Academic article

The Rankings Game: A Relational Approach to Country Performance Indicators

Published: 9 Aug 2021
Summary:

As the number of international rankings has risen dramatically since the 1990s, a large body of scholarship has emerged to examine and understand them. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of this body of work and to chart out fruitful directions for future research. In short, prior scholarship has been surprisingly quiet on the relations among multiple actors and their economic dimensions at the core of country performance indicator (CPI) activities. To foreground crucial socioeconomic relations, we develop a relational heuristic based upon a sports analogy: the actors involved in the creation and maintenance of CPIs can fruitfully be approached as a complex of players, referees, coaches, and audiences. Such an account helps us better understand how CPIs emerge and are sustained, even when they rely on dodgy data and their effects are perverse. We use nation brand rankings—overlooked in international relations research—as empirical illustration.