Marion Fourcade presents at Frontiers in Sociology Colloquium

March 26, 2024

Berkeley sociologist Marion Fourcade presented at the Frontiers in Sociology Colloquium on Tuesday, March 26. 

The title of her talk was "Political Economy of the Ordinal Society," based on her new book co-authored with Kieran Healy. 

We live in an ordinal society. Today, the personal data we give in exchange for convenient tools like Gmail and Instagram provides the raw material for predictions about everything from our purchasing power to our character. Fueled by digital technologies, the infrastructure of the internet, and the rapid expansion of computer processing power, scores and metrics pervade our lives--streamlining and automating processes of communication, risk prediction, resource allocation, transaction, labor control and decision-making. In The Ordinal Society (forthcoming, Harvard University Press, April 2024) Kieran Healy and I show how algorithmic predictions not only influence people’s life chances but also generate new forms of capital and social expectation: nobody wants to ride with an unrated cab driver anymore or rent to a tenant without a risk score. As members of this society embrace metrics and rankings in their daily lives, new forms of social competition and moral judgment arise. Familiar structures of social advantage are recycled into measures of merit that produce insidious kinds of social inequality. This talk focuses on the book’s economic chapters. We show that the disaggregation of labor, services, and products into data streams transforms how all corporations generate revenues and facilitates a deeper integration of financial logics into everyday life.