Magazine article Women & Environments International Magazine

Gender, Development, and Globalization: Economics as If All People Mattered

Magazine article Women & Environments International Magazine

Gender, Development, and Globalization: Economics as If All People Mattered

Article excerpt

Gender, Development, and Globalization: Economics as if All People Mattered Lourdes Benería New York: Routledge, 2003. 212pp. $29.95.

In Gender, Development, and Globalization, feminist economist Lourdes Beneria uses an interdisciplinary feminist lens to examine the fields of global economics and international development. Looking at the theoretical trends that have dominated mainstream economics and development theory during the past century, Beneria takes issue with the socially disembodied, masculine world where quantitative analysis and universal categories have been used to legitimize capitalist relations. In developing her case for a feminist alternative that specifically addresses contemporary globalized capitalism, Beneria shows how feminist economics challenges mainstream economic thought by valuing human development and well-being over the more conventionally emphasized categories of economic growth and accumulation. For feminist economics, "the difference between paid and unpaid work leads to questions about the extent to which the economic rationality assumed to inform market-related behaviour is the norm ... [rather than] other motives ... commonly linked to unpaid work such as love, compassion, altruism, empathy, individual and collective responsibility, and solidarity."

Indeed, the lack of attention that has been devoted to the differences between paid and unpaid work is such a key issue for Beneria that she devotes an entire chapter to the topic. Reviewing labour data collected during the past two decades, she contrasts the statistics gathered by traditional economists with the realities experienced by women throughout the world. She claims that, due to gendered biases in its theoretical foundations, contemporary economic theory underestimates the contribution of unpaid work - especially women's domestic work and traditional subsistence labour - to national accounting statistics. In elaborating this case, Beneria takes ideas from thinkers in fields ranging from economics and development studies to philosophy to political science. In addition, she backs up her points by offering extensive empirical data in the form of graphs, tables, and charts.

In arguing the relevance of feminist economics in the present context of neo-liberal globalization, Beneria emphasizes the stark contrast between the formal and informal labour sectors. Globalization has brought about advances in education and more gender parity in wages for a Limited number of women in the formal economy. However, it has also been associated with such a massive expansion in the informal sector that Beneria insists we should now use the term "informal economy" to describe this sector. …

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