The Evaluation Society

The Evaluation Society

The Evaluation Society

The Evaluation Society

Synopsis

Evaluation-whether called by this name, quality assurance, audit, accreditation, or others-is an important social activity. Any organization that "lives in public" must now evaluate its activities, be evaluated by others, or evaluate others. What are the origins of this wave of evaluation? And, what worthwhile results emerge from it?

The Evaluation Society argues that if we want to understand many of the norms, values, and expectations that we, sometimes unknowingly, bring to evaluation, we should explore how evaluation is demanded, formatted, and shaped by two great principles of social order: organization and society. With this understanding, we can more conscientiously participate in evaluation processes; better position ourselves to understand many of the mysteries, tensions, and paradoxes in evaluation; and use evaluation in a more informed way. After exploring the sociology and organization of evaluation in this landmark work, author Peter Dahler-Larsen concludes by discussing issues that are critical for the future of evaluation-as a discipline and a societal norm.

Excerpt

To analyze contemporary phenomena is always a Sisyphean challenge. The complexity of the unfolding social world is always greater than our attempts to understand it. The problem is not only complexity itself but our own embeddedness in it. As with all social science, it is like building a boat while being out on the open sea. This problem is especially applicable to our current wave of evaluation, which is comprehensive, uneven, complex, dynamic, and at the same time close to us as a part of the society in which we live.

In this English edition, the material has been revised so that it is internationally illustrative and does not require special knowledge of Danish conditions. The revision and updating of Den Rituelle Reflektion has in fact been the creation of a genuinely new book.

English-speaking readers are invited to consider the idea that not all books in the English language are written from an Anglo-Saxon perspective. Translation is more than a translation of words. For example, I would write that “environments demand” or “institutions think,” whereas some would argue that only individuals can demand and think. The differences involved here are related not only to language but to differences in theoretical paradigms.

Books, like movies, are organized in different ways. Some movies have a very clear plot, and the camera focuses on a gun on the table for a long time to show that it plays a key role in the plot. By the end of the movie, we know who the killer was, we are relieved, and we stop thinking. Other movies are complex and winding and mysterious. Some figures have an . . .

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