Shifting Burdens: Gender and Agrarian Change under Neoliberalism

Shifting Burdens: Gender and Agrarian Change under Neoliberalism

Shifting Burdens: Gender and Agrarian Change under Neoliberalism

Shifting Burdens: Gender and Agrarian Change under Neoliberalism

Synopsis

The authors of Shifting Burdens explore the often overlooked gender-related effects of the neoliberal policy shifts in rural development that have reduced the role of government and switched costs of services to the rural poor themselves.

Excerpt

The 1980s saw significant shifts in the economic agendas of both developing and advanced industrialized countries. the debt crises of the early 1980s provided a critical opportunity for the international financial institutions (IFIs) to impose a succession of new international policy regimes on the indebted developing countries. in the name of “stabilization” and “adjustment,” the IFIs aggressively pushed debt-burdened developing countries to adopt a policy agenda promoting market liberalization, privatization, and decentralization. As far as agriculture is concerned, “getting prices right” through various price measures would correct the alleged urban bias. At the same time, the reduction in public expenditure outlays for agricultural input subsidies, marketing boards, and research and extension services was justified on the grounds that the benefits were either captured by big farmers or squandered by state officials.

While the policy outcomes have varied enormously from one context to another, and across social groups (with both “winners” and “losers” emerging), these results have provided little confirmation for neoliberal nostrums. By the early 1990s the agricultural response to neoliberal policies in many regions clearly had been, according to most accounts—including the World Bank’s own assessments—disappointing. This state of affairs forms the backdrop to the present enquiry.

Drawing on evidence from field research carried out in the mid to late 1990s, in many instances as part of unrisd research projects, this volume explores agricultural policies and broader processes of agrarian change from a gender perspective. This study unravels the ways in which economic and social structures, institutions, and policy outcomes are mediated by gender as a social relationship. in some instances a gendered analysis offers insights that a conventional (nongendered) analysis of agrarian change would not be able to provide—bringing to light the interdependencies between the care economy and the monetized economy or highlighting the “externalities” from certain policy inputs, especially in welfare terms. This work also points to additional and complex impediments that stand between policy pronouncements and their concrete outcomes.

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