Worlds of Rankings

ISBN: 978-1-80117-106-9, eISBN: 978-1-80117-105-2

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 22 July 2021


(2021), "Prelims", Ringel, L., Espeland, W., Sauder, M. and Werron, T. (Ed.) Worlds of Rankings (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 74), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-xiv.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 Leopold Ringel, Wendy Espeland, Michael Sauder and Tobias Werron

Half Title Page

Worlds of Rankings

Series Page

Research in the Sociology of Organizations

Series Editor: Michael Lounsbury

Recent Volumes:

Series Editor: Michael Lounsbury

Recent Volumes:

Volume 47: The Structuring of Work in Organizations
Volume 48A How Institutions Matter!
Volume 48B How Institutions Matter!
Volume 49 Multinational Corporations and Organization Theory: Post Millennium Perspectives
Volume 50 Emergence
Volume 51 Categories, Categorization and Categorizing: Category Studies in Sociology, Organizations and Strategy at the Crossroads
Volume 52 Justification, evaluation and critique in the study of organizations: contributions from French pragmatist sociology
Volume 53 structure, content and meaning of organizational networks: extending network thinking
Volume 54A Multimodality, Meaning, and Institutions
Volume 54B Multimodality, Meaning, and Institutions
Volume 55 Social Movements, Stakeholders and Non-Market Strategy
Volume 56 Social Movements, Stakeholders and Non-Market Strategy
Volume 57 Toward Permeable Boundaries of Organizations?
Volume 58 Agents, Actors, Actorhood: Institutional Perspectives on the Nature of Agency, Action, and Authority
Volume 59 The Production of Managerial Knowledge and Organizational Theory: New Approaches to Writing, Producing and Consuming Theory
Volume 60 Race, Organizations, and the Organizing Process
Volume 61 Routine Dynamics in Action
Volume 62 Thinking Infrastructures
Volume 63 The Contested Moralities of Markets
Volume 64 Managing Inter-Organizational Collaborations: Process Views
Volume 65A Microfoundations of Institutions
Volume 65B Microfoundations of Institutions
Volume 66 Theorizing the Sharing Economy: Variety and Trajectories of New Forms of Organizing
Volume 67 Tensions and paradoxes in temporary organizing
Volume 68 Macro Foundations: Exploring the Situated Nature of Activity
Volume 69 Organizational Hybridity: Perspectives, Processes, Promises
Volume 70 On Practice and Institution: Theorizing the Interface
Volume 71 On Practice and Institution: New Empirical Directions
Volume 72 Organizational Imaginaries: Tempering Capitalism and Tending to Communities through Cooperatives and Collectivist Democracy
Volume 73A Interdisciplinary Dialogues on Organizational Paradox
Volume 73B Interdisciplinary Dialogues on Organizational Paradox

Advisory Board

Research in the Sociology of Organizations Advisory Board

Series Editor

Michael Lounsbury

Professor of Strategic Management & Organization

Canada Research Chair in Entrepreneurship & Innovation University of Alberta

School of Business

RSO Advisory Board

Howard E. Aldrich, University of North Carolina, USA

Shaz Ansari, Cambridge University, UNITED KINGDOM

Silvia Dorado Banacloche, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA

Christine Beckman, University of Southern California, USA

Marya Besharov, Oxford University, UNITED KINGDOM

Eva Boxenbaum, Copenhagen Business School, DENMARK

Ed Carberry, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA

Lisa Cohen, McGill University, CANADA

Jeannette Colyvas, Northwestern University, USA

Erica Coslor, University of Melbourne, AUSTRALIA

Gerald F. Davis, University of Michigan, USA

Rich Dejordy, California State University, USA

Rodolphe Durand, HEC Paris, FRANCE

Fabrizio Ferraro, IESE Business School, SPAIN

Peer Fiss, University of Southern California, USA

Mary Ann Glynn, Boston College, USA

Nina Granqvist, Aalto University School of Business, FINLAND

Royston Greenwood, University of Alberta, CANADA

Stine Grodal, Northeastern University, USA

Markus A. Hoellerer, University of New South Wales, AUSTRALIA

Ruthanne Huising, emlyon business school, FRANCE

Candace Jones, University of Edinburgh, UNITED KINGDOM

Sarah Kaplan, University of Toronto, CANADA

Brayden G. King, Northwestern University, USA

Matthew S. Kraatz, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Tom Lawrence, Oxford University, UNITED KINGDOM

