Marion Fourcade and Kieran Healy, “Categories All the Way Down.” Historical Social Research (2017) 42:286-298, special issue on Markets and Classifications.

doi:10.12759/hsr.42.2017.1.286-296

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Scores and classifications are dual to one another. Cardinal and ordinal measures are repeatedly used to produce nominal classifications of essential worth. Conversely, presumptively natural kinds provide the basis for new measurement and scoring systems. Over time, the iterative application of nominal classifications and quantifying measures produce involuted, nested systems whose structure and origins are hard to disentangle. While careful studies of earlier systems and methods has often uncovered these arbitrary aspects, newer technical tools for classification are at once substantially more opaque than their predecessors and more likely to be employed on very large scales. The classification situations to which they give rise thus have the potential to produce the sort of naturalized facticity characteristic of classical social facts.


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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.

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