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Feminism and Economics: My Guilty Conscience

Valhalla's picture

So, every time Lambert asks for a feminist analysis of the economic or big banker FAIL, I feel terribly guilty because a) I'm a feminist; and b) I don't know jack about economics or finance.

But I've been trying to keep an eye out. I'm not sure this poster quite makes the connection between feminism and economics, or even gender (as indicated in the title) and economics. I'd try to make a stronger tie-in myself, but I've got a rockin' bad headache. So I'll just throw it out there for you all. The central point, that part of the fight is to resist the tendency to allow discussions of sterile "objective" economic stats to hide the very real suffering those numbers represent:

When most economists talk abut “economic agents”, they are conjuring up bodiless, genderless automatons who naturally have no biological predecessors, do not carry babies, do not give birth, and do not face questions of physical survival and human development. So it is easy for them to look at double-digit unemployment rates and deflationary pressures on wages and benefits simply as market phenomena while ignoring that such things actually threaten the physical survival of families. It is not surprising that in crises like ours, macroeconomic policies stemming from such dehumanized conceptions of the economy do not address the majority of people’s hardships — and end up being inhumane indeed.

That is why the objective of macroeconomic policies should be maintaining social provisioning (serving the needs of the community), as opposed to temporary fine-tuning the economy or arbitrary indicators such as government debt to GDP ratios. However, real-life concepts like social provisioning, care, and parental bent (concern about the survival of those unable to function on their own) are irrelevant in a genderless and thus lifeless world of economic avatars. So naturally these do not come up too often when experts are analyzing the macro-economy.

there's more, go read!

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Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

When lambert posted this the other day, something kind of clicked in my head, and got me thinking this may be the way to make the connection that lambert's been looking for between finance and feminism.

Because what else is patriarchy, if not an artificially complex social system designed to extract "rents" from women, to give to men, who in turn are privileged because of this. So the patriarchy could also be defined as rent seeking behavior.

I haven't had too much time to pursue this train of thought, and to make the connections that are there, but I wanted to throw it out here, in case anyone else wanted to run with it.

Submitted by gob on

A lot of what she says is in French's Beyond Power. Valhalla picks up one important theme -- "genderless models", which erase human need -- because human embodiment (which is the source of basic needs) has been pushed off onto our cultural notion of "woman"; these "genderless" models would more appropriately be called "womanless" in my opinion. The "economic actors" they posit are impossible abstractions of the already impossible ideal of maleness that our culture tries to impose: hyper-rational, unemotional, fully in control of self and environment, fully able to choose based on logical analysis.

She also mentions the obvious, but chronically erased, reality of women's unpaid labor:

As pointed out by feminist economists, this way of thinking has been traditionally grounded in the assumption that women will always be there to bail us out, so to speak, with their unpaid labor and care — out of duty and/or out of love. And even though more men than women are losing jobs in today’s crisis — and may indeed take on domestic chores and care giving — the question still remains.

Do the proponents of private markets, and government deficit worriers understand that they assume there always must be somebody performing the unpaid and humane labor of love to secure the livelihoods of households in crisis? More interestingly do they understand that especially in crisis these people must be super-moms/dads/grandparents?

For world-wide analysis, I'm hoping for good things from Kristof and Wu-Dunn's Half the Sky.

As of 1985, according to French

women do two-thirds of the world's work, provide 45 percent of its food, earn 10 percent of its income, and own 1 percent of its property

I doubt if that's changed much.