Xiaowei Rose Luo, Insead, FRANCE

Johanna Mair, Hertie School, GERMANY

Christopher Marquis, Cornell University, USA

Renate Meyer, Vienna University, AUSTRIA

William Ocasio, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Nelson Phillips, Imperial College London, UNITED KINGDOM

Prateek Raj, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, INDIA

Marc Schneiberg, Reed College, USA

Marc-David Seidel, University of British Columbia, CANADA

Paul Spee, University of Queensland, AUSTRALIA

Paul Tracey, Cambridge University, UNITED KINGDOM

Kerstin Sahlin, Uppsala University, SWEDEN

Sarah Soule, Stanford University, USA

Eero Vaara, University of Oxford, UNITED KINGDOM

Marc Ventresca, University of Oxford, UNITED KINGDOM

Maxim Voronov, York University, CANADA

Filippo Carlo Wezel USI Lugano, SWITZERLAND

Melissa Wooten, Rutgers University, USA

April Wright, University of Queensland, AUSTRALIA

Meng Zhao, Nanyang Business School & Renmin University, CHINA

Enying Zheng, Peking University, CHINA

Tammar B. Zilber, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, ISRAEL

Title Page

Research in the Sociology of Organizations Volume 74

Worlds of Rankings

Edited by

Leopold Ringel

Bielefeld University, Germany

Wendy Espeland

Northwestern University, USA

Michael Sauder

University of Iowa, USA

Tobias Werron

Bielefeld University, Germany

United Kingdom – North America – Japan – India – Malaysia – China

Copyright Page

Emerald Publishing Limited

Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK

First edition 2021

Editorial matter and selection © 2021 Leopold Ringel, Wendy Espeland, Michael Sauder and Tobias Werron. Published under exclusive license by Emerald Publishing Limited. Individual chapters © 2021 Emerald Publishing Limited.

Chapter 2, ‘Beyond Winners and Losers: Ranking Visualizations as Alignment Devices in Global Public Policy’, is Open Access with copyright © Justyna Bandola-Gill, Sotiria Grek and Matteo Ronzani. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This chapter is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this chapter (for both commercial & non-commercial purposes) subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at

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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-80117-106-9 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-80117-105-2 (Online)

ISBN: 978-1-80117-107-6 (Epub)

ISSN: 0733-558X (Series)


About the Contributors ix
Foreword: Research in the Sociology of Organizations xiii
Worlds of Rankings
Leopold Ringel, Wendy Espeland, Michael Sauder and Tobias Werron 1
The Producers of Rankings
Beyond Winners and Losers: Ranking Visualizations as Alignment Devices in Global Public Policy
Justyna Bandola-Gill, Sotiria Grek and Matteo Ronzani 27
Stepping into the Spotlight: How Rankings Become Public Performances
Leopold Ringel 53
Between Stakeholders and Third Parties: Regulatory Rankings and the Organization of Competition
Rita Samiolo and Afshin Mehrpouya 77
The Negotiation, Interpretation and Institutionalization of Rankings
“Measure of Shame”: Media Career of the Global Slavery Index
Jelena Brankovic 103
Redefining Achievement: The Emergence of Rankings in American Baseball
Clelia Minnetian and Tobias Werron 127
Caring for Numbers: Performing Healthcare Practices Through Performance Metrics in Sweden and the Netherlands
Iris Wallenburg, Anne Essén and Roland Bal 153
The Effects of Rankings
The Garbage Can Model and Organizational Metrics
Michael Sauder, Hyunsik Chun and Wendy Espeland 175
Formality versus Flexibility: The Effects of Evaluation Practices on Judging and Performance
Stacy E. Lom 199
Ranking Strategy: How Organizations Respond to the New Competitive Battlefields
Neil Pollock, Luciana D’Adderio and Martin Kornberger 221
Index 245

