Feminist Economics: an Introduction
Traditional economic thinking posits a frictionless universe of rational actors, profit-pursuing firms, and the harmonious equilibrium of supply and demand. What’s lost in this sanitized picture of the economy is any recognition of the hierarchies that not only shape economic behavior and opportunity, but also, at the root, make capitalism exploitative and inegalitarian—chief among these, gender relations. Often falling upon women are the tasks of managing households, reproducing laborers, and tending to and caring for surplus populations—work that, in traditional economics, is not formally valued and that usually goes uncompensated (or under-compensated). Feminist economics seeks to redress the massive blindspot in traditional economic thinking, making visible the gender inequality on which economic production subsists and redefining notions of value and wealth. What does a feminist economic account of the economy look like? How does its approach differ not only from mainstream economics, but also heterodox and Marxist accounts of production and value? What is the so-called sexual division of labor? How, in a period of formal gender equality, can we understand the continued unequal distribution of economic goods, both between men and women and among women themselves?
In this course we will explore early and contemporary feminist scholarship on economic theory, drawing on authors from both the Global North and the Global South while taking a thoroughly intersectional approach. We’ll begin with an introduction to feminist economics studies, aiming to answer the question of what is feminist economics, briefly discussing mainstream and heterodox approaches, and closely examining Marxist feminist analyses. We’ll then explore feminist critiques of mainstream economics and the meaning, applications, and implications of feminist economics as a methodological and analytical tool. Next, we’ll engage with contemporary discussions surrounding gender inequalities in productive and reproductive labor, and examine such phenomena as the gender wage gap, labor market occupational segregation, working time, the care economy, and unpaid domestic and care work. Lastly, we’ll look at women’s collective movements and the ways they challenge neoliberalism and capitalism, and discuss feminist economic alternatives like gender budgeting and taxation, the solidarity economy, environmentalism, and more. Readings will include works by Valeria Esquivel, Nancy Fraser, Diana Strassmann, Patricia Hill Collins, Martha Gimenes, Heleith Saffioti, Folbre Nancy, and Nina Banks.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
June 06 — June 27, 2022