The Power of Performance Indicators: Rankings, Ratings and Reactivity in International Relations

38 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014

Date Written: 2014


Global Performance Indicators (GPIs) are increasingly used to rank, rate or categorize states in a number of issue areas. Many of these new indicators are short-lived efforts to grab attention and are unlikely to matter much. But we believe there are good reasons to think that some GPIs affect important areas of state policy. Indeed, we argue that GPIs should be thought of increasingly as tools of global governance, involving rule-making and the exercise of soft power on a global scale and that their proliferation constitutes a profound social trend with implications for governance world-wide and reflects the diversity of actors and institutions attempting to influence policies across and among states. This article defines what we mean by global performance indicators, and describes their features. Using a new dataset and a series of interviews with producers of various indices, we document the proliferation of GPIs, which have been developed and promulgated by a wide range of actors, both public and private; unilaterally and multilaterally. We then elaborate possible causal mechanisms that we expect to connect externally generated GPIs with state policy, and hypothesize about the scope conditions for their effects.

Keywords: global governance, soft power, shaming, international relations, global governance indicators, indices

Suggested Citation

Kelley, Judith Green and Simmons, Beth A., The Power of Performance Indicators: Rankings, Ratings and Reactivity in International Relations (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Judith Green Kelley

Duke University ( email )

Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Beth A. Simmons (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
7817990076 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics