The uses of quantification: power and resistance. The example of unemployment statistics
For many years, unemployment has regularly headed the list of French people’s concerns. Equally regularly and persistently, publication of the unemployment statistics has punctuated, even governed, political and social debate in France. This debate becomes particularly vigorous during election periods, with political decision-makers having made the fight against unemployment one of their principal objectives and hence one of the main factors in determining their political legitimacy. In this chapter we are concerned with the uses of unemployment statistics and the debates and disputes triggered by their publication. The analysis focuses on the initiative launched by the Autres chiffres du chômage (ACDC) group during the 2007 presidential campaign. Following a brief summary of the general features of French unemployment statistics, several significant episodes during which these statistics have attracted criticism and triggered disputes are outlined. Thus it is shown that the action taken by the ACDC group belongs to a tradition of resistance that has seen various actors (trade unionists, campaigners from the voluntary sector and academics) voice their opposition to certain uses (or abuses) of the unemployment statistics, particularly by public decision-makers.
KeywordsUnemployment Rate Trade Union Voluntary Sector Political Legitimacy Unemployment Statistic
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