A mania for measurement
Statistics and statecraft in the transition to apartheid
in Science and society in southern Africa
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This chapter is an exploration of the power of numbers in apartheid South Africa. It concerns with the impact of what were deemed to be 'modern' modes of political rationality on the emergence and development of apartheid. The making of apartheid was rooted in a rethinking of the idea of political power. Bureaucrats engaged in rituals of often absurdly detailed quantitative measurement in their continuous efforts to count and classify the population. The concept of modernity is intended to articulate historical and geographical interconnectedness. In terms of the logic of modern statecraft, the role of the bureaucrat was to contribute the reasoned objectivity of a dispassionate, skilled and expertly knowledgeable administrative practitioner. Public reports of limited statistical expertise perhaps account for the traditions of scepticism and suspicion which developed internally within the state between its various statistical agents.

Editor: Saul Dubow


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