The Metrics Syndrome: Cultural Scientism and Its Discontents

  • Arlene Goldbard
Part of the New Directions in Cultural Policy Research book series (NDCPR)


Here, in the United States, the old paradigm is ‘Datastan’, the empire of scientism. I use the term ‘scientism’ as E.F. Schumacher did, to describe the inappropriate application of methods and approaches from natural science to, for instance, the human subject, as if human beings were minerals or gases (Schumacher 1977). In his 1992 E.F. Schumacher Lecture, ‘Environmental literacy: education as if the Earth mattered’, at the Center for New Economics, David Orr, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, described its roots succinctly:

The architects of the modern worldview, notably Galileo and Descartes, assumed that those things that could be weighed, measured, and counted were more true than those that could not be quantified. If it couldn’t be counted, in other words, it didn’t count.


Cultural Development Cultural Landscape Cultural Policy Cultural Participation National Endowment 
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© Arlene Goldbard 2015

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  • Arlene Goldbard

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