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Towards Day 26 (Th, 12/9): Feminist Economics

Anne Dalke's picture

I. Coursekeeping
* yesterday's demonstration

* At 4 p.m.
you'll be setting up our portrait gallery in the Campus Center,
zine is in for printing? when/how/where will copies get folded, assembled?

* discord among the 'zinesters--and sadness among the fac'y,
that we haven't been able to practice what we've learned about listening,
with one another, as we prepare to host a listening conversation for the campus...

*noon-2 p.m. on Friday we are hosting Our Intersectional On-Campus "Listening" Event, in Rhoads
--check in about preparations there? (advertising? food, set-up, script, other concerns?)
--Note from Monsoon: This is terrific! What a joy to see this spread and be used
to open up the listening circle. I so wish I could be there to witness this.
Please give the students a big hurrah from my end.

* On Thursday,
we will be reading-and-discussing about 30 pp. that I selected from bell hooks'
Feminism is For Everybody: Passionate Politics --and decompressing, and writing up your evals.

II. last week, we learned that
veiling does not mean blocking the gaze but mobilizes a particular visual regime--
of being visibly Muslim; women are active participants in producing that visibility,
and their veils become part of self-formation; the article we read documents a tense,
anxious interplay between the scopophilia of fashion and the modesty of veiling,
as women seek an aesthetic of harmony between elements of dress,
between appearance and conduct, between appearance and belief;
the essay describes a conundrum: veiling orients women toward
Islamic modesty, piety, yet fashionable veiling incites pulling away from God--
generating a conflict between the veil as a desirable commodity and a discipline of the soul

one thing that particularly intrigued me about that article was its rather
controversial description of an "Islamic consumptionscape," placing
the activity of fashionable veiling in a broader market of Islamically inflected goods,
in which Islamic virtue is turned into economic value

this seems a great seque-way to today's topic, the
work of New Zealand feminist economist Marilyn Waring:
4 chapters from her book, Counting for Nothing:
What Men Value and What Women are Worth
and/or the video Who's Counting?

III. to start: where are we in relation to economics?
who has taken a course/had experience in this dimension?
why/why not? (how essential to being a world citizen, to
understand this dimension of human/environmental interaction?)

What interests me about the work of Marilyn Waring
is the way she moved from being an economist
to a critique of economic measures

As Sula, Abby, Gabby & Bridget noted in their posts,
Waring started out trying to assign value to traditional women's work-->
by calculating the labor of women, she hoped to proclaim their visibility and worth,
reconceptualizing the household not as a consuming unit, but as a productive one;
measuring economic welfare by what actually contributes to the welfare of us all;
although subsistence production had been seen, macroeconomically,
as of little or no importance, she thought that recording the time-use of women (vs. men)
revealed the magnitude of women's invisible work

unpaid work, including reproducing human life,
or feeding and nurturing one's own families,
had not been counted in the conventional measures, and
Waring's project was to make such reproduction visible,
to empower women by giving their work a monetary value

In arguing that the conventional labour market surveys were
too narrowly conceived,  Waring also claimed that they asked
the wrong questions: we should ask what economy is for,
how much is enough, what provides joy, happiness, peace, satisfaction

but she eventually decided that this work of pressing
non-economic values into framework of economic calculus
was always dependent on the values of a participant observer,
and was based on the absurb premise that everything has a price:
"uni-dimensional economical fabrication cannot contain our lives,"
and economics doesn't allow for the introduction of values
that don't find their way into an economic formula

Waring asked what the "cost" is of visibility in a
patently pathological value system:

do we want all life commodified in economic model?
(and she answered "no")

IV. from your postings:
smalina: Waring is quite clearly a believer that feminism and capitalism cannot she points out, measurement of value in terms of production makes little sense....there is something intrinsically problematic with assigning economic value to family, because it defines people as products and removes their humanity, replacing it with numerical value....Waring makes the argument...that what should truly be valued is that which creates and restores, not that which destroys....I find this to be a fairly universal way of looking at economy....[but] do  all women really have the agency Waring seems to be suggesting?...some have far less time available....And what of the communities where a woman is almost entirely confined to the house?

rosea: One aspect of this film that shocked me was the fact that women’s work in the home... is not counted....However, the income created by child sex slavery IS....a different example of illogical economics in action was the idea that sustaining one’s family is not economically effective (or just unvalued)....Waring does an excellent job at her crash course in the nonsensical, detached nature of economics and the great negative impact it can have on global and local health. I never knew and never tried to know how the economy functioned….Why have people accepted our damaging system of economics for so long? Aren’t the growing levels of global poverty indicative enough that the system isn’t working?...we justify it on a daily basis with our consumption, complacency, and life practices in general. 

Sunshine: Capitalism thrives on the marginalization of different groups. For example, Waring wrote, "the sex industry now accounted for up to 14 per cent of the GDP of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Phillipines and Thailand.....Capitalism needs people to be out of jobs (...employers can pay their workers less because they know they have nowhere else to go), and the people who are most likely going to be put out of jobs are those with marginalized identities. (And therefore feminism has to be anti-capitalist)....My question is what we want to do with international feminism. Are we trying to use it to 'save' others, or just as a reference point for ourselves?....How do we find the balance between considering ourselves saviors and looking out for one another? not impose capitalism...trying to make them equal in a capitalist context...because doesn't that equality often rely on productivity?

bridget:In the video, Waring did a great job of accessibility. Physically, of course, she's out there and involved and talking beyond the ivory tower. But she also prevented all of this information in such a straightforward, easy-to-understand way, and showed well why it is relevant--how women are cut out by labels of economic value, how worldwide economies support unsustainable environmental practices, how out-of-control spending on war has become. I was struck by her logical approaches; she broke down quite clearly how the labor women in rural areas do is "economically unproductive" in spite of the numerous hours put forth into daily work....Her criticism of a system that "recognizes no value other than money" was certainly valid...this also ties into our communities here existing in economized attitudes towards money that have become the standard....focusing an economy on monetary value is a direct result of commodifying goods, services, and people...every system we encounter on a daily basis is built off the idea that we need to have a documentable job, make money, and spend can we develop and push forth a global economy that...leads to greater systemic equality?

