Feminist Economics - An Introduction

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Part one of a three-part series on feminist economics, hosted by the Belfast Feminist Network

Part one of a three-part series on feminist economics, hosted by the Belfast Feminist Network

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  • 1. Feminist Economics 1: Introduction 5 June 2014 Belfast Feminist Network Realta Social Space Dr. Conor McCabe King St. Belfast UCD School of Social Justice
  • 2. 1.Capital and Society 2.Economics 3.Gender
  • 3. Rational Economic Man • An autonomous agent • able bodied, independent, rational, heterosexual male who is able to choose from an number of options limited only by certain constraints. • Weighs cost and benefits to maximise utility • Self interested in marketplace; altruistic at home
  • 4. DREAM…
  • 5. INNOVATION
  • 6. [Lehman collapse, 15 September 2008 - headlines 16 Sep 2008]
  • 7. Capitalism is first and foremost a historical social system.
  • 8. Capitalism is first and foremost a historical social system. What distinguishes the historical social system we are calling historical capitalism is that in this historical system capital came to be used (invested) in a very special way. It came to be used with the primary objective or intent of self-expansion.
  • 9. Capitalism is first and foremost a historical social system. What distinguishes the historical social system we are calling historical capitalism is that in this historical system capital came to be used (invested) in a very special way. It came to be used with the primary objective or intent of self-expansion. It was this relentless and curiously self-regarding goal of the holder of capital, the accumulation of still more capital, and the relations this holder of capital had therefore to establish with other persons in order to achieve this goal, which we denominate as capitalism.
  • 10. The purpose of capitalism is self-expansion – capital begets capital – and it does so by monetizing social value and human labour. This is a circuit of transformation.
  • 11. The purpose of capitalism is self-expansion – capital begets capital – and it does so by monetizing social value and human labour. This is a circuit of transformation. Historical capitalism involved therefore the widespread commodification of processes – not merely exchange processes, but production processes, distribution processes, and investment processes – that had previously been conducted other than via a ‘market’.
  • 12. The purpose of capitalism is self-expansion – capital begets capital – and it does so by monetizing social value and human labour. This is a circuit of transformation. Historical capitalism involved therefore the widespread commodification of processes – not merely exchange processes, but production processes, distribution processes, and investment processes – that had previously been conducted other than via a ‘market’. And, in the course of seeking to accumulate more and more capital, capitalists have sought to commodify more and more of these social processes in all spheres of economic life. Immanuel Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism (London: Verso, 2011), 15.
  • 13. The purpose of capitalism is self-expansion – capital begets capital – and it does so by monetizing social value and human labour. This is a circuit of transformation. “Historical capitalism involved therefore the widespread commodification of processes – not merely exchange processes, but production processes, distribution processes, and investment processes – that had previously been conducted other than via a ‘market’. And, in the course of seeking to accumulate more and more capital, capitalists have sought to commodify more and more of these social processes in all spheres of economic life.” Immanuel Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism (London: Verso, 2011), 15.
  • 14. “Capitalism only triumphs when it becomes identified with the state, when it is the state. In its first great phase, that of the Italian city-states of Venice, Genoa and Florence, power lay in the hands of the moneyed elite. In seventeenth-century Holland the aristocracy of the Regents governed for the benefit and even according to the directives of the businessmen, merchants, and money-lenders. Likewise, in England the Glorious Revolution of 1688 marked the accession of business similar to that in Holland.” (Braudel 1977) The fusion of state and capital was the vital ingredient in the emergence of a distinctly capitalist layer on top of, and in antithesis to, the layer of market economy.
  • 15. Over the last quarter of a century something fundamental seems to have changed in the way in which capitalism works. The tendency since 1970 has been towards greater geographical mobility of capital.
  • 16. the distinction of sectors between what I have called the ‘economy’ (or the market economy) and ‘capitalism’ does not seem to me to be anything new, but rather a constant in Europe since the Middle Ages. There is another difference too: I would argue that a third sector should be added to the pre-industrial model – that the lowest stratum of the non-economy, the soil into which capitalism thrusts its roots but which it can never really penetrate. This lowest layer remains an enormous one. (Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century vol.II: The Wheels of Commerce, London: Collins, 1982, pp.229-30.).
  • 17. Above it, comes the favoured terrain of the market economy, with its many horizontal communications between the different markets: here a degree of automatic coordination usually links supply, demand and prices. (Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century vol.II: The Wheels of Commerce, London: Collins, 1982, pp.229-30.).
  • 18. Then alongside, or rather above this layer, comes the zone of the anti- market, where the great predators roam and the law of the jungle operates. This – today as in the past, before and after the industrial revolution – is the real home of capitalism.” (Fernand Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century vol.II: The Wheels of Commerce, London: Collins, 1982, pp.229-30.).
  • 19. capitalism in the past (as distinct from capitalism today) only occupied a narrow platform of economic life. How could one possibly take it to mean a ‘system’ extending over the whole of society? It was nevertheless a world apart, different from and indeed foreign to the social and economic context surrounding it. And it is in relation to this context that it is defined as ‘capitalism’, not merely in relation to new capitalist forms which were to emerge later in time. In fact capitalism was what it was in relation to a non- capitalism of immense proportions. And to refuse to admit this dichotomy within the economy of the past, on the pretext that ‘true’ capitalism dates only from the ninetwwnth century, means abandoning the effort to understand the significance – crucial to the analysis of that economy – of what might be termed the former typology of capitalism. If there were certain areas where it elected residence – by no means inadvertently – that is because these were the only areas which favoured the reproduction of capital.” (Wheels, p.239)
