Performance is Political

John Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Performance management is usually presented as a technical tool to monitor policies and programmes. Performance indicators are presented as neutral and as having been developed in pursuit of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. According to this approach, if properly conceptualised and constructed, performance indicators illuminate the extent to which agencies or services are achieving goals and provide accountability. In contrast, understanding performance indicators as political requires examination of their social as well as their technical aspects. From this perspective, the effectiveness of an indicator as a means to measure performance is not as important as other roles, such as embedding policy and shaping practice. Accordingly, performance management represents a significant technology of control over social work. It acts as a powerful determinant of which forms of practice are approved by deciding which of them are drawn into the accountability framework and are therefore authorised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-160
Number of pages12
JournalCritical and Radical Social Work
Issue number1
Early online date20 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Sociology and Political Science
  • managerialism
  • performance measurement
  • neoliberalism
  • performance indicators
  • performance management


Dive into the research topics of 'Performance is Political'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this