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Ranking the World


  • 36 b/w illus. 7 tables
  • Page extent: 256 pages
  • Size: 229 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.38 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9781107484122)

Over the last decade, international rankings have emerged as a critical tool used by international actors engaged in global governance. State practices and performance are now judged by a number of high-profile indices, including assessments of their levels of corruption, quality of democracy, creditworthiness, media freedom, and business environment. However, these rankings always carry value judgments, methodological choices, and implicit political agendas. This volume expertly addresses the important analytical, normative, and policy issues associated with the contemporary practice of 'grading states'. The chapters explore how rankings affect our perceptions of state performance, how states react to being ranked, why some rankings exert more global influence than others, and how states have come to strategize and respond to these public judgments. The book also critically examines how treating state rankings like popular consumer choice indices may actually lead policymakers to internalize questionable normative assumptions and lead to poorer, not improved, public policy outcomes.

• The first political science book to address the growing practice and politics of international rankings of states by international organizations and NGOs • Places the rankings phenomenon within broader discussions of global governance in international relations • Discusses the rankings issue from both rationalist and sociological IR perspectives, and questions the value of rankings as effective public policy instruments


1. The emerging politics of international rankings and ratings: a framework for analysis Alexander Cooley; 2. Just who put you in charge? We did: CRAs and the politics of ratings Rawi Abdelal and Mark Blyth; 3. Corruption rankings: constructing and contesting the global anti-corruption agenda Mlada Bukovansky; 4. Measuring stateness, ranking political orders: indices of state fragility and state failure Nehal Bhuta; 5. Lost in the gray zone: competing measures of democracy in the former Soviet republics Seva Gunitsky; 6. Winning the rankings game: the Republic of Georgia, USAID, and the Doing Business Project Sam Schueth; 7. Conclusion. Rating the ratings craze: from consumer choice to public policy outcomes Jack Snyder and Alexander Cooley.


'Ranking the World is a truly unique contribution - the 'top ranked' book of its kind since I cannot think of another quite like it. It is a must read for anyone interested in the increasingly important politics of rankings in international relations.' Peter Andreas, John Hay Professor of Political Science and International Studies, Brown University, Rhode Island

'Since the 1970s, ratings and rankings have become an ever-present feature of life in most developed and transitional societies. These ubiquitous measures reflect the 'powerful allure of the technocratic model of policy evaluation and performance accountability', write the editors of this outstanding collection of chapters unearthing the dark underbelly of ratings politics. Covering democracy, state failure, corruption, press freedom and investment, the various authors argue forcefully that, despite their methodological flaws, systematic biases and susceptibility to manipulation, ratings and rankings now cause political and economic change as much as reflect it. The use of simplistic numerical grades as substitutes for informed debate about policy priorities and effectiveness, outlined in this highly original and important book, should concern us all.' Stephen Hopgood, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London


Alexander Cooley, Rawi Abdelal, Mark Blyth, Mlada Bukovansky, Nehal Bhuta, Seva Gunitsky, Sam Schueth, Jack Snyder

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