What do we know about the world economy? International economic indicators are embedded in the standard grammar of global trade and forecasting.
What do we know about the world economy? International economic indicators are embedded in the standard grammar of global trade and forecasting. The International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook, the World Bank’s World Development Indicators (WDI), the United Nations System of National Accounts (SNA), and the historical statistics publications of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), all present the activities, stocks, and flows that they capture as a natural reflection of economic reality, easily converted into numerical figures. However, these normative definitions and accounting conventions enshrine the boundaries of the observed economy to monetized activities, excluding homemakers’ domestic work, the collaborative self-help of the most vulnerable communities, subsistence agriculture, non-market economic activity, the informal economy, and environmental externalities.
This talk will delve into pioneering and empirically-grounded critiques that have challenged institutional definitions and measurements of the global economy. It focuses on marginalized figures who collaborated with international organizations in times of uncertainty when conventional institutional knowledge proved inadequate. These overlooked statisticians, economists, sociologists, demographers, biologists, and physicists made innovative contributions to account for human and non-human experiences excluded from the observed global economy. They pointed out that the limitation of the economy to ‘production’, excluding the notions of ‘reproduction’, ‘extraction’, and ‘destruction’ led to serious biases in national censuses, macro- and microeconomic modeling practices and development policies. These critiques were also among the first to argue that the methodological nationalism and gender biases of dominant knowledge production, excluding borders and oceans as core sites of extractivism and environmental destruction, fragmented knowledge about economic life in the Anthropocene.