essential component o the rationalization and modernization o government.And a number o students have indeed approached the growth o the state’sinormation-gathering activities and the success met by statisticians rom a morecritical stance, or instance through the Foucault-inspired lens o statistics as aorm o ‘surveillance’ or ‘control’ and as a technique o ‘governing at a distance’,or with the aid o Bourdieu’s concepts o ‘eld’ and ‘habitus’.
It has in act been a characteristic o many o these contributions to try tocombine more closely the two meanings o the word ‘statistics’, that is statisticsas a set o ormal and technical tools (rom averages and various indexes to prob-ability calculus) and statistics as series o numbers produced and made public ina given social and political ramework (drawn, or instance, rom vital statisticsor the census) and showing, as a result, that social and political concerns have played a decisive part in shaping and inorming the nature and character o whatare ordinarily portrayed as basically scientic or technical devices, and that, atthe same time, institutions and, more generally, the state have themselves been partly reshaped according to the constraints and perspectives that such instru-ments embodied. Te activity o statisticians (those who evolve mainly withinthe relatively insulated sphere o the academy as well as those who are involvedin the more murky world o government and public administration) cannot beinterpreted in (their own) technical terms o error reduction and ever closerapproximation o a pre-existing ‘reality’, but it cannot either be described plainly in terms o operations designed to conceal or ‘manuacture’ that reality. Statisticsmust rather be envisioned as a political–cognitive space within which politicalissues, problems or demands are the object o some orm and degree o technicalconversion or translation – in the linguistic, administrative as well as geometri-cal meaning o this last word – and thus take on a new consistence that allowsor other, more narrowly dened ways o discussing them and, in many cases, o managing them. As representative o the ruitulness o this approach, we may mention Alain Desrosières’s concept o ‘quantication’, which, by contrast withthe natural science-based notion o measurement, enhances the importance o ‘convention’ (as in ‘social conventions’, but also as understanding, agreement orcovenant) among concerned parties when they choose to resort to the languageo numbers.
But equally seminal have been Ian Hacking’s notion o ‘making up people’, as exemplied by the ‘poverty line’ and the very concrete efects thisconstruct has had on the ate o the ‘poor’,
or Teodore Porter’s work on the riseo ‘mechanical objectivity’ and the use certain proessional groups made o it inorder to consolidate their position in the social division o labour.
Te hybrid character o statistics that comes or the intertwinement betweenthe state, as capacity to mobilize the means and impose compliance, and sci-ence, as supplier o devices and techniques to ormat, process and interpret theinormation extracted, testies to the simultaneously political and cognitive