Rankings: Conceptual remarks


  • Tobias Werron Universität Bielefeld
  • Leopold Ringel Universität Bielefeld


Rankings, Vergleich, Konkurrenz, Transparenz


The paper discusses conceptual basics of a comparative perspective on rankings. The main aim is not to advocate a particular sociological theory but to provide a conceptual framework for a discussion on rankings across the established theoretical and empirical camps in the social science literature. For this purpose, we define rankings as the interplay of four elements: (1) zero-sum comparison, (2) quantification, (3) visualization, and (4) publication. While distinguishing these elements analytically, we also argue that it is the particular way in which rankings combine these elements that is at the heart of modern rankings. In short, for the social operation ranking to exist and succeed, all of these elements have to work together and be institutionalized in societal fields. This definition allows for a wide array of possible combinations, theoretically as well as empirically.


Tobias Werron, Universität Bielefeld

Tobias Werron ist Professor für Soziologische Theorie und Allgemeine Soziologie im Arbeitsbereich Soziologische Theorie an der Universität Bielefeld.

Leopold Ringel, Universität Bielefeld

Leopold Ringel ist akademischer Rat auf Zeit im Arbeitsbereich Soziologische Theorie an der Universität Bielefeld.


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Ad-Hoc: Rankings – historisch-soziologisch gesehen