Received histories present national accounts as universal, purely economic measures based mostly on theoretical foundations. This paper argues that this is an anachronistic approach to the long and uneven development of these estimates and builds on geopolitical economy to examine national income estimates as quantifications of state power. First, it reveals national income accounts to be historically and geographically contingent rather than universal, suggesting contestation instead of any hegemony or dominance of one central ideology. Second, the economic power and motivations of nation-states, rather than economic theory, are at the core of the design of national income estimates, which are used to promote states’ position in international competition as well as advocate for particular national economic policies. The history of national accounting closely tracks the rise of the nation-state, the unique phase of British hegemony, the two World Wars, the east-west competition of the Cold War, and the north-south competition of the recent two decades. To this day, revisions to national accounting systems reflect the shifting balance of power and incessant international competition.
Assa, J. (2015), "Gross Domestic Power: Geopolitical Economy and the History of National Accounts", Theoretical Engagements in Geopolitical Economy (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 30A), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 175-203. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0161-72302015000030A014
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