“Economic Woman”: The Time is Now
- Kamran Mofid
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“In the beginning, woman was truly the sun. An authentic person.” Today more than ever, the global economy needs precisely this kind of radiant sun—to provide light and nourishment. To provide healing. To dry out the swamps of poverty and unrest”*
“I urge everyone—all women and men of goodwill—to dare the difference and bet on women. I promise you this: you will not be disappointed. For when women shine like the sun, their radiance will be forever undimmed.”*
‘It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest When Adam Smith wrote that all our actions stem from self-interest and the world turns because of financial gain he brought to life 'economic man'. Selfish and cynical, economic man has dominated our thinking ever since and his influence has spread from the market to how we shop, work and date. But every night Adam Smith's mother served him his dinner, not out of self-interest but out of love. Today, our economics focuses on self-interest and excludes all other motivations. It disregards the unpaid work of mothering, caring, cleaning and cooking. It insists that if women are paid less, then that's because their labour is worth less - how could it be otherwise? Economics has told us a story about how the world works and we have swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. Now it's time to change the story.’..
Heather Stewart, the Observer's economics editor, in a recent article eloquently reminds us of the many major shortcomings of the “Economic Man” which is at the heart of the modern economic thinking and ideology.
Stewart notes that today we have increasingly come to see ourselves as “aspirational”, atomised individuals, scrabbling to make our way in a world without the support of the society and community.
‘This approach was underpinned and apparently vindicated by the proliferation of economic models that conceived of people as cool, rational, drastically simplified robots who beetle around trying to maximise their utility. The market became seen as the ultimate expression of this calculating rationality, and its values – competition, self-interest, even greed – as the fundamental driving forces of life.
Stewart then introduces us to a forthcoming book by journalist Katrine Marçal who notes Economic Man’s major shortcoming: he’s not, and never could be, a woman.
‘In the excellently titled “Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?”, Marçal argues that a swath of traditionally feminine activities – cooking, cleaning, caring, changing nappies – have been systematically excluded from economists’ view of the world, which has become the lens through which just about everything is scrutinised.
‘Smith and his fellow pioneers in economics asked themselves how a loaf of bread got to their table – through the unpleasant-but-useful self-interest of the farmer who grew the wheat, the miller who made the flour, the baker who kneaded the dough, and so on (most of them chaps in those days, naturally). But they simply took it for granted that someone would nip out to the shops to buy a loaf, slice it, toast it, butter it and pop it on a plate. And make the beds. And cook the kids’ tea. Care, which is still overwhelmingly carried out by women, was effectively a natural resource.
‘That helps to explain why roles such as nurse, cleaner, carer are still undervalued today; but it also leads to a fundamental misunderstanding of human motivations. Economic Man has nothing as troubling as emotions, family connections, class loyalties or friendships. He’s a lean, mean, utility-maximising machine.
‘Marçal argues that the rationalist worldview has had extraordinary sticking power because it appeals to a desire in us to detach ourselves from the messy world of love and duty, and make decisions in a clean, rational way.
‘It’s also elegant and apparently powerful: it allows the number-crunchers to construct models apparently encompassing entire economies.
‘As Marçal puts it: “Economic science should be about how one turns a social vision into a modern economic system. It should be a tool to create opportunities for human and social development. Not just address our fears as they are expressed as demand in the market.”
‘Hope, and a whole slew of other messy emotions – fear, greed, loyalty, even love – need to be brought back… right into the heart of economics.’
Read the original article:
Buy Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?A Story About Women and Economics
The African Executive | The Economic Power of Women’s Empowerment