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

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University of Chicago Press, Nov 15, 1998 - Social Science - 446 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

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About the author (1998)

Mary Poovey is Samuel Rudin University Professor of the Humanities and professor of English at New York University. Her two most recent books, A History of the Modern Fact and Genres of the Credit Economy, examine the emergence of the modern disciplines. Her history of the modern financial model, co-authored with Kevin R. Brine, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.

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