  • 20. Going beyond Braudel’s original argument, household production can be considered as a case in point for such daily, unconscious routines. This then signals one trajectory for understanding aspects of social reproduction over time. Indeed the politics of the everyday offers a current consideration of the separation of life purposes (such as working life, family life and sex life) and the social construction of such spaces. It should be noted that, despite Braudel’s many valuable conceptual inroads, he does not apply gender to his analysis and does not explicitly consider the sexual division of labour in his trilogy. However… his conceptualisations of material life can aid us in understanding the historical dynamics that underpin social reproduction. Isabella Bakker (2007) ‘Social Reproduction and the Constitution of a Gendered Political Economy’, New Political Economy 12:4.
  • 21. Economics is a social subject. It’s the interactions and relationships between people that make the economy go around. Debates over economic issues are not technical debates where expertise alone settles the day. They are deeply political debates.
  • 22. Economics is a social subject. It’s the interactions and relationships between people that make the economy go around. Debates over economic issues are not technical debates where expertise alone settles the day. They are deeply political debates. A society in which ordinary people know more about economics, and recognize the often conflicting interests at stake in the economy, is a society in which more people will feel confident deciding for themselves what’s best – instead of trusting the experts. It will be a more democratic society.
  • 23. Economics is a social subject. It’s the interactions and relationships between people that make the economy go around. Debates over economic issues are not technical debates where expertise alone settles the day. They are deeply political debates. A society in which ordinary people know more about economics, and recognize the often conflicting interests at stake in the economy, is a society in which more people will feel confident deciding for themselves what’s best – instead of trusting the experts. It will be a more democratic society. Quite apart from whether you think capitalism is good or bad, capitalism is something we must study. It’s the economy we live in, the economy we know.
  • 24. Social Reproduction Renewing life is a form of work, a kind of production, as fundamental to the perpetuation of society as the production of things. Moreover, the social organization of that work, the set of social relationships through which people act to get it done, has varied widely and that variation has been central to the organization of gender relations and gender inequality. From this point of view, societal reproduction includes not only the organization of production but the organization of social reproduction, and the perpetuation of gender as well as class relations. Barbara Laslett and Johanna Brenner, ’ Gender and Social Reproduction: Historical Perspectives,’ Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 15 (1989): 383
  • 25. Gender and Caring Notes on Lynch and Lyons, ‘The Gendered Order of Caring’ in Ursula Barry (ed) Where Are We Now? New Feminist Perspectives on Women in Contemporary Ireland (Dublin: Tasc, 2008)
  • 26. There are deep gender inequalities in the doing of care and love work that operate to the advantage of men. It is women’s unwaged labour and related domestic labour that frees men up to exercise control in the public sphere of politics, the economy and culture. … there is a moral imperative on women to do care work that does not apply equally to men ; a highly gendered moral code impels women to do the greater part of primary caring, with most believing they have no choice in the matter.
  • 27. The Irish government collects data on unpaid caring within households in 1. the Census 2. the Quarterly Household Survey (QNHS). Within the Census, care is defined as being given by ‘persons aged 15yrs and over who provide regular unpaid help for a friend or family member with a long-term illness, health problem or disability (including problems due to age). P.167-8
  • 28. The way care is defined in the Census excludes what constitutes a major category of care work, that of the ordinary, everyday care of children (unless the child has a recognised disability). Data on the care of children is compiled in the QNHS, however, and is also available through the European Community Household Panel (ECPH) survey. The focus in all three is on the hours of work involved in caring so we do not know the nature and scope of the caring involved. P.168
  • 29. According to the [2006] Census there are less than 150,000 people, 5 per cent of the adult population in unpaid care work (mostly with adults) of whom 61 per cent are women and 39 per cent are men. However, when we measure all types of caring activity, as has been done in the European Community household Panel (ECPH) we see that there are 1 million people who do caring who are not named in the census.
  • 30. Even though it is no doubt unintentional, the failure to collect data on hours spent on child care work in the Census, means that child care, which is the major form of care work in Irish society, is no counted in terms of work hours. … women are almost five times as likely to work long care hours than is the case for men. Women spend much more time at care work than men, even when they are employed.
  • 31. Conventional androcentric assumptions have not been critically examined in scientific and technological (S&T) culture; in the international, national and local mediating agencies that deliver S&T development; or in the communities that are the recipients of development. However, because women are primary deliverers of community welfare on a daily basis to children, the sick and elderly, their households, and the larger social networks that maintain communities, the failure of development projects with respect to women is automatically felt by social groups who depend on their labour and social services. Sandra Harding (1995) ‘Just add women and stir?’ Missing Links: Gender Equity in Science and Technology for Development.