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Economics, Considered

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Centered around macho images of both “economic man” and of economists as physicist-like researchers, the economics discipline has been both extremely influential and particularly resistant to feminist influence. In this chapter, Nelson begins by describing how she followed a dual-track career strategy, establishing mainstream credentials while at the same time helping to found the field of feminist economics. Nelson’s early contributions were both intellectual—critiquing the dominant definition, models, and methods of economics—and organizational and took inspiration from work in many disciplines. The chapter goes on to briefly describe her later contributions to feminist work on the economics of care, ecological economics, behavioral economics, and the theory of the firm. She concludes the chapter with a discussion of some concerns and hopes for the future.

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Many activities formerly not in the market are being "marketized," and women's labor is increasingly in the market. I consider the grounds on which to decide what should and what should not be "in" the market. I distinguish work that is paid from work done under "market norms," and argue that market values should not have priority in education, childcare, healthcare, and many other activities. I suggest that a feminist ethics of care is more promising than Kantian ethics or utilitarianism for recommending social decisions concerning limits on markets.
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The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 15.2 (2001) 137-151 Religion was the religion of the medieval period, and science the religion of centuries afterward. In the current era, economics seems to hold this role of cultural hegemony. One sees everywhere references to the pressures of globalization and competition, praise of the efficiency and economic-growth inducing effects of free markets, and emphasis on successful marketing -- including the marketing of educational "products" to prospective student "consumers." Ethics are often confined to the realm of the personal and perhaps the political; in the realm of the economic, self-interest and profit maximization are treated as inexorable. John Dewey's words seem prescient: As an economist, I am aghast at the adherence that the idea of a value-neutral mechanistic economic system seems to currently garner. This adherence is found not only among thinkers on the free-market right, but also among many on the political left. While the right side praises market systems, and the old left excoriates them, both sides tend to share the assumption that capitalist markets form an Adam Smith-ian clockwork system or a Weberian "iron cage," with an existence and inexorable logic that are independent of human moral deliberation and purposive action. "Market value" hence has a prime place in contemporary cultural discussions of value. According to standard economic thinking, people make choices about what they will pay for, how much they will pay, and where they will work, and the resulting prices and incomes just fall where they may. Politicians are warned against "interfering" with the working of the system, as violating its presumed laws is said to lead to inefficiency and other undesirable outcomes. One of the important contemporary practical areas in which market valuation is problematic is that of caring labor. Childcare workers in the United States -- overwhelmingly female -- make, on average, $6.61 per hour for attending to children, a wage less than that for parking-lot attendants who attend to parked cars (Center for the Child Care Workforce 2000). Care workers in other sectors, such as nurses' aides and orderlies, are similarly low paid. Higher-paid health professionals complain that the technical and medical aspects of the work are taking over, while the listening and caring aspects are being squeezed out. U.S. policies concerning parental leave are stingy. Caring in a broader sense -- caring for the environment, caring about poverty and injustice -- also is far from being central cultural and economic concern. Preserving, sustaining, nurturing, and caring are undervalued in our society, many reasonable observers conclude. With "market values" presumably determined by a mechanistic system, however, and the terms "family values" and "morality" taken to refer to an exclusively noneconomic sphere, values and economics are rent asunder. There is no space for discussion of how care could be economically undervalued, or of how markets could possibly permit, much less promote, priorities of nurturing and sustainability. The thesis of this article is that pragmatist and process thought, informed by recent developments in feminist scholarship and the sciences, offers a better formulation of the concept of value--one with which pressing issues of social, political, and economic import can be more sensibly addressed. Drawing on the work of John Dewey, Alfred North Whitehead, and others, I will argue that placing human value judgments within the context of a world that is itself vital and creative radically transforms the question. Echoing feminist analysis presented at a social level, these philosophies offer a deeply relational conception of value, one that respects the intrinsic integrity of both difference and connection, of both feeling and material outcome. I admit at the outset, however, that I find value a supremely difficult subject to write on, and in fact took on the writing of this article in the spirit of forcing myself to directly grapple with it. Academic writing...
