Transformation in Cultural Industries).

  • Thornton, P. H., Ocasio, W., & Lounsbury, M. (2012). The institutional logics perspective: A new approach to culture, structure, and process. Oxford University Press.

  • Turco, C. (2012). Difficult decoupling: Employee resistance to the commercialization of personal settings. American Journal of Sociology, 118(2), 380–419.

    Google Scholar 

  • Westphal, J. D., & Zajac, E. J. (2001). Decoupling policy from practice: The case of stock repurchase programs. Administrative Science Quarterly, 46(2), 202–228.

    Google Scholar 

  • Yan, S., Ferraro, F., & Almandoz, J. (2019). The rise of socially responsible investment funds: The paradoxical role of the financial logic. Administrative Science Quarterly, 64(2), 466–501.

  • Zajac, E. J., & Westphal, J. D. (2004). The social construction of market value: Institutionalization and learning perspectives on stock market reactions. American Sociological Review, 69(3), 433–457.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zilber, T. B. (2009). Institutional maintenance as narrative acts. In T.B. Lawrence, R. Suddaby, & B. Leca (Eds.), Institutional work: Actors and agency in institutional studies of organizations, (pp. 205–235). Cambridge University Press.

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Inkwan Chung, Wendy Espeland, Julian Hamann, Jongyoung Kim, Parang Kim, Freda Lynn, William Ocasio, Leopold Ringel, Joonwoo Son, Tobias Werron, and the anonymous reviewers at Theory and Society for helpful feedback at various stages of this project. The article also benefited participants at the Leibniz Center for Science and Society at the University of Hannover, the Department of Accounting Organizations and Institutions at the London School of Economics and the Spring 2018 Developing Sociological Ideas seminar at the University of Iowa. Special thanks to Daul Jung and Heeyoung Lee for their assistance with interview transcription and to all of those who were interviewed for this project. The project has received institutional support from the Korean Studies Grant Program of the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS-2019-R57), the Max-Weber-Kolleg, and the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement 665958, the Stanley-University of Iowa Foundation Support Organization, and the University of Iowa’s Career Development Award program.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael Sauder.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 3 A full list of quantitative evaluations that T University’s EMD managed

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Chun, H., Sauder, M. The logic of quantification: institutionalizing numerical thinking. Theor Soc 51, 335–370 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-021-09453-1

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11186-021-09453-1

Keywords

  • Quantification
  • Rationalization
  • Institutional logics
  • University rankings
  • Organizational change
  • Deep institutionalization