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The feminist critics in economics

Publié le 28/04/2024

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« Gender, Societies and Economics 2nd synthesis – The feminist critics in economics. Economics could be defined as a human activity, a mathematical discipline and a social science that seeks to analyse and describe the production, distribution, and consumption of wealth1.

Labour markets and exchanges of goods and services (local and worldwide) may also be studied through the lens of economics.

Economics has always, or almost always, been considered part of the hard sciences (i.e., dealing with extremely rational theories and hard control over variables and conclusions).

Well-known figures and researchers from this field usually don’t take the influence of soft sciences (especially sociology) into account, seeing their discipline as a value-free science while interpersonal and family relationships do have real effects on the administration of households and resources.

That is, at least, what feminist economists tend to show. Feminist economics indeed infer that gender stereotypes and the division of labour may influence the proper production and distribution of wealth.

Their papers are challenging the established order, and intending to end ill-fated discrimination towards women, especially in the labour market.

Women seem to be the forgotten victims of a system made by men and for men.

We may rely on three articles to tackle this burning issue: “On Feminist Economics” by Wilfred Dolfsma and Hella Hoppe (2003), “Some implications of the feminist project in economics for empirical methodology”, by Joyce P.

Jacobsen (2015) and “Values in economics: a recent revival with a twist” by Magdalena Małecka (2021).

Authors are willing to answer the following questions: “What scholarly contributions can so far be attributed to the feminist project in economics? Has the feminist project affected the methodology that some economists have used in performing empirical research? How might the feminist project have a greater effect on the methodologies generally used in empirical economics research?”2 Among other things, rational economic theories such as Becker’s hold that individuals make every choice to maximise their utility and return, which is a deeply cartesian point of view3.

But what if some of those choices were coerced and thus may have affected the lives of millions of women? Veblen, more than a century ago, shed light on women’s unequal position in society and institutions and described it as a “reflection of the prevailing system of status and values”.

They “were not considered worthy of working, at least when there was no strong need for it”.

Having a wife who did not need to work was a symbol and a status of wealth 4 for men (families are not perfect places, and interests between husbands and wives can clash).

Furthermore, 1 « economics ».

Definition from Britannica’s website: Joyce P.

Jacobsen; Some implications of the feminist project in economics for empirical methodology (2015), Barker, D., & Kuiper, E.


Toward a feminist philosophy of economics.

Taylor & Francis Group (p.1). 3 Wilfed Dolfsma et Hella Hoppe; On feminist economics, Feminist Review, No.

75, Identities (2003), pp.

118-128, Palgrave Macmillan Journals (p.6). 4 Wilfed Dolfsma et Hella Hoppe; On feminist economics, Feminist Review, No.

75, Identities (2003), pp.

118-128, Palgrave Macmillan Journals (p.8). 2 this system thus ratified the idea that being a mother is a woman’s most important duty.

It still has unwanted consequences today. Women are still generally paid less than men and discriminated against in employment.

Thus, they encounter more incentives to stay at home to ensure care and household unpaid labour than men, or to work a part-time contract, when having young babies to raise.

Even worse, “family structure does turn out to have measurable effects in many ways one would expect, such as a negative effect of children on both earnings and hours worked for pay by women”, Jacobsen says 5. Household unpaid work is not enough considered.

Men are also often gifted a wage premium when getting married while women are not 6.

Feminine-identified terms, associated with economics, have a negative connotation, say Hoppe and Dolfsma 7 while discussing Julie Nelson’s gender value compass.

And so do feminine values and work, discredited on a day-to-day basis.

If women were employed and paid following the same criteria as men, we can believe that the division of labour would have been very different.

In brief, rational behaviour in economics is no longer relevant since the administration of wealth is influenced by power differences and inequalities are the result of involuntary optimization and differential distributional effects.

But now that those inequalities are proven, what can be done to get rid of them? Maybe.... »


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