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Travelling with the GDP through early development economics’ history

Speich, Daniel (2008) Travelling with the GDP through early development economics’ history. Working papers on the nature of evidence: how well do 'facts' travel? (33/08). Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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In the vast body of development theoretical knowledge one element has been of a considerable longevity: the abstraction of a Gross Domestic Product to represent a given economic entity. This paper suggests approaching the history of development thinking by travelling with the GDP through this discourse. The GDP has been contested as an indicator of economic development ever since it was first put to use in the 1940s. However, the specific mode of knowledge which is expressed in this abstraction has opened up a quite universally shared frame of reference in which a North-South-Divide became operational. The paper argues that GDP figures have become facts that travel easily across the globe because constant work is being undertaken to uphold the conditions for their mobility. Based on this observation the development endeavour can be located historically in a manifold constellation of the statistical acquisition of economic insight, political utopia, state intervention, the emerging prospect of economic planning in capitalist and noncapitalist systems and the quest for the international standardization of economic knowledge production.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2008 The Author
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2009 15:01
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 11:45
Projects: Large-Scale Technological Change
Funders:, Economic and Social Research Council

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