Monday, 3 November 2014


Economics has always been androcentric (male centered) in nature, whether one considers the methodology or the content of the discipline. Such theorizing has totally left women out of the analysis though they play an active role in the economy. Consequently policies that are based on such knowledge has been gender blind. The discipline therefore is not a reflection of reality and to have a more realistic and holistic approach the epistemology has to change. Feminists have advocated the adoption of feminist epistemologies to make the analysis within economics more real to life. It is not sufficient to have models that fit the prototype of what science is. It is more important to that the models look into real life situations involving both men and women for both are agents, who take decisions in an economy given a number of constraints.

The intent of research is to investigate situations, problems and concepts so as to augment existing conditions. No single research can claim totality, however it can be comprehensive. For that, it has to first recognize the issue in its proper form for it to be subsequently addressed in an effective manner. In this context it becomes imperative to understand the meaning of the term gender. Gender does not mean biological sex. Gender in short is a social and cultural construct, which patterns ones cognition on the basis of actual or observed differences between males and females. This construction of gender is all pervasive and economics is by no means an exception!

Tracing the very history of the subject makes it very apparent that all classical and neoclassical economists have been totally androcentric in their approach to theorizing. They have all along relegated women to the marginal roles in the labour market and most of them have been dead against women working for paid employment. If women are mentioned it is either to negate them from economic life or it is just a 'by the way' reference that is made. Women were only kept within the realm of the home and or the service industry. Their work was always related to nursing, nurturing, caring, cleaning, and maintaining the home. Due to this the economic models too do not include women as a variable to be considered. after all they had no place in the market then how can they ever figure in the model or the prototype of the market? logically therefore they got left out. None of the problems faced by women were even a matter to be discussed by classical neo classical writers. This kind of an attitude led to gendering domains in the economy where women and men were compartmentalized as belonging to inside and outside areas respectively . Further such domains have also been attached with values - all connected to cash. The domains assigned to men, being more market oriented, and hence lucrative enjoys the higher status, as compared to the domains assigned to women. Such domains are visible every where in the economy as also within economic theory. Feminist economists have been critical of such attitudes and have suggested alternative epistemologies. As a feminist economist, I do agree with the others who have criticized this kind of a stereotypical androcentricism within my discipline. It is important there fore to rewrite nearly all economic theories. This then opens up new avenues of research and a possibility of reflecting reality  in theory.

If economics professes to study human behaviour then it must do so. The assumption 'ceteris paribus' needs to be dumped as it is never true! Such a methodology will never represent the reality of the whole. Economics then stands incomplete by representing only half the human race !

Sunday, 2 November 2014


"What is common to many is taken least care of, for all men have greater reward for what is their own than what they possess in common with others..."  - Aristotle

How true this ancient philosopher was when he thus wrote about the selfish nature of the human race. Many years later Garret Hardin echoed the same in his parable of 'The Tragedy of Commons' . One cannot imagine what their reaction would be if they walked on earth right now!
Any resource that is commonly owned and the costs cannot be pinned down but the resource benefits all will surely face misuse,overuse, and abuse. Over a period of time the resource is naturally destroyed. This is the message of  the parable - Hardin described the pastures for which there were no secure property rights. On the pastures or the commons, people were not protected from the effect of the actions of the others who used the pastures.The cost is not borne by the individual as it is a common property, but the benefit definitely goes to one. There is hence no responsibility pinned on to the individual who uses the commonly owned property/resource and hence emerges as what economists call 'the free rider'. Since the benefits are privatized and the costs are socialized there is little or no incentive to conserve or protect the resource. Examples can be cited from the world over. Pollution of air, water, and land, the destruction of the ecosystems, the fear of extinction of the turtles, the American bison, the over harvesting of the great whales or the decline in the beaver population. Closer home we can all agree that the little domestic sparrow is gradually disappearing! Fear we say? Whose fear? Here fear has also been socialized!!No one really cares! What then do we have left of the resources for the future generations? We are indeed a selfish race and such selfishness is aided and abetted by the ism of our lives viz - capitalism.
Many counter movements have evolved to try and influence us to not be so solipsistic. The Green Movement endeavours to change the attitude of people to preserve the environment, while the Terracotta ( meaning 'burnt earth') movement tries to suggest incentives to manage the environment. It is important that we do not pluck away from our children that which rightfully belongs to them. It may be true as the noted economist J.M.Keynes, once stated that  - we need not worry about the long run, for in the long run we are dead, but let us realize that though we are dead in the long run,  we do not have the right to leave a legacy of destruction for our children.
Environmental degradation and poverty are inextricably intertwined, resulting in a vicious circle in which poverty causes the environmental strain, and in turn this strain is responsible for widespread poverty.
Eco ethics must be the underpinnings of any economic growth agenda. It is also the underpinnings of sustainable development. It is in this context that E.O.Wilson's remark becomes so pertinent -

"In the end, however, success or failure will come down to an ethical decision, one on which those now living will be defined and judged for generations to come."