Issue 24.3, August 2009

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This is an ethnographic account, not of a central bank or of central banking per se, but of how famously secretive institutions—institutions that were in some notable cases committed well into the 1990s to a mystique of secrecy as vital to their function— began to experiment with far-reaching communicative practices under the aegis of transparency. This is not a matter of merely informing the market and the public about central bank policies and practices, nor should it be mistaken for a conventional informational or public relations function of a government bureau or agency; rather, these communications are the instruments of policy themselves…Central bankers speak of their institutions as “works in progress” without an obvious or necessary endpoint.  Hence, experimentation here is not merely or necessarily about a formal testing of a particular proposition or hypothesis; rather it is about the continuous evolution of a set of social practices and the critical labor by which the personnel of central banks bring to bear new insights and knowledge to modify and to refine the assumptions that inform their practices.

Douglas R. Holmes, “Economy of Words”