Published by the University of Chicago Press
Edited by Christopher Newfield, Anna Alexandrova, and Stephen John
This collection examines the uses of quantification in climate science, higher education, and health.
Numbers are both controlling and fragile. They drive public policy, figuring into everything from college rankings to vaccine efficacy rates. At the same time, they are frequent objects of obfuscation, manipulation, or outright denial. This timely collection by a diverse group of humanists and social scientists challenges undue reverence or skepticism toward quantification and offers new ideas about how to harmonize quantitative with qualitative forms of knowledge.
Limits of the Numerical focuses on quantification in several contexts: climate change; university teaching and research; and health, medicine, and well-being more broadly. This volume shows the many ways that qualitative and quantitative approaches can productively interact—how the limits of the numerical can be overcome through equitable partnerships with historical, institutional, and philosophical analysis. The authors show that we can use numbers to hold the powerful to account, but only when those numbers are themselves democratically accountable.