Das Unbehagen an der Ordinalisierung

Translated title of the contribution: Ordinality and its Discontents

Alex V. Barnard, Marion Fourcade

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Although a rich literature examines struggles between social actors about the content and deployment of categories across institutional domains, we argue that there are also conflicts about underlying metalevel principles of how to carry out the classification process. Following Fourcade (2016), we identify three such principles: nominal typologies, cardinal counts, and ordinal rankings. We argue that contemporary societies are marked by a general logic of “ordinalization” as identities become more fluid, actuarial methods generalize widely, and politics is polarized on a single left–right axis. This process is uneven and contested, however. The continued relevance of nominal groupings (race is a prime example), social resistance against commensuration, and a populist “cardinal revolt” that celebrates the legitimacy of simple numerical majorities represent different, and more or less explicit, forms of discontent with the progress of an ordinalized modernity. Approaching classification in this way provides a framework for characterizing social change and cross-national differences in terms of the classes of classifications that societies set in motion.

    Translated title of the contributionOrdinality and its Discontents
    Original languageGerman
    Pages (from-to)113-135
    Number of pages23
    JournalKolner Zeitschrift fur Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie
    StatePublished - Aug 2021


    • Categories
    • Classification
    • Numbers
    • Social theory
    • Typologies

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Sociology and Political Science


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