Living Wages, Equal Wages: Gender and Labor Market Policies in the United States

By Deborah M. Figart; Ellen Mutari et al. | Go to book overview

4

The third face

Wages as a social practice

Historically, debates over wage theory have largely concentrated on the tension between wages as a living and wages as a price. Feminist thought contributes to this conversation about wages and wage setting through the central concept of gender. While most contemporary feminist thought is grounded in gender as an analytical construct, there are different understandings of what gender is and how it is constituted. Therefore, in this chapter we trace alternative understandings of gender, beginning with an examination of the classic work of Simone de Beauvoir. De Beauvoir's influence on the socalled second wave of feminist theorizing and activism in the 1960s and 1970s is summarized. Next we examine the polarization between structural theories of women's oppression (i.e., patriarchy) and ideologically based theories of the social construction of gender.

We introduce feminist interpretations of “practice theory, ” an important development in contemporary gender theory since the 1990s. Practice theory is an attempt to reconcile structure and agency as influences on gendered outcomes. We utilize this perspective and explain how its innovative approach to gender can help us better understand wage setting by illuminating a third dimension to wages, wages as a social practice. The interdisciplinary gender theory, methodological approaches, and literature we discuss are aimed at generating our feminist theory of wage setting.


The Second Sex and the second wave

In writing The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir (1974 [1952]) crystalized many of the ideas that have continued to guide the development of feminist thought. She astutely noted the limits of biological categories, beginning her opus with a denial of the universality of a simple duality between male and female. She also denied the existence of a universal female nature. In fact, de Beauvoir contended that “it must be repeated once more that in human society nothing is natural and that woman, like much else, is a product elaborated by civilization” (1974 [1952]: 806). Although she did not use the term “gender, ” de Beauvoir articulated the idea that femininity was separable from biological sex. In perhaps her most famous assertion: “One is not born, but

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Living Wages, Equal Wages: Gender and Labor Market Policies in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Series Editor'ss Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Part I - Laying the Groundwork 1
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - Waged Work in the Twentieth Century 16
  • 3 - Two Faces of Wages Within the Economics Tradition 34
  • 4 - The Third Face 52
  • Part II - Wage Regulations in the Twentieth Century 65
  • 5 - An Experiment in Wage Regulation 67
  • 6 - A Living for Breadwinners 91
  • 7 - Job Evaluation and the Ideology of Equal Pay 120
  • 8 - Legislating Equal Wages 143
  • Part III - The Century Ahead 177
  • 9 - Living Wages, Equal Wages Revisited 179
  • 10 - Applying Feminist Political Economy to Wage Setting 208
  • Notes 221
  • References 231
  • Index 252
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