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Statistics and the German State, 1900-1945: The Making of Modern Economic Knowledge (Cambridge Studies in Modern Economic History) Paperback – 21 Aug 2008


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Review

'This is a book of unusual originality and sophistication. In the burgeoning literature of history of statistics, it is one of the first and unmistakably the best to focus on the production and use of economic numbers … He provides wonderful insights into the circumstances of the German economy during this traumatic era. In short, he makes the history of economics and of statistics speak to central questions of the historical development of state and economy in Germany … a work of impressive historical scholarship, a skilful disinterment of issues from a much-worked historical field … This is a superb book, which deserves to be issued in paperback so it can be widely read.' Ted Porter, Journal of Economic History

'This important and interesting book will be of great value not only to discussions of German political economy in the first half of the twentieth century but also to debates about economic knowledge and how it develops … extraordinarily ambitious … compelling reading.' Harold James, Business History Review

'… an original and important book ... a very readable book, stimulating, indeed exciting to the very end.' Knut Borchardt, Historische Zeitschrift

'… a very impressive first book.' Roger Middelton, History of European Ideas

'It has been years since I last read a book that opened up such neglected vistas. However assessed, the first half of this book, particularly, should be … mandatory reading for everyone interested in the history of economic thought …' Mark Perlman, Eh.net

'This is an important book … he provides what is doubtlessly the best existing account of Germany's experimenting with economic policy after World War 1.' Financial History Review

Book Description

This book considers the dramatic innovation in statistics between 1900 and 1945 in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. Under the Nazi regime, statistics were the basis for a radical experiment in economic planning. Tooze argues for a more wide-ranging reconsideration of the history of modern economic knowledge.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Interesting than It Seems 21 Aug. 2010
By R. Albin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of those books devoted to an apparently narrow topic that illuminates broader issues. The core of the book is a narrative of how the collection and analysis of economic statistics changed from 1900 to 1945. What makes this apparently dry topic interesting is how Tooze connects it to 2 larger issues, the nature of the German state in this period and the evolution of economic theory and policy.

Its a truism that the collection of important national statistics is a consequence of the expansion of the state. One of the things that Tooze shows nicely is how the activities of German statistical bureaus reflects the nature of the state. In Wilhelmine Germany, there was a vigorous effort to collect national economic statistics but Tooze shows the significant limitations of this effort. The limitations occur in 2 broad categories. First, the federal nature of the Wilhelmine state and the ability of German business to resist certain types of data gathering limited the reach of the central statistical office. Second, much of the data gathered was predicated on an out-dated conception of the German economy as a traditonal craft-based system. The information deficiencies became particularly important during WWWI when there were efforts at national economic direction. In common with other aspects of German wartime economic management, the data collection efforts of the central bureau were increasingly chaotic and unsuccessful.

In the Weimar period, the central statistical bureau was quite dynamic, pioneering new methods of data collection, new indices of economic activity, and a closer look at the German economy. Tooze emphasizes not only the relative dynamism of the Weimar state but also the way in which innovative activities of economic statistics interacted with and were driven by the emerging discipline of macroeconomics. This is his second major theme. Tooze emphasizes both the important international context with the Germans influenced by innovations in other nations and the innovations of the Germans themselves. By the end of the 20s, the collection of statistics was bound up with novel macroeconomic theories and the articulation of counter-cyclical fiscal and monetary policies. Tooze goes on to look the visscitudes of the statistical system under the Nazis, the efforts of statisticians to develop their own programs and bureaucratic fiefs in the chaotic and polyocratic world of the Nazi state and complex but ultimately futile efforts to develop the information network to manage a command economy driven by wartime needs.

Tooze is very good writer and the integration of economic history, history of economic theory, and political history is excellent. While this book is most profitably read specialists, it has some general significance.
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