Metrics – the moral code of a sourly reductive managerial culture– are the means to make sure that professionals’ working conditions should more and more correspond to the alienated, insecure, hollowed-out working conditions of so many other members of society. There was a time when the authorities had to deploy squadrons of mounted dragoons to quell the unruly mob. Now they just set them quarterly sales targets. Spreadsheet capitalism is much more effective than old-style ruling class repression, not least because it pulls off the conjuring trick of seeming to give priority to individual agency while in fact subordinating everyone to supposedly impersonal market forces. At bottom, performance metrics operate through a culture of fear, but one in which the arbitrary whim of a lord or master has been replaced with the terrifying implacability of a row of figures. ‘I’m sorry, John, your numbers aren’t good enough, we’ll have to let you go.’ The metric fixation is an attempt to extend that mechanism to activities that cannot be reduced to the equivalent of sales figures.
– Stefan Collini, London Review of Books, Nov. 2018