A world of standards but not a standard world: Toward a sociology of standards and standardization

Stefan Timmermans*, Steven Epstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

473 Scopus citations


Standards and standardization aim to render the world equivalent across cultures, time, and geography. Standards are ubiquitous but underappreciated tools for regulating and organizing social life in modernity, and they lurk in the background of many sociological works. Reviewing the relevance of standards and standardization in diverse theoretical traditions and sociological subfields, we point to the emergence and institutionalization of standards, the difficulties of making standards work, resistance to standardization, and the multiple outcomes of standards. Rather than associating standardization with totalizing narratives of globalization or dehumanization, we call for careful empirical analysis of the specific and unintended consequences of different sorts of standards operating in distinct social domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-89
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - 2010


  • economics
  • expertise and professionals
  • politics
  • science and technology
  • standard-setting organizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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