A Swedish political and economic writer shows why “feminism’s best-kept secret is just how necessary a feminist perspective is in the search for a solution to our mainstream economic problems.
Marçal, lead editorial writer for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, begins with the definition of the “economic man” first posited by Adam Smith and then refined by the Chicago school of economics in the 1950s. The so-called economic man is a rational individual calculating and pursuing his own self-interest, in constant competition with others. For Marçal, the one-dimensional Chicago definition is a “caricature.” Though he may not be “like us…he clearly has emotions, depths, fears and dreams that we can completely identify with.” For her, human identity can only be constructed in relation to others. The economic man is totally dependent because he must compete to prove to himself that he is worthwhile. He is also “aggressive and narcissistic. And he lives in conflict with himself,” nature, and others, defining himself by what he is not. His primary characteristic, writes the author, is “that he is not a woman. Economics has only one sex.” Where men act out of supposed self-interest, “woman has been assigned the task of caring for others, not of maximizing her own gain.” This includes cooking, cleaning, raising children, and other unpaid activities that do not result in the production of exchangeable goods. “Women's work,” she writes, “is a natural resource that we don't think we need to account for…we assume it will always be there.” However, to function well, a society must have people, knowledge, and trust, all resources made possible by unpaid domestic work. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky debunked the Chicago caricature nearly 40 years ago, but it persists. Marçal takes up the cudgels to propose that we “wave economic man off from the platform and then build an economy and a society with room for a great spectrum of what it means to be human.”
An exciting reassessment of the global economy that provocatively extends the frontiers of the feminist critique.