V. Anne's Listening Notes from Who's Counting?
"uni-dimensional economical fabrication cannot contain our lives"

my legitimacy from having "a place to stand"
recording the time-use of women (vs. men) reveals the
magnitude of the invisibility of women's work
subsistence production is, macroeconomically, of little or no importance

the United Nations Systems of National Accounts =
rules of economic measurement are highly selective,
and serve as [an inadequate] basis of many important decisions
about whose needs will be met
they attend only to those activities which have a cash-generating capacity
(i.e. what passes through the market system);
the only value recognized is money, regardless of how it is made
there is no value to peace, preservation of natural resources for future generations,
unpaid work, including reproducing human life,
or feeding and nurturing one's own families

this system cannot respond to values it refuses to recognize
it leaves out the work of 1/2 the population of the planet,
and of the planet itself; it is encouraging environmental disaster
this economic system can eventually kill us all
the 5 members of the Security Council are the 5 primary arms exporters
killing people (or preparing to kill them) is very important in the economic system
to ensure a market, it is in the interest of the leading arms
exporters to be sure that there is always a war going on
these deaths are not registered as a deficit in the system

traditional practices make perfect sense:
why change them? why behave any other way?
manufacture of fluorocarbons (which are so destructive)
count as growth in the international economic system
"there's never any debit side, in terms of this kind of development"
(scarring of the landscape, ruin of the habitat, etc.)
you can't put a value on the purity of water
economics is a tool/justification of those who want to exploit
as a so-called science, it doesn't allow for the introduction of values
that don't find their way into an economic formula
economics' jargon dismisses value-laden language
the value of this mountain reveals the
absolute hollowness of the economic forms we have to work with
need for time-use measurements, to show where the needs are
once we recognize that the emperor has no clothes,
our strategies can be broad and wide as our imaginations can make them--
and we should have a lot of fun along the way

Epilogue: "they look nice among the goats"
"(music to close): Ain't Life Sweet"--
"take your money, keep it; don't tell me who to become;
take your age-old wisdom w/ you, degrees and
all that education won't help me…in the country…."

VI. Anne's Reading Notes from
Counting for Nothing

Steinem's Preface (anyone hear her speak @ HC last November?)
on the practical pleasure of finding a secure and happy economist!
institutionalized invisibilities of women's work
and lack of value imputed to environment

need to make reproduction visible

Introduction: illusion that everything can be reduced to a price
initial idea: empower ecosystem by giving it a monetary value-->
disable system by taking economics on @ its own game
pretense of scientific prediction, control, and objective, reproducible experiments
mistaken belief that maximizing individual self interest results in optimal allocation of resources
much non-market economic activity absent from the models

but what is the "cost" of visibility in patently pathological value system?
do we want all life commodified in economic model?
(if all production were included, unemployment would be impossible by definition!)
no demarcation in subsistence household between production inside or outside consumption
alternative to the GDP/GNP (Gross Domestic Product/Gross National Product):
Human Development Index (based on life expectancy, literacy, etc.)
a key missing indicator in the GDP and GNP is time use
which is employed in Nova Scotia's Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI):
these distinguish activities that produce an actual decline in well-being

conventional labour market surveys are too narrowly conceived, with a loss of texture and specificity
each country needs to draw up a comprehensive balance sheet of natural resources
International Society for Ecological Economics is interested in integrating the
management of nature's household (ecology)
with human kinds' household (economics)
they see the framework of national income accounting
as mechanistic, atomistic, lacking
representation of materials, energy sources,
physical structure, time-dependent processes
lunatic proposal to market pollution as "carbon trading"
(sell your surplus capacity to a heavy polluter!)
constant commodification legitimizes theft on a global scale
asking wrong questions: should ask what economy is for,
how much is enough, what provides joy, happiness, peace, satisfaction?

proposed triangulation of methodologies:
1) assemble physical environmental characteristics,
give visibility to intergenerational consequence of externalities,
and do not impute monetary valuations for anything
2) describe time-use data
3) assemble GNP/GDP statistic but recognize costs, depreciation, deterioration, depletion

Chapter 11: If Counting was the Limit of Intelligence
Stage One: Imputing a Value for Women's Work
reconceptualize household as a productive, not consuming unit
conservative reform = form of co-option
all forms of value reflected in economic activity of men in marketplace
global ecosystem still exploited, w/ throughput
viewed as flow from infinite source to infinite sink;
environment is not a free good, need to distinguish
between renewable and nonrenewable resources
need to expose values, divide income/expenditure into
"creative" and "destructive" production, consumption, services

Stage Two: Economic Welfare
Measure of Economic Welfare subtracted items
not contributing to economic welfare,
added those that do (but are not counted);
include environment, distinguishing what can be recycled
from that which is permanently degraded by use (change in quality of the resource)

Stage Three: Coming Full Circle
pressing non-economic values into framework of economic calculus
is based on absurb premise that everything has a price--
but values are always those of a participant observer

Epilogue: Call to Action
what we can do is only limited by our imagination:
proclaim visibility, worth of women, and of water/world