Call for papers: Metrics in environmental governance: Toward a critical analysis of accountability

Sponsors: RC40 (Agriculture and Food), RC23 (Science and Technology), RC24 (Environment and Society)

Proposal Coordinator: Steven Wolf (RC40)

Abstract & Justification
Analysis of metrics, and standards more generally, has emerged as an important focus within studies of environmental governance. Accountability is attracting increasing attention, as there is a need to address questions about material consequences as part of an effort to move beyond analysis of institutional design.

Heightened attention to metrics has accompanied increasing emphasis on market-based and outcome-based policy designs, but bureaucratic modes of governance have long been predicated on the specification of categories and systems of representation. Metrics can be understood as a resource for democratic accountability, and they can be instruments of authoritarian discipline at a distance. Metrics support empirical analysis and policy learning, but at the same time they obscure knowledge claims, technical uncertainty, and alternative problem definitions. This ambiguity demands attention. Analysis of the metrics of governance, and the governance of metrics, presents opportunities for theoretical and empirical engagement on questions of “Power, Violence, and Justice: Reflections, Responses, and Responsibilities”(2018 Theme).

This collaboration between three ISA Research Committees aims to realize topical, theoretical, and methodological synergies. Linkages between environment and agrifood production and consumption are highlighted in the biological and land-based nature of farming (inputs to agriculture) and by the negative implications of agriculture for water, biodiversity, and climate (outputs of agriculture). Attention to interdependence among discursive constructs, local action, political economic structures, and multiply-scaled material flows characterize both the sociology of environment and agrifood sociology. Science and Technology Studies has served to highlight the socially embedded nature of technical acts including promulgation of standards. Further, this field has championed a methodological commitment to analysis of (grounded, local, actor-centered) practice as a complement to production of overarching histories of design (abstract representations).

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