The economy, expertise, and the geography of statistics

Authors: Russell Prince*, Massey University
Topics: Political Geography, Economic Geography, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: expertise, economics, technocracy, state, national accounts, statistical knowledge, calculative knowledge, governmentality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Cleveland 2, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Statistics have long been central to a state’s capacities, reach and potential. The development of the System of National Accounts for example, which introduced such now-familiar statistical indicators as gross domestic product (GDP), was a culmination of the growing importance of statistical knowledge to the work of government in the middle of the twentieth century. It stabilised the idea of ‘the economy’ as a measurable sphere that could and should expand, and inaugurated a new regime of expert technocrats for managing this growth who were central to the economic and political geographies that emerged postwar. Most histories of statistics, including economic statistics, however, tend to be geographically thin. While they emphasise the different statistical traditions and institutions that exist in different countries, they pay little attention to the ways that statistical knowledge links places together and allow and enable new kinds of circulations. They also tend to focus on the intellectual work of statistics while neglecting the labour involved in building material networks for collecting and circulating data. Studying statistics from outside of its apparent intellectual heartlands of Europe and North America allows for the consideration of how statistics makes its way geographically, and how it makes geographies in doing so.

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