State and spaces of official labour statistics in the Federal Republic of Germany, c.1950-1973
This PhD examines the historical making and interpretation of West-German official labour statistics in the period 1950-1973: how did official statistics come to be inscribed in state and administrative attempts to intervene into the labour market with respect to (un-)employment? Rather than considering statistics as a resource for state action and scientific investigation, this thesis is concerned with statistics as a contested topic comprising different techniques and ideas, styles of reasoning, practices, technologies and institutional contexts. Drawing on archival material from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Federal Labour Office, the Federal Statistical Office, the Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD), and other sources, the thesis examines debates over the abolition of the federal labour office’s labour statistics 1950–1963, and the establishment of a new statistical infrastructure in the following decade. In bridging work in economic and social history, and the history and geography of official statistics and technology, this thesis shows how debate on the employment files – generated in 1935 and reestablished in 1950 – as the basis of quarterly official statistics was centred on the question of which statistics for which polity. This involved different ‘statistical gazes’ at different scales among labour administrators, bureaucratic officials, and statisticians. In studying the scientific-administrative issues of how and where statistics were produced and made credible, the analysis shows how authoritarian conceptions inscribed onto the files gave way, first, to more economical conceptions of data capturing (i.e. representative samples) and, from the late 1960s, to a statistical infrastructure based on electronic data processing. In examining the different rationalities – statistical-technical and political – the thesis shows how transformations in labour statistics were affected by dynamics between: federal state space and locality; technological dreams of labour administrators and statistical requirements; mathematisation and mechanisation of the statistical discourse; trust and credibility; public critique and legitimacy.