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I present a way of thinking about gender that I have found helpful in evaluating various proposed feminist projects. By considering gender and value as independent dimensions, relationships of “difference” can be more clearly perceived as involving relationships of lack, of complementarity, or of perversion. I illustrate the use of my gender/value “compass” with applications to questions of self-identity, rationality, and knowledge. This way of thinking about gender allows a conceptualization of feminism that neither erases nor emphasizes gender distinctions.
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Feminist Critiques of Theoretical BiasesApplying the Feminist Critique of Separative Self Models to Neoclassical EconomicsConclusion
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Let me make it clear from the outset that my main point is not either of the following: one, that there should be more women economists and research on “women's issues” (though I think there should be), or two, that women as a class do, or should do, economics in a manner different from men (a position with which I disagree). My argument is different and has to do with trying to gain an understanding of how a certain way of thinking about gender and a certain way of thinking about economics have become intertwined through metaphor – with detrimental results – and how a richer conception of human understanding and human identity could broaden and improve the field of economics for both female and male practitioners.
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--Claremont Graduate School, 1984. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 256-261). Photocopy.
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Problems with models used to investigate the economics of the household are described. Special emphasis is given to the issue of rationality in the allocation of time, the appropriateness of the family as the relevant unit, and the importance of life-cycle changes. Contributions economists can make using the “new home economics” to provide a basis for rational decision making are discussed.
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Rebutting the argument by Heyes that lower wages attract better, "vocationally called" nurses, the authors invalidate this position on several grounds including existing research regarding the relationship between wages, retention, and patient outcomes as well as forces evident in the current nursing labor market. Simply put, the strength of "vocation does guarantee skill" and good nursing care hinges heavily upon clinical and technical knowledge. In addition, Heyes projects the possible decisions of an individual onto the entire labor market, ignoring the possibility that some caring nurses also need a well-paying job to support their families. Taking Heyes' assertion to an extreme, the best way to secure a fully "vocational" workforce would be to rely solely on volunteers to deliver patient care. While Heyes asserts that higher wages "crowd out" good nurses, he overlooks the evidence that wages, when used as a form of recognition, can "crowd in" good nurses. In reality, the lack of wage incentives in the U.S. is one factor leading to the labor shortage and the need for recruitment of foreign-trained nurses.
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What changes must economics undergo, if it is to become a more adequate discipline, furthering of survival and flourishing? This essay argues that a break must be made from contemporary mainstream economics at the level of ontology (i.e., about the nature of reality). Drawing on neglected traditions of pragmatist philosophy and process metaphysics, some elements of 'old' institutionalist economics, and late-twentieth century natural science, it demonstrates that ample argument exists for a view of the world as open, evolving and permeated with value. Furthermore, feminist scholarship offers an explanation for why such a worldview faces an uphill battle for acceptance. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.
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A number of recent discussions about ethical issues in climate change, as engaged in by economists, have focused on the value of the parameter representing the rate of time preference within models of optimal growth. This essay examines many economists' antipathy to serious discussion of ethical matters, and suggests that the avoidance of questions of intergenerational equity is related to another set of value judgments concerning the quality and objectivity of economic practice. Using insights from feminist philosophy of science and research on high reliability organizations, this essay argues that a more ethically transparent, real-world-oriented, and flexible economic practice would lead to more reliable and useful knowledge.
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According to the advocates of a "Generalized Darwinism" (GD), the three core Darwinian principles of variation, selection and retention (or inheritance) can be used as a general framework for the development of theories explaining evolutionary processes in the socio­economic domain. Even though these are originally biological terms, GD argues that they can be re-defined in such a way as to abstract from biological particulars. We argue that this approach does not only risk to misguide positive theory development, but that it may also impede the construction of a coherent evolutionary approach to "policy implications". This is shown with respect to the positive, instrumental and normative theories such an approach is supposed to be based upon.
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