Performance Management and the Audited Self

Metric Culture

ISBN: 978-1-78743-290-1, eISBN: 978-1-78743-289-5

Publication date: 24 September 2018


What counts as evidence of good performance, behaviour or character? While quantitative metrics have long been used to measure performance and productivity in schools, factories and workplaces, what is striking today is the extent to which these calculative methods and rationalities are being extended into new areas of life through the global spread of performance indicators (PIs) and performance management systems. What began as part of the neoliberalising projects of the 1980s with a few strategically chosen PIs to give greater state control over the public sector through contract management and mobilising ‘users’ has now proliferated to include almost every aspect of professional work. The use of metrics has also expanded from managing professionals to controlling entire populations. This chapter focuses on the rise of these new forms of audit and their effects in two areas: first, the alliance being formed between state-collected data and that collected by commercial companies on their customers through, for example loyalty cards and credit checks. Second, China’s new social credit system, which allocates individual scores to each citizen and uses rewards of better or privileged service to entice people to volunteer information about themselves, publish their ‘ratings’ and compete with friends for status points. This is a new development in the use of audit simultaneously to discipline whole populations and responsibilise individuals to perform according to new state and commercial norms about the reliable/conforming ‘good’ citizen.




The authors would like to extend warm thanks to Isabel Shore for drawing Figures 2.1 and 2.2.


Shore, C. and Wright, S. (2018), "Performance Management and the Audited Self", Ajana, B. (Ed.) Metric Culture, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 11-35.

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