About the Contributors

Roland Bal is a Professor of Healthcare governance at Erasmus University Rotterdam. With a background in science & technology studies (STS), he is interested in the development and consequences of infrastructures for healthcare governance, with a focus on quality & safety of care. Working closely with actors in healthcare, his research aims to strengthen the reflexive capacities of regulatory actors. He has published widely in medical sociology, health services research, and STS journals. Currently, he is engaged in research on Covid decision-making as well as in the regionalization of healthcare and social care services.

Justyna Bandola-Gill is a Research Fellow in Social Policy at the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh. She works at the intersection of Science and Technology Studies and Public Policy. Her research explores the interactions between research and policy, especially the ways in which knowledge is organized, governed, and mobilized across different settings in order to achieve political goals. Currently, she is working on an ERC-funded project METRO, where her research explores the production and governance of global poverty indicators by International Organisations. Justyna is co-leading the Knowledge and Governance Standing Group at the ECPR.

Jelena Brankovic is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University (Germany). Her current research focuses on the institutional dynamics of rankings and other forms of comparison within and across sectors, with a particular attention to the higher education sector, as well as to transnational governance. Her interests extend to the practice of theorizing, academic writing, and peer learning in academia. She also serves on the editorial board of Higher Education (Books Editor).

Hyunsik Chun is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Iowa. His areas of interest include quantification, organizations, culture, and social movements. His research examines the ways that quantification generates organizational change, particularly focusing on how external demands of accountability are translated into organizational action and then reshape organizational power, interorganizational relationships, and organizational politics.

Luciana D’Adderio is Chancellor’s Fellow in Data Driven Innovation at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute and is a former Innovation Fellow with the ESRC Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) Research. Her research focuses on organizational routines and innovation. She is a member of the Organization Science and Information and Organization Editorial Boards and has recently acted as a Senior Editor for the Special Issue of Organization Science on “Routine Dynamics” as well as the RSO volume “Routine Dynamics in Action: Transfer and Transformation.”

Wendy Espeland is a Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University. She works in the areas of quantification, organizations, culture, and social theory, with an emphasis on how these areas overlap. Her book, Engine’s of Anxiety: Academic Rankings, Reputation, and Accountability (with Michael Sauder) examines the effects of rankings on higher education. Earlier work analyzed how quantification shapes organizational decision-making and politics. Her publications have appeared in journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and The European Journal of Sociology and have been supported by fellowships from the Russell Sage Foundation, Radcliffe Institute, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies.

Anne Essén is an Assistant Professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden. She is interested in how artefacts such as numerical data shape and are shaped by what individuals and organizations find worthwhile to strive for and feel capable of achieving. She has published papers about the role of numerical data in specific patient encounters as well as in the evolution of medical fields in journals such as MISQ, Human Relations, Organization, Social Science & Medicine, and Sociology of Health and Illness. Current research projects concern the art of ignoring and its structural enablers, and how platform entrants build legitimacy and market share in highly regulated fields such as healthcare and autonomous transport.

Sotiria Grek is a Professor of European and Global Education Governance at the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh. Her work focuses on the field of quantification in global public policy, with a specialization in the policy arenas of education and sustainable development. She is the Principal Investigator of the European Research Council funded project “International Organisations and the Rise of a Global Metrological Field” (METRO). She has co-authored (with Martin Lawn) Europeanising Education: Governing A New Policy Space (Symposium, 2012) and co-edited (with Joakim Lindgren) Governing by Inspection (Routledge, 2015), as well as the World Yearbook in Education: Accountability and Datafication in Education (with Christian Maroy and Antoni Verger; Routledge, 2021).

