In This Review

Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance
Ranking the World: Grading States as a Tool of Global Governance
Edited by Alexander Cooley and Jack Snyder
Cambridge University Press, 2015, 256 pp

Recent decades have seen a boom in rankings and ratings schemes developed by private groups, international organizations, and governments to measure and evaluate the performance of states in areas such as human development, democracy, hunger, environmental performance, media freedom, economic openness, corruption, and human rights. In this fascinating volume, Cooley, Snyder, and their contributors interpret this phenomenon as part of a broader neoliberal desire to develop tools for governmental evaluation and accountability; the result is that expanding global governance networks and transnational advocacy groups have turned to metrics to aid their normative and social agendas. One particularly interesting chapter looks at the role that credit-rating agencies have played in recent crises in the eurozone, showing how these agencies not only measure performance but also establish market conventions and trigger points. Other chapters explore the way that rankings focused on corruption and state failure have influenced evolving international norms. But as Snyder trenchantly argues in the conclusion, these indexes and scorecards, although intended as catalysts for transparency and accountability, are often simplistic, laden with normative biases, and easily misused.