1 Department of Economics and Business - Business Studies, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 Department of Business Studies, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University3 Accounting Research Centre - ARC, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University4 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University5 ESSEC Business School6 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
For the last decades management has been increasingly pervading all aspects of social life.Thus performance management systems have spread in sectors in which they were previously underdeveloped (for instance, universities, hospitals and more generally public sector; cultural institutions or not‐for‐profit organizations) involving the measurement and reporting of subjective phenomena such as knowledge, service, friendliness or customer satisfaction, which to a high extent are a matter of emotions and feelings. Correlatively the concepts of performance, efficiency and accountability have diffused as legitimate qualities of social activity, with the help of a whole range of discourses, among which numbers play a central part. The aim of this communication is (i) to show how such processes are now reaching a domain of life which hitherto appeared preserved from managerialism and accounting – love; and (ii) to analyse the role of discourse in this processes, the outcome of which is a marketable and governable lover. Today indeed most dating websites, which have turned out to be common ways to find a partner, propose matching partners to love candidates. Our analysis is based on the UK website datingdirectaffinity.com which, under another name (meeticaffinity), is present in many other countries. It deconstructs two types of discourse produced by the website: first, the discourses of the website itself, revealing the ideology forming the basis of the love market, and second the discourses that translate persons into “products”. Our analysis shows that the website discourse (front page, photographs, advices, etc.) articulates romance and efficiency with a constant but surface reference to established psychology models or experts. The process of translating persons into products begins with the completion of a very comprehensive questionnaire, including more than a hundred questions asking about personal values and tastes (hobbies, sports, music, etc.), social behaviours and views about partnership and love. The questionnaire also collects behaviours and partnership views expected from the ideal partner. Drawing on these data, various “accounts” of the persons are then produced, most of them being made publicly visible to all web users. “Affinity scores” are quantitative accounts (percentages) measuring affinity in different domains with potential partners (actually all other web users who can be potential partners). There is a high level of opacity surrounding the process. First, users are not told in advance which of their answers (actually almost all of them) will be made publicly visible. Second, although some reasonable guesses can be made about how some accounts are produced, the process of transformation cannot be fully illuminated. The love market is thus organised along various qualitative and quantitative discourses. Persons are turned into accounts and beyond, products that can be categorised and compared by potential “buyers”. This discourse is fully consistent with the one of efficiency made in the other parts of the website. Lovers are thus made not only accountable and marketable but also governable since their view on potential partners is framed by the categories and accounts defined by the website. To a certain extent they can also engage in self‐presentational strategies likely to enhance their marketability. This analysis shows how managerialism has invaded all domains of social life, including highly subjective ones ‐ that at first sight appeared the most reluctant to objectification, categorisation and measurement.