Governance by Numbers: A Panopticon Reversed?

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Commentary | Open Access

Governance by Numbers: A Panopticon Reversed?

  • Julian Hamann Leibniz Center for Science and Society, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany

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Abstract:  This commentary is concerned with a specific form of power and discipline that is exerted through governance by numbers. Because of its many parallels to classical Foucauldian panopticism, governance based on numbers can be coined ‘numerocratic panopticism.’ Yet, going beyond similarities between classical and numerocratic panopticism, the commentary suggests three features specific to numerocratic panopticism that actually reverse characteristic traits of classical panopticism: In contrast to classical panopticism, numerocratic panopticism is multi-centered, non-spatial and open-purpose. Research on governance by numbers can benefit from a heuristic of panopticism if it considers both similarities and differences between classical and numerocratic panopticism.

Keywords:  discipline; dispositif; Foucault; numerocracy; panopticon; power; quantification; surveillance

Published:   9 April 2020


© Julian Hamann. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.