The Tyranny of Metrics (Jerry Muller)

Much has been written about the general shift over to data, quantification and metrics across contemporary society. As Jerry Muller (2018) writes in ‘The Tyranny of Metrics’, the idea of quantifying human ‘performance’ and publicising the results a key element of education, healthcare, policing, business and government sectors.Indeed, Muller has a whole chapter dedicated to university metrics, and another on how school systems around the world have been subject to a ‘doubling down on data’

Throughout these discussions, Muller is careful to stress the value of metrics as a complement to professional judgement and other real-life indicators. Yet he also points to the ease with which people slip into metric-driven behaviours – working in ways to influence the measurements –  be it government officials striving to “game the stats” or educators finding themselves ‘teaching to the test’. As Muller (2018, p.3) concludes:

“what can and does get measured is not always worth measuring, may not be what we really want to know, and may draw effort away from the things we care about”.



Muller, J.  (2018). The Tyranny of Metrics. Princeton University Press