How Numbers Rule the World

The Use and Abuse of Statistics in Global Politics

Lorenzo Fioramonti


A revealing analysis of the power, politicization and domination of our everyday lives by numbers
Numbers dominate global politics and, as a result, our everyday lives. Credit ratings steer financial markets and can make or break the future of entire nations. GDP drives our economies. Stock market indices flood our media and national debates. Statistical calculations define how we deal with climate change, poverty and sustainability. But what is behind these numbers?

In How Numbers Rule the World, Lorenzo Fioramonti reveals the hidden agendas underpinning the use of statistics and those who control them. Most worryingly, he shows how numbers have been used as a means to reinforce the grip of markets on our social and political life, curtailing public participation and rational debate.

An innovative and timely exposé of the politics, power and contestation of numbers.

Author Bio

Lorenzo Fioramonti (@globalreboot) is associate professor and Jean Monnet chair in regional integration and governance studies at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, where he directs the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation. He is also senior fellow at the Centre for Social Investment of the University of Heidelberg and at the Hertie School of Governance, Germany, as well as associate fellow at the United Nations University. He is the author of several books about development policies, global and regional governance, alternative economies and social progress indicators, including Gross Domestic Problem: The Politics Behind the World's Most Powerful Number (Zed Books, 2013). He blogs at

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: The politics of statistics
  • 1. The power of numbers
  • 2. New global rulers: the untameable power of credit rating
  • 3. Fiddling while the planet burns: the marketization of climate change
  • 4. Measuring the unmeasurable: the financialization of nature
  • 5. Numbers for good? The quest for aid effectiveness and social impact
  • Conclusion: Rethinking numbers, rethinking governance


'Lorenzo Fioramonti has written an urgent and highly accessible book, showing just how over-reliant our governance systems are on misleading numbers, which support market power and blur our understanding of the world. And it is also a better and more compelling read than exactly 95.4% of all other important books!'
David Boyle, author of The Tyranny of Numbers

'This book is a thoughtful political economic analysis of how our fates have come to be determined by a few numbers, and how these numbers have been shaped by a few people. If we want a vibrant and responsive politics, we’ll need to know where it has been enclosed by the world's powerful accountants. Fioramonti’s book provides an excellent map.'
Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democrac

'Read How Numbers Rule the World and become an expert yourself.'
Susan George, author of Whose Crisis, Whose Future?


Publication Date: 16 January 2014
280 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781780322674
Hardback: 9781780322681
eBook ePub: 9781780322704
eBook PDF: 9781780322698
eBook Kindle: 9781780322711

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