Martin Kornberger received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Vienna in 2002. Currently, he holds a Chair in Strategy at the University of Edinburgh and is a Visiting Fellow at the Vienna University of Economics and Business. His research focuses on strategies for and organization of new forms of distributed and collective action. He can be reached at

Stacy E. Lom is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Central Arkansas, USA. Her research interests include formalization and rules, organizational decision-making, and the politics of knowledge production and consumption, particularly in relation to the development and effects of evaluation practices. Her research is on rule systems and evaluation in sport, the arts, and education.

Afshin Mehrpouya is an Associate Professor of accounting and management control systems at HEC Paris. Trained as a medical doctor in Iran, he also holds an MBA and PhD in management. His research is broadly in role of performance measurement in transnational governance. He currently studies the construction and use of different calculative knowledge forms such as rankings and ratings in transnational governance regimes. He is a member of the editorial board of Accounting, Organizations and Society. Prior to starting, his academic career Afshin had years of experience in the design of environmental and social rankings and ratings. He has advised a range of development and sustainability related initiatives such as Access to Medicine Index, Aid Transparency Index, Medicines Transparency Alliance, Access to Nutrition Index and Responsible Mining Index.

Clelia Minnetian is a Researcher at the Faculty of Sociology at Bielefeld University (Germany). She works in the project “The Institutionalization of Rankings between 1850 and 1980.” Her research interests lie in the fields of discourse theory and analysis, political theory, historical sociology, governmentality studies, and analysis of subjectivation. Recent publications in the field of discourse analysis are “Stumme Ökonomisierung – Machteffekte in Innovationsdiskursen” [Silent economization. Power effects in discourses of innovation]. In: Zeitschrift für Diskursforschung, 2. Beiheft, 183–215, 2018, with L. Braunisch & J. Hergesell; and “‘Soziale Innovationen’ für den Fortschritt von morgen. Eine diskursive Betrachtung der deutschen Innovationspolitik” [‘Social innovations’ for tomorrow’s progress. A discourse analysis of German innovation politics]. In: J. Hergesell, A. Maibaum, C. Minnetian, A. Sept (Eds.), Innovationsphänomene. Modi und Effekte der Innovationsgesellschaft. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 145–166, 2018, with L. Braunisch.

Neil Pollock is a Professor of Innovation at the University of Edinburgh. His book How Industry Analysts Shape the Digital Future (with Robin Williams) examines ranking and evaluation within the information technology area. He is currently researching evaluation in the context of digital entrepreneurship. His articles have been published in Organization Studies, Accounting, Organizations and Society, Management Information Systems Quarterly, Information Systems Research, and Research Policy.

Leopold Ringel is a Lecturer in Sociology at Bielefeld University. A sociologist with a background in organizational sociology, political sociology, and sociological theory, his qualitative research focuses on the impact of transparency on organizations, the history and institutionalization of rankings, and digital transformations. His work has been published in journals such as Organization Studies, Politics & Governance, Sociologica, and Ephemera. He is currently co-editor of the book series Politische Soziologie and he serves on the board of RC17 Sociology of Organizations at the International Sociological Association.

Matteo Ronzani is a Lecturer at Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. Matteo studies the effects that performance measurement practices have on organizations and society. His interdisciplinary works draws from the sociology of quantification, accounting, and organization theory, and focuses primarily on understanding how technologies of calculation can be mobilized to address societal grand challenges such as poverty alleviation and the management of humanitarian crises.

Rita Samiolo is a Lecturer in Accounting and Financial Management at King’s Business School, King’s College London. She holds a PhD in Accounting from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research is in the area of social and institutional studies of accounting, with a broad interest in the role of accounting and performance measurement in regulation and governance. She is a member of the editorial board of Accounting, Organizations and Society.

Michael Sauder is currently a Professor of Sociology at the University of Lowa and a COFUND Fellow at the Max-Weber-Kolleg in Erfurt, Germany. His current work explores the implicit rules that govern invocations of luck, especially in relation to inequality. He also has ongoing projects addressing the organizational effects of quantitative assessment, the diffusion of academic ideas, and how the nature of status hierarchies influences the distribution of status.

