Numbers as utopia: Sustainable Development Goals and the making of quantified futures

Sotiria Grek*, Marlee Tichenor, Justyna Bandola-Gill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In this article, we argue that number-making is a mode of imagining political futures – not only futures that are probable but, crucially, futures that are desired. In this way, rather than simply a mode of ‘technicising’ policy challenges, quantification fleshes out the utopian dream of a better world. Global governance is faced with the paradox of, on one hand, the utopian aspiration of the Sustainable Development Goals to create a perfect world (free of poverty, inequality, diseases and climate disaster) and, on the other hand, the dystopian effects of inaction – both tracked carefully through a complex network of indicators. This article focuses on the materiality of the Sustainable Development Goals as a productive device through which a monitoring agenda such as the Sustainable Development Goals has become ever more influential and has led to the emergence of a global public policy space.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Early online date13 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Nov 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • global public policy
  • quantification
  • SDGs
  • utopia


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