Trust in Numbers

The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life

Trust in Numbers

This investigation of the overwhelming appeal of quantification in the modern world discusses the development of cultural meanings of objectivity over two centuries. How are we to account for the current prestige and power of quantitative methods? The usual answer is that quantification is seen as desirable in social and economic investigation as a result of its successes in the study of nature. Theodore Porter is not content with this. Why should the kind of success achieved in the study of stars, molecules, or cells be an attractive model for research on human societies? he asks. And, indeed, how should we understand the pervasiveness of quantification in the sciences of nature? In his view, we should look in the reverse direction: comprehending the attractions of quantification in business, government, and social research will teach us something new about its role in psychology, physics, and medicine. Drawing on a wide range of examples from the laboratory and from the worlds of accounting, insurance, cost-benefit analysis, and civil engineering, Porter shows that it is "exactly wrong" to interpret the drive for quantitative rigor as inherent somehow in the activity of science except where political and social pressures force compromise. Instead, quantification grows from attempts to develop a strategy of impersonality in response to pressures from outside. Objectivity derives its impetus from cultural contexts, quantification becoming most important where elites are weak, where private negotiation is suspect, and where trust is in short supply.

Trust in Numbers

The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life

Trust in Numbers

This investigation of the overwhelming appeal of quantification in the modern world discusses the development of cultural meanings of objectivity over two centuries. How are we to account for the current prestige and power of quantitative methods? The usual answer is that quantification is seen as desirable in social and economic investigation as a result of its successes in the study of nature. Theodore Porter is not content with this. Why should the kind of success achieved in the study of stars, molecules, or cells be an attractive model for research on human societies? he asks. And, indeed, how should we understand the pervasiveness of quantification in the sciences of nature? In his view, we should look in the reverse direction: comprehending the attractions of quantification in business, government, and social research will teach us something new about its role in psychology, physics, and medicine. Drawing on a wide range of examples from the laboratory and from the worlds of accounting, insurance, cost-benefit analysis, and civil engineering, Porter shows that it is "exactly wrong" to interpret the drive for quantitative rigor as inherent somehow in the activity of science except where political and social pressures force compromise. Instead, quantification grows from attempts to develop a strategy of impersonality in response to pressures from outside. Objectivity derives its impetus from cultural contexts, quantification becoming most important where elites are weak, where private negotiation is suspect, and where trust is in short supply.

Theological Hermeneutics and the Book of Numbers as Christian Scripture

Theological Hermeneutics and the Book of Numbers as Christian Scripture

How should Christian readers of scripture hold appropriate and constructive tensions between exegetical, critical, hermeneutical, and theological concerns? This book seeks to develop the current lively discussion of theological hermeneutics by taking an extended test case, the book of Numbers, and seeing what it means in practice to hold all these concerns together. In the process the book attempts to reconceive the genre of "commentary" by combining focused attention to the details of the text with particular engagement with theological and hermeneutical concerns arising in and through the interpretive work. The book focuses on the main narrative elements of Numbers 11–25, although other passages are included (Numbers 5, 6, 33). With its mix of genres and its challenging theological perspectives, Numbers offers a range of difficult cases for traditional Christian hermeneutics. Briggs argues that the Christian practice of reading scripture requires engagement with broad theological concerns, and brings into his discussion Frei, Auerbach, Barth, Ricoeur, Volf, and many other biblical scholars. The book highlights several key formational theological questions to which Numbers provides illuminating answers: What is the significance and nature of trust in God? How does holiness (mediated in Numbers through the priesthood) challenge and redefine our sense of what is right, or "fair"? To what extent is it helpful to conceptualize life with God as a journey through a wilderness, of whatever sort? Finally, short of whatever promised land we may be, what is the context and role of blessing?