Iris Wallenburg is a Nurse and an Associate Professor at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Using insights from science & technology studies, public administration and human geography, her work focuses on the role of healthcare professionals in changing organizational and regulatory contexts, focusing on valuation practices. She is specifically interested in the use of metrics (including financial schemes) in organizing and providing healthcare and policy making. She has published on metrics and performance measurement in Public Administration, Journal of Health Economic Policy and Law, Journal of Health Organization and Management, Health Informatics Journal, and in the book Practising Comparison: Logics, Relations, Collaborations (Mattering Press). She is currently involved in (e)valuation projects on regionalization of care, nurse professionalization and COVID-19.

Tobias Werron is a Professor of Sociological Theory at Bielefeld University. His research interests include competition, nationalism, globalization, and practices of theorizing. In recent publications, he has explored competition as a social form and global phenomenon (e.g., “Global Publics as Catalysts of Global Competition: A Sociological View,” In V. Huber & J. Osterhammel (Eds.), Global Publics. Their Power and Their Limits, 1870–1990, Oxford 2020) and the interdisciplinary study of global social change (What in the World? Understanding Global Social Change, ed. with Mathias Albert, Bristol 2020). His articles have been published in journals such Sociologica, International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, Distinktion, Zeitschrift für Soziologie, and Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie.

Foreword: Research in the Sociology of Organizations

Research in the Sociology of Organizations (RSO) publishes cutting edge empirical research and theoretical papers that seek to enhance our understanding of organizations and organizing as pervasive and fundamental aspects of society and economy. We seek provocative papers that push the frontiers of current conversations, that help to revive old ones, or that incubate and develop new perspectives. Given its successes in this regard, RSO has become an impactful and indispensable fount of knowledge for scholars interested in organizational phenomena and theories. RSO is indexed and ranks highly in Scopus/SCImago as well as in the Academic Journal Guide published by the Chartered Association of Business schools.

As one of the most vibrant areas in the social sciences, the sociology of organizations engages a plurality of empirical and theoretical approaches to enhance our understanding of the varied imperatives and challenges that these organizations and their organizers face. Of course, there is a diversity of formal and informal organizations – from for-profit entities to non-profits, state and public agencies, social enterprises, communal forms of organizing, non-governmental associations, trade associations, publicly traded, family owned and managed, private firms – the list goes on! Organizations, moreover, can vary dramatically in size from small entrepreneurial ventures to large multi-national conglomerates to international governing bodies such as the United Nations.

Empirical topics addressed by Research in the Sociology of Organizations include: the formation, survival, and growth or organizations; collaboration and competition between organizations; the accumulation and management of resources and legitimacy; and how organizations or organizing efforts cope with a multitude of internal and external challenges and pressures. Particular interest is growing in the complexities of contemporary organizations as they cope with changing social expectations and as they seek to address societal problems related to corporate social responsibility, inequality, corruption and wrongdoing, and the challenge of new technologies. As a result, levels of analysis reach from the individual, to the organization, industry, community and field, and even the nation-state or world society. Much research is multi-level and embraces both qualitative and quantitative forms of data.

Diverse theory is employed or constructed to enhance our understanding of these topics. While anchored in the discipline of sociology and the field of management, Research in the Sociology of Organizations also welcomes theoretical engagement that draws on other disciplinary conversations – such as those in political science or economics, as well as work from diverse philosophical traditions. RSO scholarship has helped push forward a plethora theoretical conversations on institutions and institutional change, networks, practice, culture, power, inequality, social movements, categories, routines, organization design and change, configurational dynamics and many other topics.

Each volume of Research in the Sociology of Organizations tends to be thematically focused on a particular empirical phenomenon (e.g., creative industries, multinational corporations, entrepreneurship) or theoretical conversation (e.g., institutional logics, actors and agency, microfoundations). The series publishes papers by junior as well as leading international scholars, and embraces diversity on all dimensions. If you are scholar interested in organizations or organizing, I hope you find Research in the Sociology of Organizations to be an invaluable resource as you develop your work.

Professor Michael Lounsbury

Series Editor, Research in the Sociology of Organizations

Canada Research Chair in Entrepreneurship & Innovation

University of Alberta