1st Edition

The Rise and Rise of Indicators
Their History and Geography

ISBN 9780415786812
Published June 3, 2019 by Routledge
254 Pages 142 B/W Illustrations

USD $46.95

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Book Description

This book makes indicators more accessible, in terms of what they are, who created them and how they are used. It examines the subjectivity and human frailty behind these quintessentially ‘hard’ and technical measures of the world.

To achieve this goal, The Rise and Rise of Indicators presents the world in terms of a selected set of indicators. The emphasis is upon the origins of the indicators and the motivation behind their creation and evolution. The ideas and assumptions behind the indicators are made transparent to demonstrate how changes to them can dramatically alter the ranking of countries that emerge. They are, after all, human constructs and thus embody human biases. The book concludes by examining the future of indicators and the author sets out some possible trajectories, including the growing emphasis on indicators as important tools in the Sustainable Development Goals that have been set for the world up until 2030.

This is a valuable resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students in the areas of economics, sociology, geography, environmental studies, development studies, area studies, business studies, politics and international relations.

Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations

Foreword: Triffids as indicators

1. The World in Numbers

2. Economic Indices

3. Human Development Index

4. Ecological Footprint

5. Environmental Performance Index

6. Poverty, Inequality and Vulnerability indices

7. Happy Planet Index

8. Corruption Perception Index

9. Seeking relationships

10. Where are we going?


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Stephen Morse is Chair in Systems Analysis for Sustainability at the University of Surrey, UK.


"Despite all good intentions indicators remain a tricky topic for students, policy makers and public alike, and are often subject to misinterpretation. This book deals with the most common indices which now are used, or should be used, by a range of disciplines but also often find their way in the media, in an attempt to compare countries, cultures, and life philosophies. The author is among the few internationally who knows the topic so well to be able to get through self-reflection, and beyond the technicalities, to the real essence of indices." -- Ioannis Vogiatzakis, Professor and Deputy Dean, School of Pure & Applied Sciences, Open University of Cyprus

"This book provides an excellent introduction to the history, context and purpose of many of the most widely used indices today. In doing so, it highlights the strength of each index as well as its weaknesses and the assumptions underlying it. Stephen Morse is an authority on indices and has published widely in this area. He writes in a clear and engaging manner that brings these indices to life and makes a technical subject accessible to all." -- Uma Kambhampati, Professor and Head of School, University of Reading, UK

"This book does a remarkable and admirable job of simplifying this complexity; Stephen Morse has provided a very valuable guide to indicators for the uninitiated. The book shows the wide spectrum of application of indicators, ranging from ecological to economic, to political and health fields, and touching in detail on some commonly-used composite indices. It covers theory and design aspects, but also offers very valuable reflections on the practice and use - or mis-use - of such indicators, as well as on future developments in this field. It is an instructive textbook that will successfully encourage students to reflect more critically and constructively on these widely-used measures. It is a very useful contribution to the literature and one which I will certainly be adopting for my courses." -- Louis F Cassar, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Earth Systems, University of Malta