For centuries, women have questioned the disproportionate access to resources, jobs, and wealth between different genders. While the first known economic theories that take women’s specific conditions into consideration can be traced to the 19th century, the notion of feminist economics as we understand it today has accelerated since the late 1980s, a notion that not only questions but also criticises the structure of economics as a discipline and formulates new alternatives.
Feminist macroeconomics criticises the very measure against which macroeconomic success is evaluated, which is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Many calculations of economic growth are based against the GDP, yet it does not take into account the unpaid work mainly undertaken by women, including care work.
Conventional macroeconomic models focus on scarcity of resources, selfishness of decisions by actors, and competition as a driver of growth and advancement, but this fails to recognise the abundance, care, altruism, and cooperation we may witness in life. Numbers and equations are not enough to comprehend and analyse the human conditions; the everyday realities of women, girls, and marginalised groups. By working this way, conventional macroeconomic models and their ideologies are cementing gender inequality (and many other forms of inequality, such as race and class) rather than eliminating them within our societies.
The question of power is central to feminist economics. Questions that are central for feminist economists include: who has the power in the making of macroeconomic decisions, who gains and loses power through certain economic policies, and what power relations are at play. As Janina Urban and Andrea Pürckhauer explain, “Feminist economics analyses patriarchy and capitalism as interrelated forms of dominance.”1Urban, J., & Pürckhauer, A. (2016, December 18). Feminist Economics | Exploring Economics. Exploring Economics. https://www.exploring-economics.org/en/orientation/feminist-economics/
While there are different schools within feminist economics, it is possible to say overall, that feminist economics takes into account non-market activities such as unpaid care work, the cooperation between individuals, and the complexity of our realities. Furthermore, while the conventional economic models rarely make visible their ultimate goals and intentions beyond efficiency, the intention of feminist economics is very much out in the open: to achieve substantive gender equality, including economic equality and justice. It also seeks to ensure that all people, regardless of gender, can have equal access to and enjoyment of their human rights (including economic rights) through improvement of the economic conditions of women and girls, and of all marginalised groups.2In the later sections, we will discuss feminist economists’ more specific criticisms of the current macroeconomic models, as well as the solutions they propose.
There are also other alternative theories of economics, such as the green economy, which focuses on the environment (and its exploitation), and the blue economy, which focuses on the oceans and marine life.3Furthermore, Jayati Ghosh has recently argued that we actually need a multicoloured recovery (with reference to the COVID-19 pandemic) that drives the important aspects of the green, blue, red, and purple economy theories, while targeting these critical and systemic issues (environment, water, care, and inequalities) at the same time. She adds that “All of this requires international cooperation, because a multicolored New Deal necessarily must be global in scope.” For more information on this please visit: https://www.wbcsd.org/Overview/Panorama/Articles/The-recovery-must-be-green.-Also-blue-purple-and-red All these alternative models are in search of solutions to the interconnected crises (care crisis, environmental crisis, gender inequality etc.) which capitalism has created and/or exacerbated in our societies. While there are many important analyses made under these headings, they can also be used as covers to further neoliberal agendas, cloaked within these names. Critical perspectives are still necessary for the realisation of an economy that can be just for all people and the environment.
Campaign of Campaigns
The world is facing multiple crises at the same time: in health, economy, environment, and in many other facades. Initiated by the Civil Society Group on Financing for Development and the Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development, the Campaign of Campaigns aims to ‘galvanize our collective efforts to address the multiple crises humanity is facing nowadays’.
The severity and size of the joint crises we are facing require macro solutions that challenge and change the systems that have caused these crises in our day. The Campaign of Campaigns calls on all justice struggles throughout the world that are based on or stand by ‘the Human Rights framework and their progressivity; gender equality; environmental integrity; democratic criteria and global solidarity, without discrimination of any kind’, to join forces to bring together a galvanised force with a ‘coherent list of demands with enough support to be echoed in global, regional and local spaces.
- 1Urban, J., & Pürckhauer, A. (2016, December 18). Feminist Economics | Exploring Economics. Exploring Economics. https://www.exploring-economics.org/en/orientation/feminist-economics/
- 2In the later sections, we will discuss feminist economists’ more specific criticisms of the current macroeconomic models, as well as the solutions they propose.
- 3Furthermore, Jayati Ghosh has recently argued that we actually need a multicoloured recovery (with reference to the COVID-19 pandemic) that drives the important aspects of the green, blue, red, and purple economy theories, while targeting these critical and systemic issues (environment, water, care, and inequalities) at the same time. She adds that “All of this requires international cooperation, because a multicolored New Deal necessarily must be global in scope.” For more information on this please visit: https://www.wbcsd.org/Overview/Panorama/Articles/The-recovery-must-be-green.-Also-blue-purple-and-red