A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society

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University of Chicago Press, Dec 1, 1998 - Science - 419 pages
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How did the fact become modernity's most favored unit of knowledge? How did description come to seem separable from theory in the precursors of economics and the social sciences?

Mary Poovey explores these questions in A History of the Modern Fact, ranging across an astonishing array of texts and ideas from the publication of the first British manual on double-entry bookkeeping in 1588 to the institutionalization of statistics in the 1830s. She shows how the production of systematic knowledge from descriptions of observed particulars influenced government, how numerical representation became the privileged vehicle for generating useful facts, and how belief—whether figured as credit, credibility, or credulity—remained essential to the production of knowledge.

Illuminating the epistemological conditions that have made modern social and economic knowledge possible, A History of the Modern Fact provides important contributions to the history of political thought, economics, science, and philosophy, as well as to literary and cultural criticism.

 

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A history of the modern fact: problems of knowledge in the sciences of wealth and society

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Poovey (English, New York Univ.) defines the modern fact as systematic knowledge that is derived from the theoretical interpretation of observed particulars, i.e., numbers. This distinction between ... Read full review

Contents

THE MODERN FACT THE PROBLEM OF INDUCTION AND QUESTIONS
1
DOUBLEENTRY BOOKKEEPING
29
ENGLISH SCIENCE
92
EXPERIMENTAL MORAL PHILOSOPHY AND THE PROBLEMS
144
FROM CONJECTURAL HISTORY TO POLITICAL ECONOMY
214
VESTIGES
264
THE PROBLEM
307
NOTES
329
BIBLIOGRAPHY
378
INDEX
409
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About the author (1998)

Mary Poovey has recently retired from her position as Samuel Rudin University Professor in the Humanities at New York University. She is the author of numerous books, including A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society and Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain .  

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