Safety in Numbers

Nurse-to-Patient Ratios and the Future of Health Care

Safety in Numbers

Legally mandated nurse-to-patient ratios are one of the most controversial topics in health care today. Ratio advocates believe that minimum staffing levels are essential for quality care, better working conditions, and higher rates of RN recruitment and retention that would alleviate the current global nursing shortage. Opponents claim that ratios will unfairly burden hospital budgets, while reducing management flexibility in addressing patient needs. Safety in Numbers is the first book to examine the arguments for and against ratios. Utilizing survey data, interviews, and other original research, Suzanne Gordon, John Buchanan, and Tanya Bretherton weigh the cost, benefits, and effectiveness of ratios in California and the state of Victoria in Australia, the two places where RN staffing levels have been mandated the longest. They show how hospital cost cutting and layoffs in the 1990s created larger workloads and deteriorating conditions for both nurses and their patients-leading nursing organizations to embrace staffing level regulation. The authors provide an in-depth account of the difficult but ultimately successful campaigns waged by nurses and their allies to win mandated ratios. Safety in Numbers then reports on how nurses, hospital administrators, and health care policymakers handled ratio implementation. With at least fourteen states in the United States and several other countries now considering staffing level regulation, this balanced assessment of the impact of ratios on patient outcomes and RN job performance and satisfaction could not be timelier. The authors' history and analysis of the nurse-to-patient ratios debate will be welcomed as an invaluable guide for patient advocates, nurses, health care managers, public officials, and anyone else concerned about the quality of patient care in the United States and the world.

Criminalization, Representation, Regulation

Thinking Differently about Crime

Criminalization, Representation, Regulation

What is a crime and how do we construct it? The answers to these questions are complex and entangled in a web of power relations that require us to think differently about processes of criminalization and regulation. This book draws on Foucault's concept of governmentality as a lens to analyze and critique how crime is understood, reproduced, and challenged. It explores the dynamic interplay between practices of representation, processes of criminalization, and the ways that these circulate to both reflect and constitute crime and "justice."

Safety in Numbers

Safer Sex and Gay Men

Safety in Numbers

Gay men remain the group primarily affected by the AIDS epidemic in most industrialized countries. Although governments and AIDS organizations increasingly stress the dangers of a heterosexual HIV epidemic, it is gay men who are still bearing the brunt of the crisis. Safety in Numbers provides a comprehensive overview of safer sex education for gay men. Edward King offers a critical analysis of the systematic downplaying of the involvement of gay men in the HIV epidemic and demonstrates conclusively how those at greatest risk form HIV have become the most neglected. By looking back over the successes of groups such as Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP Safety in Numbers provides an accessible and essential guide to meeting current and future needs in the fight against AIDS.

Emotions in Finance

Booms, Busts and Uncertainty

Emotions in Finance

"Money is a promise with future benefits or dangers that can never, because unknowable, be calculated. The financial sector is driven to beat this uncertainty by speculating on whether prices will rise or fall. No matter how often the folly of this behaviour is demonstrated through crisis after crisis, this attempt to defeat uncertainty persists. Yet uncertainty is unavoidable. Squeezed in one place, it emerges in another. Based on extensive interviews with leading actors in the financial markets, this book argues that the only way to face uncertainty is with emotions and values. It presents an original explanation of how booms and busts arise from internal disputes over trust between financial corporations. Just as the first edition warned prophetically of the dangers of excessive faith in the rationality of financial market behaviour, this new edition provides a sociological explanation of how this contributed to the recent financial crisis"--

Statistics and the Public Sphere

Numbers and the People in Modern Britain, c. 1800-2000

Statistics and the Public Sphere

Contemporary public life in Britain would be unthinkable without the use of statistics and statistical reasoning. Numbers dominate political discussion, facilitating debate while also attracting criticism on the grounds of their veracity and utility. However, the historical role and place of statistics within Britain’s public sphere has yet to receive the attention it deserves. There exist numerous histories of both modern statistical reasoning and the modern public sphere; but to date, there are no works which, quite pointedly, aim to analyse the historical entanglement of the two. Statistics and the Public Sphere: Numbers and the People in Modern Britain, c.1800-2000 directly addresses this neglected area of historiography, and in so doing places the present in some much needed historical perspective.

Philosophy of Social Science

A New Introduction

Philosophy of Social Science

This is a much-needed new introduction to a field that has been transformed in recent years by exciting new subjects, ideas, and methods. It is designed both for students with central interests in philosophy and those planning to concentrate on the social sciences, and it presupposes no particular background in either domain. From the wide range of topics at the forefront of debate in philosophy of social science, the editors have chosen those which are representative of the most important and interesting contemporary work. A team of distinguished experts explore key aspects of the field such as social ontology (what are the things that social science studies?), objectivity, formal methods, measurement, and causal inference. Also included are chapters focused on notable subjects of social science research, such as well-being and climate change. Philosophy of Social Science provides a clear, accessible, and up-to-date guide to this fascinating field.