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The Social History of Quantifying Inflation: A Sociological Critique


  • Matthew Hayes


The paper offers a sociological critique of the quantification of inflation. Throughout its history, not only have the techniques of measuring inflation changed, but so has its social and policy functions. In the process, the phenomenon inflation measurements were intended to represent has also taken on new significance. The function of inflation measurement initially focused on providing a scientific way of regulating wage disputes in the early twentieth century. By the end of the century, it had become an instrument of macroeconomic policy coordination and sought to measure inflation in the economy as a whole. Inflation measurement, thus, performs economic functions that are now increasingly dissociated from earlier social functions. Growing social inequality will require new ways of conceiving and managing inflation.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Hayes, 2011. "The Social History of Quantifying Inflation: A Sociological Critique," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(1), pages 97-112.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:45:y:2011:i:1:p:97-112
    DOI: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624450106

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