Inderscience Publishers

Political uses of social indicators: overview and application to sustainable development indicators

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Social indicators and sustainable development are usually defined as quantitative tools whose utility lies exclusively in the operationalisation of policies defined as rationally organised collections of instrumental measures and actions designed to solve a well-defined social problem. As there are few examples of such success stories with sustainable development indicators, it is often lamented that they have failed to keep their promises. Yet, the sustainable development indicators industry is more prosperous than ever, and indicators such as the Ecological Footprint have gained wide support. This can be explained only by adopting a broader conception of policy making and of the role that indicators have to play. This paper builds on Hilgartner and Bosk's theory of public arenas, on the argumentative turn in public policy, and on the history of the unemployment rate in USA as a case study to analyse the current situation and the prospects for sustainable development indicators.

Keywords: social indicators, policy making, public arenas, sustainable development, unemployment rate, ecological footprint, public policy, sustainability

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