The Museum of Modernization Theory Art

Annual Report of the Tunisian Central Bank, 1959

The middle of the twentieth century was the age of ‘modernisation’ in the developing world. Five-year plans, input-output tables, and detailed statistical inquiries became vital documents for governments eager to induce fast economic growth in nations that had just cast off the shackles of colonial rule. The economic and social legacy of the ‘modernisation moment’ is a debate for another place; here, I simply want to document the aesthetics of the Plans and inquiries that undergirded it: literally, the art of government.

The eye-shaped text is beautiful, if difficult to read: Situation économique du Sénégal, 1983. The Situations were somewhere between a national accounts publication and an annual statistical yearbook for Senegal.

One of the most difficult aspects of economic planning was the relationships between various sectors and subsectors of the economy. How would intervention in one sector ripple through the economy? Often these relationships were captured using the tableaux ressources-emplois (in French nomenclature) and input-output tables; in some cases, however, planners drew diagrams, as with this example from the 1st 4 year plan of Madagascar, depicting the structure of the food sector.

The colours on the year balls are those of the Mauritian flag

Uganda’s first Five Year Plan was accompanied by a public outreach campaign that involved a pamphlet entitled ‘This is your plan’, aimed at explaining the elements of the formal plan to a mass audience, using graphs as well as text (see right)

From Uganda’s First Five Year Plan ‘This is your plan‘ pamphlet, explaining the structure of spending on private enterprise development.
The front cover of Côte d’Ivoire’s economic tables for 1960-1965, the first five years of independence.
This beautiful map of Monrovia, Libera, comes from the Liberia Industrial Free Zone Authority’s 1985 prospectus for potential investors.
This is the front cover of a pamphlet produced in Liberia to encourage national self-sufficiency in rice by stimulating swamp rice production amongst subsistence farmers. It tells the story of James, who learns how to grow swamp rice in order to earn enough money to buy a radio.
Controlling the process of urbanisation was a constant preoccupation: this is a map of Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire.

Graph designs from Tunisian official documents

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