The normativity of numbers in aid conditionality
(University of Edinburgh)
Paper short abstract:
Aid conditionality relies on a characteristic normativity of numbers fusing legal and economic technologies. My analysis traces attempts to govern at a distance by inserting data collection and processing technologies into the legal and political order of countries receiving development assistance.
Paper long abstract:
Aid conditionality relies on a characteristic normativity of numbers fusing legal and economic technologies. My analysis of loan documents signed between the international financial institutions and African governments traces attempts to govern at a distance by inserting data collection and processing technologies into the legal and political order of countries receiving development assistance. The legal construction of loan agreements, letters of intent, collection of numbers and systems of management and control provides a revealing perspective on national sovereignty and ownership. Numbers can acquire normativity in two ways: on the one hand, numbers can function directly as norms and, on the other hand, the introduction of specific data collection and processing systems might be set as condition. My paper will discuss the various aspects of the normativity of numbers focusing on World Bank and IMF conditionality as well as the ruses and tactics employed by human agents operating the systems of control and auditing. The normativity of numbers thus reproduces state sovereignty as the foundation of development assistance and ensures standardized self-government in countries subject to aid conditionality. Although on paper the level of control and self-control is impressive the human agents operating these systems prove to be perfectly capable to evade or avoid efforts to govern by numbers as recent events in Malawi exemplify, where a major corruption scandal is linked to information technology introduced as conditionality.
Governing by numbers: audit culture, rankings and the New World (Re)order