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‘On a mission' with mutable mobiles

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The task of economic planning in the new nation of Nigeria in the early 1960s tested the limits of economic technologies: its recipes for development, its possibilities of measurement, and from differences in political economy. These dimensions of the problem beset not only the Nigerian politicians and civil servants but an array of international experts: each on their own mission to make the new economy. This story of mutable mobiles is revealed in the detailed diary entries of the economist Wolfgang Stolper - a man “on a mission”, for he was charged with making “the plan”. This first Nigerian economic plan was a mobile document that cycled around a changing circle of civil servants and politicians and only gathered powerful allies amongst them because of the mutability its elements. This mutability rested on a combination of decentralized knowledge and on regional democratic preferences. And, to make a plan that would gain acceptance outside the centre of calculation, these local facts and choices had to be made consistent with each other and with the projected future of the economy as a whole. This is where economic theory came in: it created a consistency between the current and future economy so that future facts - fictions - and current facts made good travelling companions for each other in their circulations around the political and economic community.

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