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Values in Gendered Economics and Feminist Economics

Devaki Jain

Piketty’s book Capital in the 21st Century has burst upon the sky of economics, like a huge round of fire crackers. It has sold 2 million copies and has been translated into several languages. The book has focused on economic inequality—its source and its impact. Piketty’s main thrust is to reveal that the wealthy, he calls it the one percent, will continue to accumulate wealth. He reveals the dynamics of such a process, and then concentrates on the tax system as a possible source to reduce this phenomenon. It is of course a startling revelation, especially the argument on the process. However, the various dimensions of economic inequality including how it perpetuates poverty, creates violence, inhibits GDP growth, has been pointed out and highlighted in many reports1 and in the most sophisticated terms especially by gender specialists.2 Peeling the onion of inequality with the knife of gender reveals far more on how it happens and what to do about it than Piketty’s work. The problem with feminist economic research, however is that it did not provide an alternative theoretical framework, to the usual dichotomy of capitalist and socialist. The research unveiled many errors in data and reasoning, but it could not build a core argumentation. However the argument in this essay is to suggest that feminist scholarship by revealing gendered difference in describing phenomena, can actually lead to reassembling if not reconstructing economic reasoning. It also questions many of the theories of knowledge creation.3 Helen Longino, an American philosopher of science and feminist, has this to say: ‘The problems of knowledge are central to feminist theorizing, which has sought to destabilize androcentric, mainstream thinking in the humanities and in the social and natural sciences.’4 Professor Naila Kabeer, a Professor of Gender and International Development at the Gender Institute, London School of Economics, in a recent March 8, 2016 article in Economy, supports this argument: ‘Economists are saying gender equality brings economic growth. Feminist economists are digging deeper, asking under what circumstances and whether growth brings gender equality....’ ‘Feminist economists play a key role in rethinking the way we do economics. They’re building an economics discipline that’s better able to reflect the various contexts in which men and women participate in the global economy and the often unequal terms on which they do so. They stress that power is a factor in economic life and want an approach ...

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